The chemistry of love

Understanding the Honeymoon Effect

by Bruce Lipton

Photo of Bruce Lipton Bruce H. Lipton, PhD is a stem cell biologist and an internationally recognized leader in bridging science and spirit. He is the bestselling author of The Biology of Belief and The Honeymoon Effect: The Science of
Creating Heaven on Earth. In May, he spoke on the Honeymoon Effect at the Hay House I Can Do It! conference in Vancouver. Below is an excerpt of his talk. (

Forty-seven years ago, I was culturing stem cells. It was really neat because I was cloning them at a time when only a handful of us in the entire world even knew what a stem cell was. It’s an embryonic cell. Every one of you has embryonic stem cells in you right now for the simple reason you’re here and you’re alive. If you don’t have stem cells, you cannot stay alive because every day you lose hundreds of billions of cells, which die from normal attrition. Normal use as well as trauma would have any kind of impact on them. You have to replace hundreds of billions of cells every day. If you don’t replace them, you don’t have too many days left before you lose too many to stay alive.

How do you replace them every day? You use the stem cells. All of you are fortunately endowed with stem cells. I take one of these cells and put it in a dish all by itself. It divides every 10 or 12 hours so after a week I have 50,000 cells in the petrie dish and every cell is genetically identical because they came from the same parent. I take the cells out of this dish, put some into another petrie dish and change the environment.

Cells are like fish. They have to live in a fluid. You cut yourself open and all the fluids run out because you have an aquarium inside in which 50 trillion cells are living. I change the fluid environment in the dish and in Environment A – changing the chemistry a little bit – my stem cells form muscle. Then I go back to the very same dish, take some more of the genetically identical cells, put them in another dish with Environment B and in that chemistry they form bone. Well, wait, I go back to that dish, take some more identical cells, put them in Environment C and the cells form fat cells.

You’re left with a very simple but most profound question: “What controls the fate of the cells?” Well, don’t say “genetics.” That would be the wrong answer. The environment controls the fate of the cells. They’re all genetically identical. It’s the environment. So cells are always adjusting themselves to an environment.

This is a new science that, in 1999, was officially named epigenetics. It’s a revolution and I’ll explain the science of why it changes your life. Before epigenetics, I was teaching medical students the concept of “genetic control” – genetic determinism, control by genes, that your life is controlled by genes and if you have something like a cancer gene, you will automatically get cancer. This is totally false. Very important: There are no such things as cancer genes. There is no gene that causes cancer. That’s a fact, I’ll tell you that right now. As a matter of fact, only about 1% of human diseases actually have a genetic cause; 99% of human illness is environmental, lifestyle and consciousness controlled.

The new science, epigenetics, is a revolution because “epi” means “above.” If I say “epigenetic control,” the new science is saying control above the genes. We’re beginning to find out how environment actually selects and modifies the genes. You can alter every one of your genes and create a thousand or two thousand variations of proteins from the same gene blueprint just the way you respond to the environment. When you change how you respond to the environment, you change the genetic read-out. That’s why we find that less than 10% of cancer actually has a hereditary linkage to it. Most of cancer is lifestyle; cardiovascular disease, 90% or more, lifestyle; diabetes type 2, 100% lifestyle.

We’ve been blaming everything on the genes and saying we’re victims. Victims of heredity. “Oh, I’m so sorry you’ve got those genes running in your family.” Well, then you have no power. You seek power so you pay somebody else. You pay the pharmaceutical company, which has ripped you off and killed you for years. It’s time to get back that you are in control of your health.

One little quick insight about the nature of health – I have a culture dish with cells growing in it. A simple fact: If I take this dish and move it from a healthy to an unhealthy environment, the cells get sick and start to die. If I could bring over an allopathic cell biology doctor and say, “Look, I think the cells aren’t doing well,” the guy would say, “Yeah, Bruce, you should give them some medicine.” Well, no, keep away. You don’t need medicine. If the cells are sick, you move them from the bad environment back into the good one and instantaneously the cells get well.

The fate of a cell is a reflection or complement to the environment that you perceive, which means you’re a master. You control your genes when you control the environment and your perceptions. If you only knew that, you could exercise it. But you don’t have that knowledge. It’s new science. It’s epigenetics.

Every one of you are familiar with the statement “knowledge is power.” That’s really cool. I want to make it even more relevant to you. A lack of knowledge is a lack of power. We have been disempowered by a lack of knowledge. But new knowledge is coming forth and I’m so happy to work in a community like Hay House with all the authors here who bring new knowledge that offers life and vitality.

This is a story about how the environment changes the fate of the cells. Really interesting – the cells are responding to the world. But you’re made out of 50 trillion cells so you are skin-covered petrie dishes. Underneath your skin are 50 trillion cells. And there’s a culture medium called blood. The chemical composition of the blood is equivalent in a sense to the chemical composition of my growth medium because when we design culture mediums, we try to match the chemistry of the blood so the cells are living in the same environment.

