Oxytocin: Facts About the ‘Cuddle Hormone’

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Oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone”, is known to trigger a wide variety of physical and psychological effects in both men and women. According to the American Psychological Association, levels of this hormone tend to be higher during both socially-bonding and stressful experiences.

What Is Oxytocin?

A nine amino acid peptide that is synthesized in hypothalamic neurons, Oxytocin is produced in the hypothalamus and secreted into the bloodstream by the posterior pituitary gland. It stimulates the uterine muscles to contract and enhances the production of prostaglandins that increase the contractions further. In men, Oxytocin plays an important role in the movement of sperms and the production of testosterone by the testes.

In brain, it acts as a chemical messenger and is known to be instrumental in human behavior including trust, anxiety, sexual arousal, recognition, and mother–infant bonding. This small nine amino acid peptide is also believed to be involved in a wide variety of pathological and physiological functions like penile erection, ejaculation, pregnancy, sexual activity, maternal behavior, social bonding, uterine contraction, milk ejection, and stress.

       This makes Oxytocin and its receptor potential candidates as potential targets for drug therapy. It is for these reasons that Oxytocin is known as the ‘cuddle chemical’ or ‘love hormone’. All in all, it is best to consider Oxytocin as a major facilitator of parturition and maternal behavior as compared to a necessary component of these processes.

Administration or secretion of Oxytocin in humans appears to enhance cooperation and trust within socially-close group while promoting defensive aggression towards competing, unrelated groups. At the peripheral level, Oxytocin is believed to be a critical component in glycaemia, male sexuality, cardiac differentiation, bone formation, and non-regulated cellular proliferation.

Oxytocin also has the ability to increase the release of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) in cells lining the intestine. This, in turn, stimulates the repair of intestinal injury and to protect against such injury. According to some medical experts, Oxytocin peptide could prove advantageous to prevent chemo-radiotherapy-induced intestine injury and treat irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

How Is Oxytocin Production Controlled?

The production of Oxytocin is regulated by a positive feedback mechanism where release of the hormone results in an action that stimulates more of its own release.

When contraction of the uterus gets initiated, for instance, Oxytocin is released and it then stimulates more contractions and more oxytocin to be released. In this way, contractions increase in frequency and intensity.

Benefits Of Oxytocin

  • Effective for autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and anxiety
  • Aids reproductive functions
  • Contributes to relaxation, trust, and psychological stability
  • Treats irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Improves self-perception in social situations
  • Enhances personality traits such as warmth, trust, altruism, and openness
  • Treats social phobia, autism, and postpartum depression
  • Facilitates the creation of group memories, social recognition, and other social functions

It is important to note that Oxytocin peptide should only be used for medicinal and research purposes under the guidance of a medical practitioner or researcher.

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