Oxytocin hormone natural ways to increase, benefits and side effects
Are there herbal supplements or vitamins that increase production or levels?
July 17 2017 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Oxytocin is a hormone that helps relax and reduce blood pressure and cortisol levels. It increases pain thresholds, has anti anxiety effects, and stimulates various types of positive social interaction. In addition, it promotes growth and healing. People with low levels of this so-called "love hormone" oxytocin may have less empathy for others.

Over the counter, without a prescription, in vitamin stores
There are no over the counter products that have the actual hormone since that is not allowed by the FDA. Products that are sold over the counter such as some health food stores that claim to have oxytocin are not to be trusted. Oxytocin nasal spray is available by prescription only.

Weight loss hormone?
A 2016 small study found in spray form, the "love hormone" oxytocin might aid weight loss. A single dose of oxytocin nasal spray decreased impulsive behavior in overweight and obese men. However, the benefits and risks of long term use of this spray are not well understood and it is possible tolerance could develop.

How to increase naturally
Oxytocin can be released by various types of non-noxious sensory stimulation, for example by touch and warmth, i.e., massage. Ingestion of food triggers oxytocin release by activation of vagal afferents. Most likely, oxytocin can also be released by stimulation of other senses such as olfaction (odors, fragrances), as well as by certain types of sound and light. In addition, purely psychological mechanisms may trigger the release of oxytocin. This means that positive interaction involving touch and psychological support may be health-promoting. The social interaction of daily life, as well as a positive environment, continuously activate this system. In addition, various types of psychotherapy involving transfer of support, warmth and empathy are likely to induce similar effects, which thus contribute to the positive effects of these kinds of therapies.

As time goes on some couples become less intimate. But activities that release oxytocin, such as really looking into another person's eyes, holding hands, kissing and having sex could help restore the connection.

The nonapeptide oxytocin, originally known to stimulate labor and milk ejection, appears to play an important role in stress and pain. It can induce anti-stress-like effects such as reduction of blood pressure and cortisol levels. It increases pain thresholds, exerts an anxiety reducing effect and stimulates various types of positive social interactions. In addition, it promotes growth and healing.  

Natural supplement or herb
I am not aware of a dietary supplement, natural product, herb, or vitamin that increases, or influences, the release of this hormone. There are many natural substances that increase sexual interest and pleasure and can act as natural aphrodisiacs. I have not come across any natural or synthetic food that raises levels.

What are your thoughts around the Oxytocin Trust products. How scared or worried are you about people using this for unethical purposes? I would like to quote your response in an English Research Paper.
   A. I am not familiar with Oxtocin Trust products, but a search on the internet revealed a product called Liquid Trust that claims to have oxytocin in it. My first impression would be that I am quite skeptical that this product contains the hormone since it is not easy to make oxytocin and to sell it over the counter. It smells of a scam but I cannot say for sure without feedback from many users and a study.

Q. I receive a spam email regarding Oxytocin homeopathic formula. Does this product work?
   A. This hormone is not available over the counter as a pill. Therefore, Oxytocin hormeopathic formula, in my opinion, is a scam.

Oxytocin and sex, effect on orgasm
Also known as the "cuddle" hormone, oxytocin is released by both men and women at sexual orgasm.

Horm Behav. 2014. Differential effects of intranasal oxytocin on sexual experiences and partner interactions in couples. Knowledge about the effects of the neuropeptide oxytocin (OXT) on human sexual behaviors and partner interactions remains limited. Based on our previous studies, we hypothesize that oxytocin should be able to positively influence parameters of sexual function and couple interactions. Employing a naturalistic setting involving 29 healthy heterosexual couples, we analyzed the acute effects of intranasally administered OXT (24IU) on sexual drive, arousal, orgasm and refractory aspects of sexual behavior together with partner interactions. Data were assessed by psychometric instruments (Acute Sexual Experiences Scale, Arizona Sexual Experience Scale) as well as biomarkers, such as cortisol, α-amylase and heart rate. Intranasal OXT administration did not alter "classical" parameters of sexual function, such as sexual drive, arousal or penile erection and lubrication. However, analysis revealed specific effects related to the orgasmic/post-orgasmic interval as well as parameters of partner interactions. Oxytocin increased the intensity of orgasm, contentment after sexual intercourse and the effect of study participation. These effects were more pronounced in men. Men additionally indicated higher levels of sexual satiety after sexual intercourse with OXT administration. Women felt more relaxed and subgroups indicated better abilities to share sexual desires or to empathize with their partners. The effect sizes were small to moderate. Using a naturalistic setting, intranasal OXT administration in couples exerted differential effects on parameters of sexual function and partner interactions. These results warrant further investigations, including subjects with sexual and relationship problems.

