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Do Humans Have Pheromones?

  1. Apr 4, 2007 #1
    I recently was told there are "human pheromones" for sale which are alleged to attract the opposite sex, but I am not up on this subject and suspect these things are snake oil whose success, if they have any, are based on a psychological change of attitude precipitated by the thought you are wearing something that will make you irresitible: a kind of self hypnosis. I am having an argument about this with a guy who claimed they worked for him.

    Have authentic human pheromones been discovered and their chemical makeup unraveled such that they could be reproduced in a lab, or is this bogus?

    I'm not asking if human scent affects the opposite sex, it obviously does, but if they have incontrovertably isolated a human pheromone that has been demonstrated to work in humans the way it does in insects. It strikes me as a stretch to suppose we'd share such a thing with such a different life form.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 4, 2007 #2
    sounds like self confidence to me, if humans do have pheromones then wouldn't you want to give off a little funk lol.
  4. Apr 4, 2007 #3
    We have synthetic pheromones - body sprays and de-odorizers. But some people don't use a products for natural body chemistry. Personally when I wouldn't wear deodorant my girlfriend said that she loved the way I smelled.
  5. Apr 5, 2007 #4
    We are affected by smells, yes, but that is a very different proposition than proposing the existence of a specific sexual attractant that is independent of conditioning.

    Let me rephrase the question: what constitutes a pheromone? Do these body sprays and deodorants actually contain such a chemical, or are they simply scents proven to please the nose, and by extention, act as attractants?
  6. Apr 5, 2007 #5
    this is all that I could find with quick search on something related I have read long time ago:
  7. Apr 5, 2007 #6
    What does this have to do with pheromones?
  8. Apr 5, 2007 #7
    mmm. read quoted part, perhaps? edit: does it really make the difference if rats bodies can produce such chemicals or not? if you put this thing in body spray, it may (or may not) reach her blood via lungs and do what it is supposed to do.
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2007
  9. Apr 5, 2007 #8
    Is parachlorophenylalanine a pheromone? I don't know what consitutes a pheromone and, from the article, took it simply to be a chemical serotonin suppressant and that the article says that the suppression of serotonin seems to make mice horny.

    There are lots of biological ways to arouse a person sexually. Right frontal lobe damage can make a person promiscuous, as can damage to the anterior temporal lobes. I'm asking, specifically, about whether or not it has been incontrovertably proven that humans produce and respond to, what, as far as I know, has only been definitively isolated in insects: pheromones.
  10. Apr 5, 2007 #9
    well per wikipedia, "a pheromone is any chemical or set of chemicals produced by a living organism that transmits a message to other members of the same species". If I make parachlorophenylalanine in a lab, does that count as "production"?
  11. Apr 5, 2007 #10


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    I hate to quote patent literature to make a point but sometimes the background of the invention can give some useful references to begin a search. On the subject of human phermones I found this in patent application #20030049726, as yet unawarded.

    "The existence of human pheromones, however, is controversial. Human reproductive behavior is largely independent of oestrous-promoting hormones. Maternal behavior may occur without pregnancy and sexual human behavior is also tempered by culture, learning and personal experience. Moreover, evolutionary enlargement of the human neocortex has enabled the rapid assimilation and integration of information from a number of senses. Hence, it has been argued that it is implausible that humans would be under significant behavior and endocrine regulation by pheromones. Nevertheless, the existence of human pheromones was first suggested by the observation that women living together can develop synchronized menstrual cycles under specific conditions (McClintock, Nature 291:244 (1971)). The causal agents were later attributed to odorless pheromone-like substances produced in female underarms (Stern and McClintock, Nature 392:177 (1998)). There are also reports suggesting short-chain fatty acids found in vaginal secretions isolated from vaginal secretion of sexually active human females can act as sex-attractants (Michael et al., Psychoneuroendocrinology 1:153 (1975)); Sokolov et al., Archives of Sexual Behavior 5:269 (1976)).

    Much human pheromone research has centered on the 16-androstenes, which comprise a family of related steroids that have pheromone activity in animals. Androsterone (5-alpha-16-androst-16-en-3-one) and its alcohol form, androstenol (5-alpha-16-androst-16-en-3-ol) are porcine pheromones synthesized in the boar testes and submaxillary glands and, which induce recipient sows to adopt the mating stance (Reed and Melrose, Br. Vet. J. 130:61 (1974); Perry et al., Animal Production 31:191 (1980)). These and other related 16-androstenes are also synthesized in human testes and believed by many investigators to have pheromone activity in humans (see, for example, Gower and Ruparelia, J. Endocrinol. 137:167 (1993); U.S. Pat. No. 5,278,241; U.S. Pat. No. 5,272,134; U.S. Pat. No. 5,969,168; U.S. Pat. No. 5,965,552). 5-alpha-16-androst-16-en-3-ol is the most abundant of the 16-androstenes in human urine. Androsta-4,16-dien-3-one is the most abundant 16-androstene present in human semen, in male axillary hair and male axillary skin surfaces (Nixon et al., J. Steroid Biochem. Mol. Biol. 29:505 (1988); Rennie et al., In: Chemical Signals in Vertebrates, pages 55-60 (Oxford University Press 1990); Kwan et al., J. Steroid Biochem. Mol. Biol. 43:549 (1992)). Androstenes are also found in the human axillary sweat secreted by the apocrine glands, which are sites for pheromone production in lower animals (Brooksbank et al., Experientia 30:864 (1994))."

    I haven't read any of these references but they seem to be in reputable, peer-reviewed journals.

    You can read the entire patent application yourself at:

  12. Apr 5, 2007 #11
    Thanks for digging that up, Chemistree. It suggests that, at best, these things being sold might be some of these things that are suspected by some researchers as having sexual attractant properties, but none of this is iron clad.
  13. Apr 5, 2007 #12
    No, its debated even in science circles. Human scents, and the attraction to or from them, may be a social issue, or things taught to us by others. While some human fetuses have a vomeronasal organ{may or may not be a pheromone receptor}, it never fully develops. Much like the appendix, it no longer functions.
    There is still some on going research in this area.
  14. Apr 5, 2007 #13
    Thanks, Hypatia.

    Does the vomeronasal organ develop in other mammals?
  15. Apr 6, 2007 #14
    Yes, most mammals, with the exceptions of aquatic mammals and some primates, have a functional vomeronasal organ.
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