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.
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
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.