Did you know that oxytocin reduces stress? When oxytocin is released into your bloodstream, stress levels are reduced because of the effects of oxytocin on the body. In addition to reduced stress, other benefits associated with increased oxytocin production include lower blood pressure, higher empathy with others and better social behaviour.
The role of oxytocin in maintaining health and wellness is huge, so this article takes you through various natural therapies for increasing the levels of oxytocin in your body.
What is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone produced in the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland. The oxytocin peptide is composed of nine amino acids and has a molecular weight of 1007 daltons (Da). It's known as the "cuddle" or "love" hormone because it facilitates romantic attachment, promotes trust, triggers sexual arousal and strengthens relationships between people.
The oxytocin receptor is found in various tissues in the human body, including in a woman's breast and uterus, and in both male and female testicles. This oxytocin receptor provides oxytocin's action within these tissues.
Oxytocin receptors are thought to have evolved when ancestral women began nursing their children and stimulated oxytocin production in their bodies to ensure healthy breastfeeding after delivery. This oxytocin surge increased an ancestral mother's oxytocin levels, resulting in increased oxytocin neuronal activity during childbirth; this would initiate uterine activity, which would aid in the release of the foetus from her uterus after labour had begun properly.
Increasing your oxytocin level through natural therapies has many benefits. For one, it does not pose any side effects. Oxytocin release results in better sleep patterns, improved digestion after meals, balanced moods, relief from stress-related disorders like anxiety and depression, higher libido due to enhanced oxytocin receptor expression throughout the body, balanced blood sugar levels, increased tissue repair, heightened immune function, improved memory, strengthened oxytocin-dependent responses, such as lactation, and better childbirth and breastfeeding experience.
The Role of Oxytocin in Natural Therapy
Oxytocin plays a crucial role in natural therapy, fostering a sense of connection and healing. Produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary gland, oxytocin is associated with social bonding, trust and emotional wellbeing.
In the context of natural therapy, various practices have been found to stimulate oxytocin release. For instance, massage therapy, known for its relaxation benefits, has been shown to boost oxytocin levels, promoting a sense of calm and reducing stress. Similarly, meditation and mindfulness practices have been linked to increased oxytocin, enhancing emotional resilience and improving the mind-body connection.
Aromatherapy, with its use of essential oils, can also stimulate oxytocin release through the olfactory system. Certain scents, like lavender or chamomile, have been found to have a calming effect, elevating mood and supporting emotional healing.
Understanding the significance of oxytocin in natural therapy can help individuals harness its benefits to foster emotional wellbeing, social connection and overall healing.
Oxytocin and Emotional Healing: Nurturing the Mind-Body Connection
The mind-body connection is a fundamental aspect of natural therapy, and oxytocin plays a key role in nurturing emotional healing. This hormone's release is associated with positive social interactions, promoting feelings of trust, empathy and emotional resilience.
In natural therapy, various approaches can help stimulate oxytocin release and support emotional healing. Mindfulness practices, such as meditation and yoga, encourage a state of present-moment awareness and can enhance oxytocin levels, thereby improving emotional wellbeing.
Art therapy is another natural therapy modality that can boost oxytocin release. Engaging in creative expression through art allows individuals to process emotions, reduce stress and build emotional resilience.
Animal-assisted therapy, involving interactions with therapy animals, has also been linked to increased oxytocin levels. The presence of animals can promote feelings of comfort, trust and connection, benefiting emotional healing.
By understanding the role of oxytocin in the mind-body connection, individuals can incorporate these natural therapy approaches into their lives to nurture emotional wellbeing and healing.
Oxytocin and Pain Management: Exploring its Analgesic Properties
Beyond its role in social bonding and emotional healing, oxytocin has been found to have analgesic properties, making it relevant in pain management through natural therapies.
Natural therapy approaches like acupuncture have been shown to stimulate the release of oxytocin. This hormone, in turn, can reduce the perception of pain and promote feelings of well-being.
Reflexology, a practice involving targeted pressure on specific points of the feet and hands, has also been associated with oxytocin release and pain relief. Chiropractic care, with its focus on aligning the musculoskeletal system, may enhance oxytocin levels, contributing to pain management.
Understanding the potential analgesic properties of oxytocin allows individuals to explore these natural therapy modalities as part of a comprehensive pain management plan.
