Some call it the love hormone: oxytocin helps us form social bonds and improves our mood. Read on to learn how to boost your levels.

Beneficial Effects of Oxytocin

1) Anti-Inflammatory

Oxytocin is thought to decrease inflammation by decreasing certain cytokines. Thus, the increased release of oxytocin following positive social interactions has the potential to improve wound healing.

2) Sexual Health

Oxytocin is important for female sexual interest in males. In mice, a lack of oxytocin (receptor) in female mice resulted in a loss of social interest in male mice specifically during the sexually receptive phase of the estrous cycle.

Oxytocin injected into the cerebrospinal fluid causes spontaneous penile erections in rats [].

Oxytocin facilitates erectile capacity in the male, providing ecstasy and is released in larger amounts during orgasm. This burst of oxytocin in the male is said to have been responsible for the sexual after-effect of a lingering sense of drowsy well-being, the glow of pleasant contentment. Oxytocin is also claimed to promote the male’s nurturing behavior and his feeling affectionate towards his woman [].

3) Mood-Boosting

Oxytocin evokes feelings of contentment, reductions in anxiety, and feelings of calmness and security when in the company of a mate [3].

Oxytocin, under certain circumstances, indirectly inhibits the release of stress hormones such as cortisol and, in those situations, may be considered an antagonist of vasopressin [4].

Oxytocin increased a fathers’ overall stress response when dealing with their infant and challenged with a stressor [5].

4) Social Benefits

Giving oxytocin to people increases trust and generosity [6] It reduces the fear of social betrayal in humans.

Disclosure of emotional events is a sign of trust in humans. When recounting a negative event, humans who receive oxytocin (nasal) share more emotional details and stories with more emotional significance.

Oxytocin increases generosity in the Ultimatum Game by 80% [7]. This is a game where someone receives money and proposes how to divide the sum between himself and another player. The second player chooses to either accept or reject this proposal. If the second player accepts, the money is split according to the proposal. If the second player rejects, neither player receives any money.

Oxytocin supplementation increases empathy in healthy males. Even after experiencing social alienation, humans who received oxytocin were still more trustful [8].

Oxytocin can efficiently inhibit fear responses by inhibiting activation of the amygdala [9].

Some researchers have argued oxytocin has a general enhancing effect on all social emotions since oxytocin (nasal) also increases envy and Schadenfreude (joy at downfall) [10].

Oxytocin only increases trust when there is no reason to be distrustful. When there is a reason to be distrustful, such as experiencing betrayal, oxytocin functions differently.

5) Romance Benefits

Oxytocin increases romantic attraction and attachment in males as well and helps promote fidelity within monogamous relationships [11].

6) Cognitive Benefits

Supplemental oxytocin can decrease the memory of bad experiences and increase memory for social information [12].

For example, males given oxytocin show improved memory for human faces, in particular, happy faces. They also show improved recognition for positive social cues over threatening social cues and improved recognition of fear.

7) Drug Addiction

According to some studies in animals, oxytocin inhibits the development of tolerance to various addictive drugs (opiates, cocaine, alcohol), and reduces withdrawal symptoms [13].

8) Appetite Suppressant

Recent evidence has suggested that oxytocin neurons in the hypothalamus may play a key role in suppressing appetite under normal conditions and that other hypothalamic neurons may trigger eating via inhibition of these oxytocin neurons.

This population of oxytocin neurons is absent in Prader-Willi syndrome, a genetic disorder that leads to uncontrollable feeding and obesity [14].

9) Helps Retain Water

Due to its similarity to vasopressin, it can reduce the excretion of urine and sodium slightly.

Conditions With Lower Oxytocin

  • Autism
  • Schizophrenia
  • Borderline Personality Disorder

Increases In-Group Favoritism

Oxytocin can also cause anxiety in some cases in humans. Oxytocin excites brain structures that cause anxiety to uncertainty (the BNST and activating CRH neurons).

Therefore, when extended to the social domain, unfamiliar individuals whose behavior is inherently unpredictable will not result in empathy and instead cause anxiety/dislike.

Oxytocin may strengthen existing social bonds (for example, between relatives/friends), but it does not help create new bonds between strangers, implying that it is less of a ‘love’ or ‘moral’ molecule than a ‘us and them’ molecule.

Indeed, oxytocin boosts anti-social behaviors toward unfamiliar individuals [15].

