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Ethnopharmacology of Love

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      Abstract

      Background: Elixirs conferring eternal youth or inducing amatory and erotic attraction have been searched for without success. Lovesickness is a widespread affliction resulting from unrequited love and/or the impossibility for physical and emotional union. The symptoms are reflections of altered dopamine, serotonin, noradrenaline, testosterone and cortisol levels and range from frenzy and intrusive thinking to despair and depression, sharing traits with the neurochemistry of addiction and compulsive behavior disorder. Although it can seriously impact the quality of life, lovesickness is currently not considered in official disease classification systems. Consequently, no official therapeutic guidelines exist, leaving subjects to seek the cure on their own.

      Methods: We review literature of the past 2000 years dealing with the concept, diagnosis and the healing of lovesickness and contextualize it with neurochemical, ethnomedical, and ethnographic data. Since neurobiological and pharmacological connections between the love drive and the sex drive exist, we review also the literature about herbal an- and aphrodisiacs, focusing on their excitatory or calmative potential.

      Results: An overall consensus regarding socio-behavioral regimes exists for dealing with lovesickness from historical through contemporary literature. The herbal drugs used for treating lovesickness or inducing love passion do not possess the alleged properties. The pharmacological effects of aphrodisiacs are heterogeneous, including dopaminergic and adrenergic activities, but there is no evidence for any serotonergic effects. The libido-regulating properties of anaphrodisiacs seem to be associated with sedative and toxic effects or decreasing testosterone levels. CB 2 receptors expressed on dopaminergic neurons of the ventral tegmental area, part of the brain’s reward circuit, implicated with addiction, orgasm and strong emotions such as love, might constitute a new therapeutic target.

      Conclusion: The common food additive and CB 2 agonist β-caryophyllene might have the potential to attenuate dopaminergic firing, quenching the reward and thus motivation associated with romantic love. From Greek mythology to modern history, cultural expressions and implications of love, sex and procreation is and was organized along hierarchical lines that put men on top. The neuronal predispositions and activities associated with falling in love will probably forever remain nature’s and Eros’ secret.

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      Most cited references 121

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      Social effects of oxytocin in humans: context and person matter.

      Building on animal research, the past decade has witnessed a surge of interest in the effects of oxytocin on social cognition and prosocial behavior in humans. This work has generated considerable excitement about identifying the neurochemical underpinnings of sociality in humans, and discovering compounds to treat social functioning deficits. Inspection of the literature, however, reveals that the effects of oxytocin in the social domain are often weak and/or inconsistent. We propose that this literature can be informed by an interactionist approach in which the effects of oxytocin are constrained by features of situations and/or individuals. We show how this approach can improve understanding of extant research, suggest novel mechanisms through which oxytocin might operate, and refine predictions about oxytocin pharmacotherapy. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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        Reward, motivation, and emotion systems associated with early-stage intense romantic love.

        Early-stage romantic love can induce euphoria, is a cross-cultural phenomenon, and is possibly a developed form of a mammalian drive to pursue preferred mates. It has an important influence on social behaviors that have reproductive and genetic consequences. To determine which reward and motivation systems may be involved, we used functional magnetic resonance imaging and studied 10 women and 7 men who were intensely "in love" from 1 to 17 mo. Participants alternately viewed a photograph of their beloved and a photograph of a familiar individual, interspersed with a distraction-attention task. Group activation specific to the beloved under the two control conditions occurred in dopamine-rich areas associated with mammalian reward and motivation, namely the right ventral tegmental area and the right postero-dorsal body and medial caudate nucleus. Activation in the left ventral tegmental area was correlated with facial attractiveness scores. Activation in the right anteromedial caudate was correlated with questionnaire scores that quantified intensity of romantic passion. In the left insula-putamen-globus pallidus, activation correlated with trait affect intensity. The results suggest that romantic love uses subcortical reward and motivation systems to focus on a specific individual, that limbic cortical regions process individual emotion factors, and that there is localization heterogeneity for reward functions in the human brain.
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          The neural basis of romantic love.

          The neural correlates of many emotional states have been studied, most recently through the technique of fMRI. However, nothing is known about the neural substrates involved in evoking one of the most overwhelming of all affective states, that of romantic love, about which we report here. The activity in the brains of 17 subjects who were deeply in love was scanned using fMRI, while they viewed pictures of their partners, and compared with the activity produced by viewing pictures of three friends of similar age, sex and duration of friendship as their partners. The activity was restricted to foci in the medial insula and the anterior cingulate cortex and, subcortically, in the caudate nucleus and the putamen, all bilaterally. Deactivations were observed in the posterior cingulate gyrus and in the amygdala and were right-lateralized in the prefrontal, parietal and middle temporal cortices. The combination of these sites differs from those in previous studies of emotion, suggesting that a unique network of areas is responsible for evoking this affective state. This leads us to postulate that the principle of functional specialization in the cortex applies to affective states as well.
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            Author and article information

            Affiliations
            1Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of Cagliari , Cagliari, Italy
            2Department of Environmental and Life Sciences, University of Cagliari , Cagliari, Italy
            Author notes

            Edited by: Thomas Efferth, Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz, Germany

            Reviewed by: Anthony Booker, University of Westminster, United Kingdom; Christian Agyare, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana

            This article was submitted to Ethnopharmacology, a section of the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology

            Contributors
            Journal
            Front Pharmacol
            Front Pharmacol
            Front. Pharmacol.
            Frontiers in Pharmacology
            Frontiers Media S.A.
            1663-9812
            03 July 2018
            2018
            : 9
            6041438
            10.3389/fphar.2018.00567
            Copyright © 2018 Leonti and Casu.

            This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

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            Figures: 4, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 163, Pages: 16, Words: 0
            Categories
            Pharmacology
            Review

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