What it is and What it Does
Oxytocin is widely referred to as the love hormone, cuddle chemical, and moral molecule due to its effects on behavior, including its role in love and in female reproductive biological functions in reproduction. Oxytocin is a hormone that is made in the brain, but acts both as a hormone and as a brain neurotransmitter. It is produced in the hypothalamus and secreted by the pituitary gland, which is located at the base of the brain, in both sexes. It is produced in the ovaries and testes as well as the walls of blood vessels and in the heart. In woman its effects are enhanced and expanded because of their high estrogen levels.
The release of oxytocin by the pituitary gland acts to regulate two female reproductive functions:
The release of oxytocin into the bloodstream is said to have important effects,both psychological and physiological:
• Maternal Behavior
• Increasing Trust
• Reducing Anxiety
• Enhanced Digestion
Additionally, oxytocin counters the effects of cortisol, a stress hormone, which, if over long periods of time is produced in high levels in the body, can lead to high blood pressure, lowered immune function and even clinical depression. The effects of oxytocin influence the nervous system. It works closely with another hormone, vasopressin. Together they form balance and, when working properly, allow our bodies and minds to respond in healthy ways to what is presented by the world around us.
Massage and Oxytocin
According to Dr. Kerstin Uvnas Moberg, author of The Oxytocin Factor, massage is one of the best ways to get oxytocin released into the body. She states that during a massage session, oxytocin is released not only in the person receiving the
massage, but also in the giver. Massage has been shown to facilitate an increased release of oxytocin. Many studies have shown the effectiveness of massage in helping to reduce everyday stress, enhancing the immune system and generally making people feel more healthy and relaxed. Massage is an effective way to increase levels of oxytocin.
Oxytocin is responsible for helping our nervous system be naturally calm, relaxed, and engaged, helping us to be less aggressive, more open, trusting and empathetic in our relationships.
That is why we feel so good after a massage, and why regular massage is so beneficial to our health, sense of well-being, and our relationships, too!