Fertil Steril. 2015. Effect of long-term intranasal oxytocin on sexual dysfunction in premenopausal and postmenopausal women: a randomized trial. To assess the effect of on-demand intranasal oxytocin administration on female sexual function and activity. Thirty pre-and postmenopausal women with sexual dysfunction. Over 8 weeks, intranasal oxytocin (32 IU) or placebo self-administered by women within 50 minutes before sexual intercourse; after a washout period of 2 weeks, crossover with patients switched to the alternate group for another 8 weeks. Long-term intranasal oxytocin and placebo administration both improved sexual function and symptoms of depression in women over time with no treatment, sequence (placebo first/second), or interaction effect.

Plasma oxytocin levels increase during sexual arousal in both women and men and are significantly higher during orgasm / ejaculation than during baseline testing.

Q. I am working on a story for a health magazine about ways to boost men's mood without the use of antidepressants. I would love to find out if men can boost their mood by having regular orgasms or sex. Are there any feel-good, mood-boosting chemicals released during sex that might help naturally boost a guy's mood? If so, how do they work in the body? How long do they last to help boost a guy's mood or help him relax, etc.?
   A. Men can temporarily improve their mood through sex and orgasms which can last several minutes, hours, or days depending on the depth of connection and intimacy with the partner. Oxytocin is one major hormone that is released through orgasm and its effects normally last minutes or hours. If there is a connection and love with the partner, the afterglow of the sexual connection and mood lift can last a long time. However, in most men, sex is not a reliable and consistent way to improve mood. If there is no emotional connection with the partner, there can actually be a let down after the sexual act. Oxytocin is secreted from the pituitary gland. Oxytocin receptors are found in many parts of the brain and spinal cord, including the amygdala and brainstem. It's actions and biochemistry are too complex for the average reader.

Q. I was advised by my urologist that I should try oxytocin to address my anorgasmia, but he didn't know where or how to obtain it. Do I need a prescription?
    A. Oxytocin is not available over the counter since it is not classified as a dietary supplement. See better orgasm for suggestions on natural supplements that could be helpful.

Oxytocin can be released by various types of sensory stimulation, for example by touch and warmth. Bloodstream levels of oxytocin have been shown to rise during massage.

How it works
Oxytocin suppresses the activity of the brain region known as the amygdala, the area that processes fear and communicates it to the rest of the brain. A small sample group of 15 men inhaled either oxytocin or a placebo before performing a task in which they sorted pictures of angry or fearful faces and threatening scenes. During the test the researchers monitored the subjects' brain activity with functional magnetic resonance imaging and found that the oxytocin group indeed had reduced activity in the amygdala.

Oxytocin reduces fear
Animal and human studies indicate the major role of the amygdala in controlling fear and anxiety. The amygdala is involved in detecting threat stimuli and linking them to defensive behaviors. This is accomplished by projections connecting the central nucleus of the amygdala to the brain stem and to hypothalamic structures, which organize fear responses. Oxytocin tempers the excitatory inputs into the amygdala.

Smiles, social skills, interactions with others
Oxytocin may increase one's ability to remember happy smiling faces but I have not seen studies yet that smiling itself increases one's oxytocin levels.

This "love hormone" has a tremendous effect on kids' ability to function socially. Children blessed with naturally high levels of oxytocin are more savvy at communicating with others and interpreting social signals or situations,

Availability of oxytocin drug by prescription
Oxytocin is sold as nasal spray (Syntocinon). A nasal spray containing the hormone oxytocin, which is essential to the production and flow of breast milk, does not improve milk output in mothers expressing milk for preterm infants.
     Intranasal administration of oxytocin causes a substantial increase in trusting behavior and the perception of the person a person is intimate with as appearing more appealing than a stranger, 2013, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Rheumatol Int. 2014. Oxytocin nasal spray in fibromyalgic patients. Oxytocin nasal spray (80 IU a day) did not induce positive therapeutic effects but resulted to be safe, devoid of toxicity, and easy to handle.

Q. I wondered why I felt like such a completely different woman after I began breast feeding. I was so much happier, more in tune with caring for my child, more loving, and my social anxiety disappeared. After I finished breast feeding, everything changed and all of those positive effects mentioned above in a weird way disappeared! was wondering if you knew how I could get a hold of 100% legitimate oxytocin? I looked online and there are many sites claiming to be the "real deal," but I don't want to fall for any scams. Would I be able to get a prescription for oxytocin? Do you believe the Oxytocin sold as the nasal spray: Syntocinon is effective?
   A. Syntocinon (oxytocin) is indicated for the initiation or improvement of uterine contractions, where this is desirable and considered suitable, in order to achieve early vaginal delivery for fetal or maternal reasons. Over the counter products cannot be trusted. I do not have enough experience with the prescription form to know how effective it is, or safe, for the purposes other than induction of labor.

