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Oxytocin is a neuropeptide hormone that is produced in the brain and is best known for its association with birth and breast feeding. It was discovered in 1906 and synthesized in the lab in 1953. The synthetic form of oxytocin is pitocin, which is widely used to stimulate uterine contractions for labor.

Renewed interest and research on oxytocin has exploded and there may be a lot more to oxytocin than most of us realize. In one database, there were 17 papers in 1990 and 118 in 2010. Oxytocin is now available over the counter (on Amazon, it is called ‘Oxy-Luv”) as an intra-nasal spray or from various compounding pharmacies as a spray, lozenge or cream.

Here are several new ways to consider the use of over the counter oxytocin for improved health:

1. As an anxiety reducer: Anxiety and stress disorders are characterized by a feeling of being unable to manage stress. Physiologically, what is happening is that your HPA axis is being over stimulated. The HPA axis consists of the hypothalamus, adrenal glands and the pituitary. Your HPA axis releases stress hormones when we need them to serve us (such as when your little charge is careening towards the busy street on her tricycle).

The problem for most of us, is that our HPA is chronically over stimulated by common life stressors such as sitting in traffic, job stress, inflammatory food choices, lack of down time. Oxytocin might help induce more calm and less anxiety when going through these stressful situations. In one study, cerebrospinal fluid and plasma OT levels were found to higher in participants that had lower anxiety.

2. To increase effectiveness of hormone therapy: As women age, many of them choose to use estrogen to diminish hot flashes ,improve bone health and lessen cardiovascular risk. But for every hormone therapy success story, there are women for whom hormone therapy seems to confer no benefit. With regards to mood issues, ( a common problem for post menopausal women),There is exciting data to support the idea that oxytocin exerts anxiety reducing effects in the presence of circulating estrogen. Therefore, using oxytocin as a nasal spray, may enhance the effectiveness of hormone therapy.

3. To Improve Vaginal Mucosa: Vaginal dryness is an almost unviersal symptom after menopause. The loss of estrogen degrades the mucosa of the vaginal wall and as a result, sex can be painful. In one randomized, controlled study, vaginal atrophy was significantly reduced after a 100 IU administration of vagitocin (a type of oxytocin that is in clinical development at a pharmaceutical firm in Sweden) for 7 weeks. Because oxytocin does not stimulate estrogen, the thickness of the endometrium did not differ between the treatment and placebo groups after seven weeks of treatment. This study conduced at the Karolinska Institute in 2012, concluded that treatment with intravaginally applied oxytocin could be an alternative to local estrogen treatment in women with post-menopausal vaginal atrophy. Peptonic, a Swedish company, is currently developing this for usage as a consumer product without a prescription. It is known as Vag-Vital and may be ready for purchase by 2018 pending more clinical trials.

4. Oxytocin might prevent or delay age related sarcopenia: Oxytocin, like most of our hormones, declines with age. Muscle tone also declines with age. There is some research that suggests restoring youthful levels of oxytocin can help slow down the the muscle aging process.

5. Oxytocin might improve your sex life!: One small study in the peer reviewed journal ‘Hormones and Behavior’ hypothesizes that intranasal administration of oxytocin immediately prior to sexual intercourse can increase sexual enjoyment by providing better orgasms and more content feelings after intercourse. According to one analysis, the effects were more pronounced in men.

There are other potential applications fo oxytocin. Exciting research in autism is being conducted by using it in a controlled setting that would help children with autism respond better to social cues. There is more research showing that it may help with weight loss and PTSD. However, researchers warn that not enough is known about it and they caution wanton use explaining most of the oxytocin research was conducted using a single dose.

There are also known contraindications to oxytocin such as benign prostatic hyperplasia, uterine cancer and anyone who suffers from manic episodes.