It doesn’t make any difference to the cell if it’s in a plastic dish or a skin-covered dish. It’s still based on the environment that it’s reading. So [whether] plastic or blood, the cells are responding to that environment and the condition of the blood is influenced primarily, number one, by nutrition. If we had a whole bunch of extra hours, I would now launch into why we should all be eating organic food. We have to eat natural because industrial food is poisonous. It’s taken away the nutrition and is really empty food.

Okay, but I’m not here about nutrition. I’m talking about the honeymoon effect. So, the next thing that’s important in blood is cellular signals. The blood is chemistry and there are signals in the blood. Some are called hormones, some growth factors, emotional chemistry. These are signals that are added to the culture medium called blood. They control the fate of the cells.

What determines the chemical composition of the blood? First, there’s an environment with information in it. The brain is the device of perception. It reads the environment, interprets what’s going on and makes a response by releasing chemistry through the nervous system and into the blood. That chemistry goes to the cells and controls behaviour in gene activity.

Basically, genes do not control anything. They are blueprints. Blueprints have no on and off. They have no actions. They do not make decisions. We’ve been thinking that blueprints are self-active, that a gene turns on and off. That is a scientifically false statement. If you asked an architect whether her blueprint was on or off, she’d look at you like you were crazy. Precisely. There has to be a contractor. And the contractor is consciousness and that’s what controls the genes.

In this particular story, behaviour controls via the brain determining the chemistry in response to the environment. So when I go to a simple organism, let’s say survival of the species (again, we need reproduction so estrogen and testosterone are environmental signals – together, good vibes) and they come together – boom, reproduction occurs. It’s really cool because it’s really just driven by this chemistry.

Frogs come together and mate. After the mating they don’t sit down, have a cigarette and a glass of wine. They come together because chemistry brought them together; they do the mating bit and then go their own way. Sounds like Friday night for a lot of people, but that was not the intention here. The reason there’s no necessity of staying together is simply that, after a frog lays its eggs, they’re independent and can develop on their own without the frog. They’re free-living organisms when they hatch out of the egg. They don’t need parents.

Humans are also designed for survival and reproduction, but why can’t they just have a baby and leave it like a tadpole on the doorstep to take care of itself? You have to take care of a baby for, honestly, today it seems like 40 years, but you need at least a good 13 years anyway.

How do you encourage people to stay together for 13 years to carry out this process? Mother Nature came up with the answer: Chemistry. Well, this is a little impersonal because they don’t have to stay together for a long time, but I bring in the mind because it’s interpretation, not perception. So you’re looking for a mate and you have to interpret whether this individual is what you want. Then through that interpretation and what you believe, the mind releases chemistry that lines up with that interpretation which then goes to the blood, through the nervous system, to the cells and controls behaviour and activity.

What kind of interpretation influences are there in your chemistry? These are the chemicals that bring, and try to keep, you together for a long time to be parents. For example, my career is biology but all of us are self-biologists. We are making our biology. The brain interprets the environment; it releases chemicals into the growth medium called blood and the blood is used to feed 50 trillion cells in your culture dish. The chemical composition of the blood determines the genetics and the behaviour of the cells. It’s the environment that controls this.

You open your eyes, see someone you love and release wonderful chemicals into the blood: dopamine, pleasure, oxytocin, bonding, vasopressin, sexual activity, attractiveness and growth hormone, which causes cells to grow in a vibrant way. It’s simple. You fall in love and you’re healthy and glowing because you’re feeding the chemistry of a culture medium with the elements that give you this vitality. It’s really cool.

But if the same person opens their eyes and sees something that scares them, a completely different set of chemicals are released: cortisol and norepinephrine. These are stress hormones, inflammatory agents. If I take the love chemicals and put them in a petrie dish, the cells grow beautifully and vibrantly. If I put the fear chemicals in a petrie dish, cells stop growing and start dying. Simple point: Fear kills. There’s a biological reason for that.

The chemistry of fear is different from the chemistry of love. Dopamine influences pleasure, motivation and sadness. When you fall in love, the dopamine concentration goes up, pleasure and motivation go up and sadness goes down. So sadness is not part of a honeymoon relationship. The next one, vasopressin, involves sexuality, attraction and anxiety. When vasopressin levels go up, sexuality and attractiveness go up and anxiety drops out the bottom. Remember, these chemicals are released into the blood; they’re controlling your genetics and your cell behaviour.

Next, oxytocin is the critical one because it’s trust, attachment and fear. When oxytocin levels go up, trust and attachment go up and fear goes down. This is what holds people together for years and years. If oxytocin is released, you have bonding.

The last one is seratonin, which is a problem because it’s both good and bad depending on how you look at it. It’s related to obsession, aggression and addiction. When you fall in love, seratonin shoots up and you become very obsessive about your lover. All day long, no matter what you’re doing, the thought of your lover will come in your head. It’s not exactly a disorder; it’s a good order, but aggression goes up. Get between two lovers and try to break them up and you’ll see some aggression right there at some point because there’s the tendency to stay together.

Then the killer: Addiction. Love is an addiction. The seratonin release by falling in love is the same seratonin released by heroin. So you’re addicted to love when you fall in it because the need for more and more perpetuates the relationship. That and the oxytocin will keep you together for a long time.

This is nature’s intention. The honeymoon is not an accident, but a design to ensure the survival of the species.

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