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What is Love?
Love of God, love of a child, love of family,
love of friends, love of country. Is romantic
love different than the love between close
friends, self-love or a love of humanity? Is
love really blind, unconditional, and thus
beyond our control? The science of love is a
fascinating blend of neurochemistry, biology
and sociology.
The Neurobiology of Love
The chemistry of love revolves around oxy-
tocin, a hormone first known to play a role in
childbirth by causing the uterus to contract
and the breasts to secrete milk. It further
promotes the maternal-infant bond. But more
recently, we¡¯ve come to understand that oxy-
tocin plays a much broader role in the scope
of love.
Oxytocin is made in the pituitary gland, the
little hormone control center located in the
middle of the brain. Aside from the childbirth,
oxytocin plays a role in sexual attraction and
sexual intimacy. Studies show high levels of
oxytocin before and during sexual activity.
Couples that are newly in love have higher
levels of oxytocin and it is associated with
increased romantic attachment and monoga-
mous bonding.
Oxytocin can be given to someone to instill a
feeling of attachment or bonding. It increases
trust and decreases fear, causing more gen-
erosity and social bonding. The pro-social
effects of oxytocin have led to it being called
the ¡°love hormone¡±.
Other hormones play a role in the love
process. While estrogen and testosterone
are simple players in the lust process, with
true love a whole cascade of brain chemistry
comes into play. Dopamine increases make us
feel satisfied, content, and pleased. Serotonin
promotes happiness while norepinephrine
stimulates arousal, attentiveness, and focus.
All these neurochemicals come together in an
intricate chemical dance leading to the feeling
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Health & Nurturing
that person, or of beauty in and of itself. Plato
wrote that the physical attraction for one an-
other is not necessary for love, thus the term
platonic is given to mean ¡®without physical at-
Yet another Greek term for love is Pragma, short
for pragmatic, meaning the love of the head and
not of the heart. This is the love developed with
the rational goal of seeking compatible, desir-
able traits that will help achieve a common goal.
In the 1950s famed psychologist Eric Fromm
described ¡®self-love¡¯ as different from being ar-
rogant, conceited or narcissistic. This is the love
of oneself, taking care of oneself, looking out for
ones best interests, and ultimately having a high
self-esteem. The
Greek philosopher
Aristotle also wrote
of self-love as being
necessary before one
can truly love another.
Modern author Ayn
Rand expanded on the
concept of self-love
in her writings. Like
Aristotle, she argued
that self-love is at
the heart of virtuous
behavior, although
Rand¡¯s version was
more in support of a
rational egoism than
a purely virtuous love.
Either way, self-love is
an important concept
in human emotion
and a certain amount
of selfishness can
have its virtues.
All You Need is
How fitting it was,
that the very first
worldwide live televi-
sion broadcast was
the Beatles, perform-
ing their legendary
song ¡®All You Need
is Love¡¯. Watched
by over 150 million
people it had meaning
that was understood
by everyone. It was
a clear message that
love is everything.
Love is indeed a
¡°many splendored
thing¡± with all the
various ways we ex-
perience love. Having
self-love and agape
might be enough.
Eros is perhaps the love that drives us most, but
unless it mixes in some degree of phillia or prag-
ma, it usually fizzles.
Love is free to give, but can cost us dearly. It
knows no bounds and binds us stronger than
death. It can¡¯t be bought or sold, as it is priceless.
Once again, Lennon-McCartney said it so well, ¡°the
love you take is equal to the love you make¡±.
(Scott Rollins, MD, is Board Certified with the
American Board of Family Practice and the
American Board of Anti-Aging and Regenerative
Medicine. He specializes in Bioidentical Hormone
Replacement for men and women, thyroid and
adrenal disorders, fibromyalgia, weight loss and
other complex medical conditions. He is founder
and medical director of the Integrative Medicine
Center of Western Colorado ( and
Bellezza Laser Aesthetics ( Call
970.245.6911 for an appointment or more info.)
of love.
Much More than Chemistry
The Greeks had four words for love -
agape, phillia, storge and eros. While
there is overlap, it is an attempt to
categorize the different aspects that we
think of as love.
Agape translates as ¡°I love you¡± in
ancient Greek and means unconditional,
giving, selfless, spiritual love. Whether
love is given in return or not, the love
for another continues, expecting noth-
ing in return. The love of a child, friend,
spouse, or God might be Agape.
The affectionate regard for friends, fam-
ily and community is Phillia. This is love
without passion, the kind that requires
a give and take and relies on virtue and
equality. Storge refers to the natural af-
fection found in families, such as that of
a parent for a child. Storgic love is the
¡®friends first¡¯ kind of love.
Then there is ¡®Love at first sight¡¯, the
romantic physical attraction, the love
without reason. This is Eros, the pas-
sionate love with sensual desire and
longing. The modern variant of the word
eros, is erotas, which is more specific to
intimate love, but eros does not have to
be sexual in nature.
The Greek philosopher Plato described
eros as transcending the physical love
for another person and being more
about appreciating the beauty within
In Harmony
by Scott Rollins, M.D.
Dr. Lee Berk and Dr. Stanley Tan at the Loma Linda
University in California have researched the ben-
efits of laughter. Here are their results:
1. Laughing lowers blood pressure: People who
lower their blood pressure, even those who start at
normal levels, will reduce their risk of strokes and
heart attacks.
2. Reduces stress hormone levels: You benefit
from reducing the level of stress hormones your
body produces because hormone-level reduction
simultaneously cuts the anxiety and stress impact-
ing your body. Additionally, the reduction of stress
hormones in your body may also boost immune
system performance.
3. Fun ab workout: One benefit of laughter is
that it can help you tone your abs. When you are
laughing, the muscles in your stomach expand and
contract, similar to when you intentionally exercise
your abs. Meanwhile, the muscles you are not us-
ing to laugh are getting an opportunity to relax.
4. Improves cardiac health: Laughter is a great
cardio workout, especially for those who are inca-
pable of doing other physical activity due to injury
or illness. It gets your heart pumping and burns a
similar amount of calories per hour as walking at a
slow to moderate pace.
5. Boosts T cells: T cells are specialized immune
system cells just waiting in your body for activa-
tion. When you laugh, you activate T cells that
immediately begin to help you fight off sickness.
Next time you feel a cold coming on, add chuckling
to your illness prevention plan.
6. Triggers the release of endorphins: Endorphins
are the body¡¯s natural pain killers. By laughing,
you can release endorphins, which can help ease
chronic pain and make you feel good all over.
7. Produces a general sense of well-being: Doc-
tors have found that people who have a positive
outlook on life tend to fight diseases better than
people who tend to be more negative.
Smile, Laugh, Live Longer