“Love hormone” effectively increases the psychological influence of placebo treatment

Love hormone could improve placebo effect (Image by Jim Cooke)

Main Point:

Researchers have found that ‘Love Hormone’ – oxytocin – could increase the placebo effect.[sociallocker]

Published in:

Journal of the American Medical Association

Study Further:

Placebo Effect:

It is represented by a sense of benefit felt by a patient that arises solely from the knowledge that treatment has been given. It is merely a psychological effect of treatment as placebo refers to a drug containing no active ingredients given to a patient participating in a clinical trial in order to assess the performance of a new drug.


Oxytocin, also known as “love hormone” is a hormone that develops bonding and feelings of trust.  It is a hormone released by the pituitary gland that stimulates contractions of the womb during childbirth and triggers the secretion of milk from the breast during nursing. It may be given to women during childbirth to assist labor.

Present Research:

Researchers, in the present study, have found that placebo treatment can not only be improved but also be enhanced by using oxytocin.

Researchers worked with 80 healthy men in their 20s. Those were divided into two groups. One group was given the oxytocin nasal spray while the other was given a similar looking saline solution. Then the researchers applied the placebo cream to each person’s forearm and said that the cream has pain relieving properties. After 45 minutes, researchers applied a hot probe to the spots where they had applied the cream and asked the participants to rate their pain out of 100. Interestingly, the participants who were given oxytocin rated their pain lower (i.e. about 47) as compared to the other group, who rate their pain to about 59.

“To our knowledge, our study provides the first experimental evidence that placebo responses can be pharmacologically enhanced by the application of intranasal oxytocin,” Researchers wrote.


Simon Kessner et al. (2013). Effect of Oxytocin on Placebo Analgesia
A Randomized Study JAMA DOI: 10.1001/jama.2013.277446


Usman Zafar Paracha

Usman Zafar Paracha is a sort of entrepreneur. He is the author of "Color Atlas of Statistics", and the owner of an Android game "Faily Rocket."