What Are Pheromones And Do Humans Have Them?

Pheromones are a unique set of chemicals, which, a bit like hormones, are found in many animals and plant species (via Facts, Views & Vision in ObGyn). They are predominantly released via the sweat glands and function outside of the body. These substances are olfactory signals that are sent from one living creature to another, eliciting a hormonal or behavioral response. As a result, they play an important role in mate selection.

Pheromones have also been reported to exist in human beings, but scientists remain divided on this topic. After all, humans lack the "vomeronasal" organ, namely the sensory system found in other non-primate mammals that detects pheromone signals. Still, many companies have taken advantage of this idea, details an article in Allure. You can find a number of fragrances on the scent market that are said to contain pheromone compounds, which supposedly make you more desirable to potential partners.

Some researchers believe that pheromones govern sexual desire and arousal in humans too. They may even influence mood, specifically in women. It's believed that pheromones are present in bodily secretions such as sweat, urine, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk, and saliva.

The possible role of pheromones in human interactions and behavior

Human body odor has been shown to trigger various reactions in humans, notes a 2020 study published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. Since the 1970s, researchers have found that women can influence each other's menstrual cycles through excreting sweat. It's also been suggested that pheromones can help some men to detect when a woman is on her period. Some studies indicate that people may be able to pick up on feelings of stress and fear via pheromonal communication.

On the other hand, a 2017 study published in Royal Society Open Science cast doubt on the prevalent theory that human pheromones drive sexual attraction. Participants in the study were exposed to the sex pheromones: androstadienone (AND) (which is found in male sweat and semen) or estratetraenol (EST) (present in female urine). Individuals were then asked to rate the attractiveness of opposite-sex faces. The findings showed that pheromones had no effect on how subjects judged and rated one another on facial attractiveness. This led the researchers to conclude that there appears to be no real evidence that AND or EST are human sex pheromones.

While the lack of direct evidence for human pheromones so far does not rule out their existence, more research is needed on this subject, per the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. There are a lot of mixed findings out there and a lot left to uncover about human pheromones.