Do you know this feeling after a hot bath, a massage or lovemaking? This relaxed feeling is the result of a neuropeptide produced in the brains: oxytocin. Also known as the cuddle hormone. The level of oxytocin in the brain plays a role in the sexual, maternal, stress, social and feeding behaviors. It also plays a role in learning and memory.
Oxytocin is a pregnancy hormone
Oxytocin is widely known as pregnancy hormone. The hormone is released after a baby moves down the birth canal. Oxytocin is a Greek word for ‘swift birth’. But it also accelerates the production of milk in pregnant and breastfeeding woman. These women produce in a short time a lot of oxytocin. They feel very relaxed. They are on a 'pink cloud'.
Also men produce the cuddle hormone
Not only woman produce oxytocin. Men (and other mammals) do too. The cuddle hormone is released when having sex and with a warm and pleasant rhythmic touch of the body. There are also indications that oxytocin it’s stimulated by intimacy, fragrances, warmth and intimacy, fragrances, warmth (after a sunny day at the beach) and beautiful music. Well some music does make me feel very relaxed. And what about meditation or acupuncture?
The cuddle hormone and social issues
But there is more to oxytocin. It may also be a social tool. It seems that the bonding love of mother and father for the child is engraved in the memory and later forges a strong emotional bond between lovers. The Cuddle Hormone makes us less anxious and stressed, so we open ourselves to others. Therefore we are more generous, less suspicious and are more willing to understand or feel for the other person.
Can oxytocin be a medicine?
A Swedish professor of physiology Kerstin Uvnäs-Moberg writes in her book "The oxytocin factor” "Oxytocin is a healing nectar". It seems that oxytocin is a indispensable link in a chain of agents, an ingenious pattern of nerves, messenger substances (neurotransmitters) and hormones that work together. So the cuddle hormone probably influences the production of serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. Can it be used as a medicine in some form? What about a medicine which makes you more confident or more sympathetic? That would be a huge medicine for people with shyness, autism or depression. Research has shown that children with autism have less oxytocin in their blood. So oxytocin would help adults better recognize emotions in the other person. The possibility of oxytocin to work as anti-depression and psychosis is studied.