Amanda Pendolino
April 24, 2013

Can Oxytocin Nasal Spray Help You Fall in Love?

When we engage in physical contact (such as having an orgasm or giving birth), the brain releases oxytocin, a “love hormone” that stimulates emotional bonding.

What if you took oxytocin before a date?

Popular Science‘s Viola Gad set out to find the answer. She ordered a $60 bottle of the stuff from an online company that claims it’s not addictive; it just “lowers your anxiety.”

While skeptics think the placebo effect is at play, others tout oxytocin as a way to feel warm, calm and connected. “Some of the indications and proposed usages of oxytocin might very well be true, but there is too little research to say so yet,” says Swedish scientist Kerstin Moberg.

Viola notes she had a great time on her oxytocin-fueled outing, a third date with a guy she was excited about. She sensed that her date “liked this calmer version of me better than the very intense and chatty version he had met before.”

But when he wanted to go home with her, she hesitated, and he was disappointed. “Oxytocin might have increased my trust and made me more patient, but it hadn’t made me lose my guard,” she says.

On their next date, Viola ran out of things to talk about with this man, who no longer seemed attractive. She never heard from him again.

It’s hard to draw any real conclusions from Viola’s experience. Did she have a good time on the third date because of the oxytocin? Because she had high hopes and wanted it to be a good date? Because third dates are often when couples connect? Similarly, did the following date fail because she was off the drug? Or could it be that they just weren’t compatible?

Oxytocin is no magical cure for the frustrating world of dating. If two people aren’t getting along, the sensible solution is to part ways, not to take drugs to force a connection.

But what if you’re already together — and committed to making the relationship work? According to Scientific American, a handful of new studies show oxytocin makes us more sympathetic, supportive and open with our feelings.

Beate Ditzen, a researcher at the University of Zurich, says men tend to withdraw during conflict with their mate, which leads to a breakdown in communication and relationship dissatisfaction for both parties. If men took oxytocin during difficult times, they might communicate better with their partners.

In addition, a German study suggests oxytocin can help men stay monogamous. Men who took the drug kept more distance between themselves and a “temptress researcher” they found attractive. They also were less likely to signal romantic interest in this person.

We need to do more research on oxytocin — but we can’t expect miracles. It has some promising possibilities, but ultimately Viola found out what I’ve always suspected: there’s no shortcut to finding love.