What Is Oxytocin?
Oxytocin is a hormone and neurotransmitter that is produced in the hypothalamus and then transported to and secreted by the posterior lobe of the pituitary gland.
Oxytocin is a particularly important hormone for women, and women usually have higher natural levels than men. Estrogen increases the secretion of oxytocin, which supports female reproductive functions from sexual activity to childbirth and lactation. It also plays a role in male erection and sperm movement.
Oxytocin released into certain parts of the brain affects emotional, cognitive, and social behaviors. It promotes bonding — including parent-child and romantic bonding — trust, relaxation, psychological stability, social identification, and memory. It is released during playtime with children or pets, the early stage of falling in love, hugging, and orgasms.
Studies have shown that getting a one-time external boost of oxytocin has a clear effect on certain behaviors, at least in the short-term. Men and women play more closely with their babies. They are more likely to judge people with neutral expressions in photographs as “trustworthy.” The hormone increases personality traits such as warmth, generosity, empathy, openness, and faithfulness. For this reason, it’s sometimes referred to as the “cuddle hormone.”
However, its role isn’t that simple. Studies suggest that in select situations, oxytocin use can increase an ‘us vs. them’ mentality. This shift may impact behavior and sense of community. . Oxytocin is just one piece of a complex set of neurochemical interactions that influence our emotional/social behavior.
Who May Benefit From Oxytocin?Because of the effects oxytocin has on the reproductive organs and brain, it may be a beneficial therapy for people who are experiencing certain health conditions:
Oxytocin can affect the sexual response of both men and women, making it useful in helping support sexual health, function, and pleasure in both genders.
Brain oxytocin appears to reduce stress responses, including generalized anxiety, social anxiety, and anorexia. It could help people who avoid social interaction, and those who experience persistent fear and an inability to trust others. Oxytocin may also play a role in anger management. Research has linked certain polymorphisms of the oxytocin receptor (OXTR) gene with an increased tendency to anger. Oxytocin also seems to act as an antidote to depressive feelings.
Supplementing oxytocin seems to improve individual as well as social well-being. Because low self-esteem, self-anger, and depression can be factors in weight loss problems, oxytocin may play a positive role in weight management for some patients.
Low oxytocin levels have been linked to autistic spectrum disorder, a condition that may impact social functioning. It is unlikely that oxytocin alone can address these challenges, but because it increases social awareness and responsiveness, it may compliment behavioral therapy.
Oxytocin is thought to control inflammation by decreasing certain cytokines. This could make the hormone a valuable addition to treatment protocols for a variety of acute and chronic disorders.
How Belmar Can Help
If you’re a clinician interested in prescribing compound medications to your patients, contact us for information on how to get started and to access all of our clinical resources. If you are new to compounding, you may find our page on How to Write a Compounding Prescription helpful. You can also visit our Treatment Options page to find a formulary and learn more about all the medication solutions available from Belmar.