Happy Valentine’s Day!
Physiology is a many splendored thing. Consider the following…
Oxytocin is called the love hormone. Oxytocin is a ‘natural’ chemical created in your brain that is associated with the feeling of pleasure while bonding. It strengthens attainment to feelings, it fortifies feelings of reassurance, empathy and comfort. It acts as a natural antidepressant. It is released after 20 seconds of hugging someone you like. It is also released during sex (for both male and female, although females are said to create more). It’s released during childbirth to stimulate contractions. It’s released during breastfeeding helping mom and baby bond.
This seems a little multipurpose for one compound. How does that work?
It’s all rather amazing. Oxytocin is created in the hypothalamus and is both a hormone and neurotransmitter, it has both physical and psychological effects. When oxytocin enters the bloodstream, it affects childbirth and breastfeeding, but when it is released into certain parts of the brain, it can impact emotional, cognitive, and social behaviours.
Cool. Where does cannabis come in?
Endocannabinoids (neurotransmitters produced in the brain that bind to THC receptors in the brain and body, like the neurotransmitter anandamide, are endogenous). Meaning our own bodies produce them. These act on the same system that the phytocannabinoids in cannabis does, binding to receptors on various cells throughout the body called the cannabinoid receptors.
So….do we have a love match with oxytocin and anandamide? Let’s ask our good friends at The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (but you can call them PNAS).
Oxytocin signals the brain to synthesize anandamide (remember these activate the same cannabinoid receptors in the human body as THC) as part of the reward mechanism in the brain. Feelings of happiness, increased social interaction and motivation are triggered. Oxytocin may actually enhance the desire to socially interact by making these experiences feel more rewarding and pleasurable, thanks to the oxytocin stimulating the body’s endocannabinoid system and increasing anandamide production.
Or, said another way, in an animal study:
When the researchers stimulated the neurons responsible for anandamide production but blocked the effects of the molecule, they found that the effects of oxytocin on this area of the brain were also inhibited — suggesting that anandamide is the vector by which oxytocin strengthens social behaviour in the brain.
Animals treated with a drug that stops anandamide degradation behaved as though they enjoyed spending time with their cage mates more than animals treated with a placebo.
And summed up in Valentine’s Day lingo. These two need each other and don’t do well apart.
Sigh. Oxytocin and Anandamide (or THC). The perfect couple.
If you missed the blog on sex and cannabis, you can find it here. Note that indica dominant cultivars with linalool in their profile seem to be the most romance friendly, keep it to a few inhalations of the vape for best effect.
— Kait Shane, Community Outreach Educator Natural Health Services. Follow Natural Health Services on Twitter @NatHealthserve.
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