Natural Therapies for Increasing Oxytocin Levels
There are many types of natural therapies that can prompt the rise of oxytocin levels, including practising meditation, getting 7-9 hours of sleep every night, doing yoga or tai chi on a regular basis and eating oxytocin-boosting foods such as dark chocolate, which contains antioxidants that help the body heal more quickly from injuries. Below, we go over the benefits of these therapies in further detail so you can figure out how to include them into your daily routine and boost your levels of oxytocin.
Herbal remedies for boosting oxytocin levels
Herbal remedies can boost the effects of oxytocin. The best way to increase your body's level of oxytocin is to include chamomile tea in your daily diet to prevent stress hormones from inhibiting oxytocin release. Additionally, the use of ashwagandha, which has been used in Indian medicine for centuries, has shown oxytocin-enhancing effects on male subjects participating in clinical trials.
People suffering from anxiety and depression have reported oxytocin-like effects from taking valeriana officinalis root, a plant that has been used to treat nervous conditions. Rhodiola rosea roots also stimulate the rise of oxytocin levels and help with fatigue reduction as well as physical performance. Taking continuous infusions prepared from other medicinal herbs such as the following can prompt oxytocin release as well:
- Catnip tea
- Passionflower tea
- Red clover tea
- Hops flower tea
- Avena sativa (wild oat) seed tea
- Cardamom seed pod infusion
- Ginger root infusion
- Lavender oil (topically applied or inhaled via steam inhalation)
- Roman chamomile essential oil applied to the skin topically or diffused via aromatherapy techniques
Regular exercise for increasing oxytocin levels
Exercise increases neuronal activity, which aids in boosting oxytocin levels. Some exercises that you can do on a daily basis to stimulate the release of oxytocin in your brain include: core body strength training, belly dancing, qi gong, walking, jogging, Pilates and swimming laps at a moderate pace. These exercises trigger oxytocin production naturally by reducing cortisol levels and increasing dopamine levels in the body.
Diet for enhancing oxytocin production
Certain types of food can prompt the release of oxytocin, including dairy products which are rich in tryptophan, an amino acid necessary for dopamine and oxytocin synthesis. Visual food cues help to stimulate your appetite, so if you're working to improve your oxytocin production and not increase your body weight, it's best to gravitate towards the following:
- Organic meat is rich in zinc that is necessary to help oxytocin receptors function properly and promote healthy cholesterol levels.
- Brazil nuts are an excellent source of selenium, which is responsible for testosterone production and oxytocin hormone balance.
- Eggs are high in sulphur amino acids that are necessary for dopamine synthesis as well as healthy cholesterol, which helps oxytocin receptors function properly.
- Walnuts not only boost oxytocin levels but also boost testosterone levels in men; oxytocin testosterone balance is important to maintain a healthy libido.
- Milk, cheese and other dairy products also aid the body in the release of oxytocin, but consume them in moderation in order to avoid excessive caloric intake and body weight gain.
- Dark chocolate stimulates hypothalamic activation, which leads to the release of serotonin, another feel-good chemical that acts as a catalyst for the increase in oxytocin level. This leads to a feedback loop where oxytocin and serotonin get released together. This helps you feel more relaxed and connected with others.
- Green beans are rich in vitamin B6, which is important for oxytocin production.
- Cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower and spinach, have high levels of chromium and magnesium which can rev up your oxytocin level.
- Salmon, tuna and other fatty fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which stimulate oxytocin production and improve mood.
- Turkey meat contains tyrosine and phenylalanine that stimulate oxytocin receptors without going through the brain's hypothalamus first where most hormones have to go before being released into the bloodstream.
- Bananas naturally produce dopamine when digested; this stimulates oxytocin release through neuronal activity, further increasing oxytocin levels.
Vitamins and supplements for increasing oxytocin levels
Some vitamins and natural supplements can also up the level of oxytocin in your body. These include vitamin A, vitamin B complex (B1, B2, B3, B5 and B6), vitamin D, magnesium and L-tryptophan, which can increase oxytocin levels when taken with carbohydrates so be sure not to skip meals while taking this natural supplement.
Fish oil supplements, which contain omega-3 fatty acids, are another natural way to increase oxytocin levels. The mechanism for this oxytocin boost is believed to be through the increased activity of brain cells containing oxytocin receptors in the hypothalamus. Fish oil supplements can also help reduce stress by reducing cortisol production in the body, which leads to oxytocin production.
