One of the most puzzling conundrums about the human race is that we, unlike many other animal species, can be moved to acts of generosity towards others, often complete strangers and more often than not at a cost to ourselves. There are many examples – helping someone with a difficult problem and diverting our energy and attention away from our own task describes it more prosaically. You see someone fall and the immediate reaction is to rush to his or her aid – why? Well the exact reasons seem to be shrouded in the mystery that is the human psyche but a recent paper (2007) by some Californian academics is that a little known (to the public at large that is) hormone called oxytocin may be at the root of it.
You may have come across oxytocin in the press over recent years being described as ‘the lurve drug’, a natural equivalent to ‘Love Potion No 9’, well I is that and much, much more. Secreted by the pituitary gland, its primary role appears to be the creation of stimuli related to childbirth and lactation – discovered by a British scientist, Sir Henry Dale, in 1909. What he found was that the substance controls the contraction of the uterus during childbirth (the name oxytocin comes from the Greek; ‘speedy birth’) and then the production of mother’s milk – all important in the process of suckling and bonding between mother and child.
Across the years others have found that oxytocin is an important ait to the body in combating stress, helping to form affiliations with others and the cementing of relationships (feelings for others) as well as promoting normal sleep patterns.
So how did the leap from relaxation to generosity occur and why are there artificial versions of the hormone available on prescription. Just as each person demonstrates their own character then the body creates oxytocin in different ways and in different quantities.
Some people are deficient at producing it and suffer from anxiety and stress – so a method was found to synthesize the drug in order to assist the process. What Zak et al found by experimentation (in humans) was that individuals given a higher dosage of oxytocin were almost 80% more likely to be generous than those who were given a placebo. They concluded that the trait of generosity is linked to two other characteristics; altruism and affiliation towards others and that oxytocin was a contributory factor.
However, were it as simple as just giving someone a dose of oxytocin and they would immediately transform from Scrooge to Fezzwig , then the world would be full of bounty for all and poverty would be eliminated at a stroke. That we may seek to treat parsimony and withdrawal with a drug may seem odd, but there are treatments available to do just that.
One such relates to a synthetic form of oxytocin – oxytocin factor – available on prescription following consultations with your MD on online and over the counter. Oxytocin Factor sublingual drops or the nasal spray have been found to be effective in many cases where stress, anxiety, disassociation and disaffection are involved and, if Zak et al, are to be believed using it in cases where there needs to be a medical intervention.
It isn’t, however, a magic wand that means the subject will suddenly become generous to a fault but it can be administered as part of a whole period therapy. It is relatively easy to apply and absorb; sublingual means under the tongue and a drop there will begin to take effect within a quarter of an hour and last for several hours. The alternative, a nasal spray, has exactly the same effect, both being transmitted by the mucus membranes into the body’s system. But oxytocin needs to be handled carefully (it isn’t dangerous but it isn’t a crutch either), go see your MD for help first and if he or she prescribes it for you then follow the course to the letter.
Given that oxytocin is responsible for many aspects of our character including relationship forming, stress reduction, enhanced feelings of affiliation and improvements to moods, it might help to make you a more relaxed, tolerant and generous person.
For more information contact Bryan Post, Managing Editor of Oxytocin Central firstname.lastname@example.org or call (405) 476-1983