FEB 11, 2017 9:53 AM PST

Do Human Pheromones Exist?

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Scientists have well-documented evidence that animals and certain insects communicate via chemical signals in excreted oil, sweat, and even urine. These chemicals are known as pheromones, and they act like hormones, but work outside of the body. In particular, pheromone signals often alter the behavior of members of the same species. For example, pheromones may elicit sexual arousal, mark territory bounds, or bond a mother to her offspring(s). But while animals can transmit these chemical signals, do humans also have the capacity to produce and be affected by pheromones?

Despite the slew of internet ads for pills that claim to boost pheromones, the science behind this olfactory phenomenon is still inconclusive. In the 1970s, experiments by Martha McClintock showed that a woman's menstrual cycle was shifted just by sniffing the sweat of other women. Indeed, this is one of the few evidence for the existence of human pheromones. Other studies have yielded inconsistent results, and some even question the reliability of the McClintock experiments.

As the hunt for a human pheromone continues, be mindful of "love potion" products that promise everything from increased attraction to higher sex drive.
About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
DEC 30, 2019
Space & Astronomy
DEC 30, 2019
How SpaceX's Crew Dragon Will Operate, From Start to Finish
It’s no mystery by now that SpaceX is working hard to earn the right to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station via NASA’s Commerci...
JAN 16, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 16, 2020
Babies in Africa Receive World's First Malaria Vaccine
Would you accept a vaccine that was only 40% effective? For those at risk of malaria, the answer is likely a resounding, "yes!" According to the...
JAN 19, 2020
Space & Astronomy
JAN 19, 2020
A Brief Summary of Everything We Know About Pluto
Pluto was once considered one of the solar system’s planets but was later downgraded to the status of ‘dwarf’ planet after several more s...
JAN 23, 2020
Health & Medicine
JAN 23, 2020
Yes, Stress Can Turn Your Hair Gray
Stress and gray hair have always been closely associated, and now, scientists from Harvard have discovered the physiological mechanism that validates this...
JAN 28, 2020
Plants & Animals
JAN 28, 2020
A Slug Does All it Can to Defend Against Hungry Ants
Slugs are slow, and this makes them easy targets for predators however big or small they might be. Here, we see that a slug has been spotted by a hungry co...
FEB 02, 2020
Plants & Animals
FEB 02, 2020
These Fish Beach Themselves When it Comes Time to Mate
Most fish probably cringe at the idea of beaching themselves on purpose, especially since they can’t breathe out of water. But this is something that...
Loading Comments...