Yoga for promoting oxytocin production
Yoga boosts oxytocin production by increasing blood flow throughout the body and stimulating parasympathetic nervous system activity. Both of which lead to increased oxytocin levels. Yoga is also an effective stress reliever, promoting relaxation and oxytocin production.
Acupuncture for boosting oxytocin
The administration of oxytocin is common in pregnant women with diabetes or other conditions that could make childbirth risky. However, acupuncture is a great way to prepare expectant mothers. The modality stimulates specific points on the body that are related to oxytocin release. Animal studies and clinical trials conducted among humans show that performing acupuncture over an acupoint called PC6 (Pericardium-6) will stimulate oxytocin production and release.
Higher oxytocin levels can also be achieved through hypothalamic activation in response to the following natural therapies:
- Cold showers or ice baths will stimulate the hypothalamus gland to produce oxytocin.
- Laughter can be a natural way to increase oxytocin levels by reducing cortisol levels.
- Meditation helps with oxytocin production because of its ability to calm stress hormones, enabling an increase in oxytocin production.
- Flower essences can be an effective way to increase oxytocin levels as they reduce cortisol levels, especially during stressful times. Some noteworthy flower essences include Crab Apple Flower, which releases negative thoughts and feelings of unworthiness, and Self Heal, which been know for centuries as a natural remedy for depression and anxiety.
- Massage stimulates oxytocin production by transmitting oxytocin from one person to another through touch. A study found that oxytocin levels were higher in participants who received a massage before watching an emotionally charged film than those whose oxytocin was not elevated through massage.
Oxytocin and Social Connection: Building Resilient Relationships
Social connection is a vital aspect of human wellbeing, and oxytocin plays a key role in building and strengthening relationships. In natural therapy, fostering social connections is an integral part of promoting overall healing and wellbeing.
Group therapy is a natural therapy approach that encourages social interaction, trust and empathy, all of which can trigger oxytocin release. By participating in group sessions, individuals can build a support network and cultivate a sense of belonging.
Laughter therapy, which involves laughter exercises and activities, can stimulate oxytocin release and create positive social bonds. Sharing laughter with others can foster feelings of connection and improve overall mood.
Horticultural therapy, engaging with plants and nature, can also promote oxytocin release through feelings of nurturing and connection with the natural world. This therapy can help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.
By recognising the significance of oxytocin in social connection, individuals can embrace these natural therapy approaches to strengthen relationships, build resilience and enhance overall wellbeing.
Boosting Oxytocin Levels: What the Latest Research Shows
Recent clinical trials and studies have shed light on the broader health benefits that come with increased oxytocin levels. From promoting emotional wellbeing to supporting physical health, here are the latest findings that highlight the positive impact of oxytocin on overall health:
Enhanced Emotional Resilience: Researchers found that elevated oxytocin levels can enhance emotional resilience, helping individuals better cope with stress and emotional challenges. Higher levels of oxytocin are linked to reduced levels of cortisol, the stress hormone, which contributes to a calmer and more balanced emotional state.
Improved Cardiovascular Health: Studies suggest that oxytocin may play a role in cardiovascular health by promoting vasodilation, which relaxes blood vessels and helps regulate blood pressure. Furthermore, oxytocin's ability to reduce stress and anxiety may indirectly support heart health by lowering the risk of hypertension and cardiovascular events.
Pain Relief and Management: Oxytocin has emerged as a potential natural analgesic, with research indicating that it can help alleviate pain and discomfort. Studies have shown that increased oxytocin levels are associated with reduced pain perception, making it a promising target for pain management approaches.
Positive Impact on Mental Health: Oxytocin's effects on emotional wellbeing extend to mental health as well. Clinical trials have demonstrated that higher oxytocin levels can improve mood, reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and increase feelings of trust and social bonding.
Supporting Social Connection: As a hormone central to social bonding, oxytocin has been linked to improved social interactions and empathy. It fosters feelings of trust and connection, which can contribute to building and maintaining healthy relationships.
Anti-Inflammatory Effects: Preliminary studies suggest that oxytocin may have anti-inflammatory properties, potentially aiding in the body's response to inflammation and promoting overall immune system function.
Increased oxytocin production not only increases romantic or familial relationships, but it also strengthens bonds between patients and healthcare workers, enabling improved communication and understanding, according to several human studies. This explains why it's worth the effort to increase your oxytocin levels with a natural therapy that you deem most effective. If you're not sure what would be right for you, talk to a qualified natural health practitioner in your area.Originally published on Feb 21, 2022