Anorexia treatment
Oxytocin is released during bonding activities like childbirth and sex. Researchers gave oxytocin or a placebo, via nasal spray, to 31 patients with anorexia and 33 healthy "control" patients. They all were asked to look at sequences of images relating to different types of food, and different body shapes and weights.  After taking oxytocin, the anorexic patients appeared to be less obsessed about images of food and obesity but this does not yet prove it is a treatment for anorexia, more studies are needed. King's College London, news release, 2014.

Bonding, pregnancy, mothers
The levels of oxytocin hormone in a pregnant woman's body play a role in how closely she will bond with her newborn. In animals, oxytocin, dubbed "the hormone of love and bonding," is involved in good parenting and maintaining close relationships. Dr. Ruth Feldman and colleagues at Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel, studied the role of this hormone in humans and found oxytocin is important in the bonding that occurs between mothers and their infants. Dr. Ruth Feldman and colleagues measured oxytocin levels in 60 pregnant women during the first and third trimester and the first month after delivery. They found that initial levels of oxytocin (first trimester) predicted bonding-related thoughts...as well as maternal bonding to the newborn. Mothers with higher levels of oxytocin at the start of pregnancy showed more bonding behaviors after birth. Psychological Science, 2007.

Q. Your writing informed me that, not only does oxytocin play a role in bonding and lactation stimulation, but can also increase milk production. My daughter through adoption was born to a mother with severe postpartum depression. My daughter has had three live births and is currently pregnant (2 months). Despite attempts, with and without lactation consultants, to produce an adequate milk supply, she has been unable to. I also believe that, after her second and third children were born, she too had postpartum depression. Is the Oxytocin nasal spray ever used by doctors with postpartum women to increase milk production? Any studies I might show her to encourage her to ask about oxytocin lactation support? She says, beyond colostrum, she's not going to even try nursing.
   A. I have not seen such studies yet but I will look further into it.

Tinnitus or ringing in the ears
People suffering from chronic ringing in the ears may find some relief by spraying the hormone oxytocin in their nose, a small initial study by Brazilian researchers suggests.

Oxytocin receptors in the body and brain
Oxytocin is a very abundant neuropeptide exerting a wide spectrum of central and peripheral effects as neurohormone, neurotransmitter, or neuromodulator. In the central nervous system, the oxytocin gene is predominantly expressed in magnocellular neurons in the hypothalamic paraventricular (PVN) and supraoptic (SON) nuclei. The magnocellular oxytocin neurons release their products into the general circulation in the neurohypophysis while the mediocellular oxytocin neurons secrete elsewhere in the CNS. Oxytocin is also produced in peripheral tissues, e.g., uterus, placenta, amnion, corpus luteum, testis, and heart. Oxytocin is a potent stimulator of spontaneous erections in rats and is involved in ejaculation. The typical actions of peripheral oxytocin are stimulation of uterine smooth muscle contraction during labor and milk ejection during lactation. Oxytocin receptors have also been identified in other tissues, including the kidney, heart, thymus, pancreas, and adipocytes.

Thumb sucking, testimonial
I am 51 years old and have suffered from thyroid disease since my early 20s. First Graves, then hypo. At age 50, I was tested for Celiac disease, by my own request. The doctor told me the blood test was extremely indicative. The endoscopy revealed that my villia are eroded to almost nothing and my intestinal inflammation alarming pre cancerous. I've probably had Celiac all or most of my life. I have been gluten free for about 7 months. When I was born, my mother tried breastfeeding but it didn't work out. Then I had colic. I've never slept well, and over the years I've had restless legs and extreme insomnia. Pain and inflammation due to injury, thyroid and the malnutrition of Celiac have dominated my life. A few nights ago, tossing and turning and wincing in pain, I prayed for further help in healing. I thought of an adult, professional counselor, friend of mine who shamelessly sucks her thumb in my presence.  She has always been skilled in self comforting and comforting others. As I thought of her habit, I experimentally stuck my thumb in my mouth. Sucking, I noticed my heart rate and breathing changed and my muscles began relaxing. I had an experience similar to sexual climax and muscles relaxed all over my body. I seem to have activated or reactivated my suckle reflex. I suspect I never had it or had not formed it properly due to not breastfeeding or having orthodonically correct bottle nipples or pacifiers available in 1961.The last 3 days have rocked my world in the best possible way. I've had the most restful sleep I can remember. I have a sense of joy and a carefree laugh that has been rare for me. I imagine it is due to hormone production related to the suckling reflex. I thought you might be interested in the impact it had on me physically and emotionally. In my opinion, the potential for healing and prevention of autoimmune diseases, insomnia, pain, social anxiety, depression, addictions, eating disorders and more are abundant. All the articles I can find indicate the suckling reflex disappears or is integrated at a few months of age. I suspect in healthy people it may just become less obvious. But if it is not important, why do we have so many people in our society sticking harmful things in their mouth and sucking on them? Pipe stem sucking, the next vapor, flavored electronic cigarettes and sucking on ice may be the least harmful. We need to be trained to cultivate and use this reflex in healthy ways.

