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Oxytocin: The Hugging hormone

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  • Oxytocin: The Hugging hormone

Oxytocin also known as the “Love Hormone” or “Cuddle Hormone” is a neurotransmitter that is produced in the hypothalamus and released from the pituitary gland [1].

The intricate dance between this neuropeptide and its biological processes earns oxytocin its reputation as being an essential component of a complex neurochemical system that allows the body to adapt to highly emotive situations such as regulating our ability to love and influencing our health and wellbeing [1].

When oxytocin is released into certain parts of the brain, it can impact emotional, cognitive, and social behaviour [2].

  • One review of research into oxytocin states that the hormone's impact on "pro-social behaviours" and emotional responses contributes to relaxation, trust, and psychological stability, therefore reducing anxiety and encouraging firmer social bo­­­­­­nds [2].
  • Researchers have also found oxytocin levels to be higher among people in the early stages of romantic attachment compared to single, unattached individuals. The new romantic attachments enjoyed a boost to oxytocin levels for up to six months leading science to suggest that the “honeymoon period” lasts about the same amount of time [3].
  • More recently oxytocin has proved to have even more positive effects on the brain and has been linked to improvements in self-image and peoples’ perceptions of their own personalities [4].
  • Furthermore, studies have shown that increased levels of oxytocins are correlated with higher reports of life satisfaction and lower levels of depression[5].

Science has shown that just 10 minutes of warm physical and emotional contact leads to higher plasma oxytocin [6].

When oxytocin enters the bloodstream, it affects the uterus and lactation[7].

  • A 2007 study published in the journal Psychological Science found that the higher a mother’s oxytocin levels in the first trimester of pregnancy, the more likely she was to engage in bonding behaviours such as singing to or bathing her baby [8].
  • Breast fed babies also absorb oxytocin from their mother's milk [7].
  • This biological anomaly coupled with skin on skin contact assists in building the bond between mother and child [9].

Oxytocin is one of the most-studied hormones in the human body and with good reason. It’s not only good for bonding with family & friends but science is proving it’s an important aspect for your health and may also help improve your relationship with yourself.


  1. Carter, C. and Porges, S. (2012). The biochemistry of love: an oxytocin hypothesis. EMBO reports, 14(1), pp.12-16. [Full Text]

  2. Olff, M., Frijling, J., Kubzansky, L., Bradley, B., Ellenbogen, M., Cardoso, C., Bartz, J., Yee, J. and van Zuiden, M. (2013). The role of oxytocin in social bonding, stress regulation and mental health: An update on the moderating effects of context and interindividual differences. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 38(9), pp.1883-1894. [Abstract]

  3. Schneiderman, I., Zagoory-Sharon, O., Leckman, J. and Feldman, R. (2012). Oxytocin during the initial stages of romantic attachment: Relations to couples’ interactive reciprocity. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 37(8), pp.1277-1285. [Abstract]

  4. Liu, Y., Wu, B., Wang, X., Li, W., Zhang, T., Wu, X. and Han, S. (2017). Oxytocin effects on self-referential processing: behavioral and neuroimaging evidence. Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, 12(12), pp.1845-1858. [Abstract]

  5. Dfarhud, D. and Malmir, M. (2014). Happiness & Health: The Biological factrs-Systeim Review Article. Iran J Public Health, 43(11), pp1468-1477. [Full Text]

  6. Light, K. C., Grewen, K. M., & Amico, J. A. (2005). More frequent partner hugs and higher oxytocin levels are linked to lower blood pressure and heart rate in premenopausal women. Biological Psychology, 69(1), 5–21. doi:10.1016/j.biopsycho.2004.11.002 [Abstract]

  7. Prevost, M., Zelkowitz, P., Tulandi, T., Hayton, B., Feeley, N., Carter, C., Joseph, L., Pournajafi-Nazarloo, H., Yong Ping, E., Abenhaim, H. and Gold, I. (2014). Oxytocin in Pregnancy and the Postpartum: Relations to Labor and Its Management. Frontiers in Public Health, 2.  [Full Text]

  8. Bick, J. and Dozier, M. (2010). Mothers' concentrations of oxytocin following close, physical interactions with biological and nonbiological children. Developmental Psychobiology, 52(1), pp.100-107. [Abstract]

  9. Moberg, K. and Prime, D. (2013). Oxytocin effects in mother and infants during breastfeeding. Infant, pp. 201-206. [Full Text]


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Shannon Chafkin
Looking for opportunities whilst studying Naturopathy, Shannon embarked on the product development and research internship program offered by leading nutraceutical company, BioCeuticals. This led her to follow a career path into product development and research, whilst also indulging her passion for writing. Shannon founded her blog; Naturopathetarian as a platform to share naturopathic/mindful information and her philosophy is simple: health and wellness is accomplished when a synergetic balance is maintained between the mind, body and soul. Shannon regularly participates in volunteer and humanitarian work both locally and overseas using her naturopathic skills and in 2015 she was awarded the Australian Traditional Medicine Society (ATMS) Peter Derig Student Award for Excellence in Academic and Clinical practice.