Oxytocin can increase positive attitudes toward individuals with similar characteristics, who then become classified as “in-group” members, whereas individuals who are dissimilar become classified as “out-group” members [16].

Oxytocin promotes ethnocentric behavior, incorporating the trust and empathy of in-groups with their suspicion and rejection of outsiders. 

Oxytocin was shown to promote dishonesty when the outcome of lying benefited the group to which an individual belonged (the in-group) [17].

When given oxytocin, individuals alter their subjective preferences in order to align with in-group ideas over out-group ideals [18].

The in-group bias is evident in smaller groups; however, it can also be extended to groups as large as one’s entire country leading toward a tendency of strong national zeal. A study done in the Netherlands showed that oxytocin increased the in-group favoritism of their nation while decreasing acceptance of members of other ethnicities and foreigners [19].

 It has thus been hypothesized that this hormone may be a factor in xenophobic tendencies.

Further, oxytocin was correlated with participant desire to protect vulnerable in-group members [20].

How to Increase Oxytocin Naturally

Sexual:

  1. Having sex, sexual stimulation [21].
  2. Orgasms causes big burst [22, 23] – Subjective orgasm intensity correlated significantly with increased levels of Oxytocin in multiorgasmic women only.
  3. Nipple stimulation [24]
  4. Cuddling/touching [25]
  5. Falling in love [26]

Practices:

  1. Vagus stimulation
  2. Soothing music [27]
  3. Positive social encounters
  4. Eating [28]
  5. Warm showers/Warm temperature [25]
  6. Yoga [29, 30]
  7. Massage [31]
  8. Exercise [32]
  9. Kindness meditation (likely) [33]
  10. Petting dogs [34]
  11. Nursing [35]
  12. Probably Babies and Kittens

Foods:

  1. Dark Chocolate
  2. Fenugreek [36]

Scents:

  1. Jasmine [37]
  2. Lavender builds trust and might increase oxytocin [38]
  3. Probably frankincense

Hormones:

  1. Vitamin D helps produce oxytocin [39]
  2. Melatonin makes you more sensitive to oxytocin [40, 41]
  3. Lowering cortisol
  4. Estrogen [28] – contradictory [42]
  5. TRH has mixed effects [43]

Natural Substances:

  1. Magnesium – is required for oxytocin to function [44]
  2. Cholesterol – is required for oxytocin to function [45]
  3. High dose vitamin C [46]
  4. L Reuteri [47]
  5. Caffeine [48]

Drugs

  1. MDMA (ecstasy) [49]

Neurotransmitters, Receptors:

  1. Activating your 5HT1A receptors, 5HT2A receptors [50] and 5HT2C receptors
  2. Dopamine – dopamine release in the nucleus accumbens can ultimately activate oxytocin neurons and induce penile erection [].
  3. GABA [52]

Stay away from toxins that decrease oxytocin:

  • BPA [53] – reduces oxytocin across generations

Oxytocin Sprays and Sublinguals: My Experience

I’ve experimented with oxytocin both in the spray and sublingual forms.

Lozenge

I did a mega-dosing experiment with the lozenge by taking 10-15 (10-15X the dosage), with no ill effect. The lozenges can reach the hypothalamus and brain stem, which aren’t protected by the brain barrier. However, it can’t enter the brain because oxytocin can’t cross the brain barrier. From the lozenge, I noticed small effects, but nothing significant.

Spray

The spray can cross the brain barrier, however, and I certainly notice a relaxing cognitive effect. The spray is used in scientific studies. I’m more emotional when I take it.

The Danger of Increasing Oxytocin

The main danger is retaining too much water and causing hyponatremia (or low sodium), but even my megadosing experiment caused no ill effects. I did feel like I retained water during the experiment.

Should You Increase Oxytocin?

If you have certain gene variations (rs53576 GG), then you can actually benefit even more from oxytocin [6], and this probably has something to do with you having more receptors or them being more sensitive to it.

For example, preference for infant faces increased following oxytocin only in rs53576 GG, whereas preference for infant faces decreased in A carriers following oxytocin [6].

This suggests that processing the oxytocin in a certain way is what matters more.

Click here to read more about Oxytocin genes.

Want Better Ways to Improve Your Mood?

If you’re interested in natural and targeted ways of improving your mood, we recommend checking out SelfDecode’s Mood DNA Wellness Report. It gives genetic-based diet, lifestyle and supplement tips that can help improve your mood. The recommendations are personalized based on your genes.

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