Questions and feedback
Q. I am an undergraduate psychology student at Boston University. I have recently undertaken some independent research on oxytocin and various clinical applications. I am very interested in such research.
   A. A Medline search would offer research studies and contact info on investigators who are researching this hormone.

My name is Barbara Neuman. I am in the process of creating proposal for a documentary. Working title - BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR - subject, oxytocin. The art council of Canada is willing to help develop the documentary. For myself it's a tremendous opportunity to simply educate, especially women. Documentary will be based on interviews with women, couples etc. and I would like to invite you to take a part in it as well. My question is what is a research worth if it is not shared with others or those who can benefit from the findings? Or to simply make us think. I do need to provide the name of the people that agree to be interviewed - are you interested? The feminist movements of the twentieth century brought along almost complete sexual liberation for women in the West. Today’s woman is able to freely choose how to pursue relationships. Many women find sexual partners for strictly physical pleasure, a so called “friends with benefits” phenomenon. They enjoy the freedom such relationships bring; in their opinion, the absence of commitment and emotions frees women from potential harm love may bring. However, the reality is not as plain and simple as many women think. Researchers at the University of California San Francisco are finding that, in fact, women are not capable of having unemotional relationships. It is all due to a hormone called oxytocin. Often called a “hormone of love,” it has many functions, of which one involves human bonding. For example, the hormone is present in breast milk and is thought of being responsible for mother-child attachment. Recently the scientists have found that the hormone is released in women during a sexual intercourse, and therefore facilitates a bonding behaviour with any man or woman an individual has sex with. This realization shatters views of many feminists, who claim that women could and shall be completely independent from man. Meanwhile, anytime a woman engages in a sexual activity an emotional bond between her and her partner is created. This documentary will tell the story from a woman’s perspective. It will be made by women for women, and it will expose delusions many “liberated” women posses. This documentary will challenge current trends in sexual lives of many women.
    A. Thank you so much for writing to us. However, I do not consider myself an expert on this topic, there are many others who are more knowledgeable on the topic of oxytocin. My specialty is natural supplements. I wish you great success with the project.

My daughter was diagnosed with an enlarged posterior neurohypophysis. The endocrinologist she is seeing has attempted to have her oxytocin and vasopressin levels performed. The vasopressin lab test is done everywhere but I cannot find a lab to perform the oxytocin test. Do you have any information for labs that perform this test? Also, do you have any insight as to why she has an enlarged posterior neurophypophysis?
    A. Her endocrinologist should know a good lab that does the testing. It is not possible for us know the cause of the condition without a full history, exam, and review of test results.

Q. Dr Sahelian: We have been reading much about you. As a compounding pharmacist we have been preparing several formulas of Oxytocin for physicians for years. We compound an oral oxytocin tablet in our proprietary blend to bypass the stomach and portal system to be absorbed by the lymphatics. This provides a dose much like an injection. A poster presentation of plasma levels reveal good levels at 3 hours after ingestion and remain increased for up to 8 hours. We also compound a sublingual oxytocin dose which provides a dose within 15 to 20 minutes. Moreover, we compound a topical Oxytocin. Anecdotal reports on its use are multiple orgasms and better erections with more sensations when applied to genitals. More bonding, increased cognition, better sleep and “I feel 10 years younger” when applied to the non-genital skin. So, now you have a source of Oxytocin replacement without an injection or nasal spray. BelMar Pharmacy, 12860 W. Cedar Dr #210, Lakewood, CO 80228. We have filed a patent on the use of Oxytocin for certain things including multiple orgasms, male erection, bonding, nurturing, trusting, autism, etc.

Q. I read with great interest your information on oxytocin. As a vision impairment specialist, I have worked with quite a number of children with Optic Nerve Hypoplasia. This disorder has a very strong endocrine component. Endocrinologists I've shared patients / clients with look at the anterior pituitary gland, but not always at the posterior pituitary gland and rarely, if ever, seem to think about the effects the absence or malfunction of this gland - with the concomitant absence of oxytocin - might have on the functioning of a child with ONH. Many children with ONH have unusual behavior patterns. Do you know of any studies that have been conducted on children who have absent or reduced oxytocin production?
   A. This is not an area I have studied in enough detail.