Scientists have found long-sought proof that people release potent chemical signals that can have profound effects on other people.
Pheromones were first defined in 1959 as chemical substances excreted by animals to trigger reproductive behavioral response from a recipient of the same species. So, do humans respond also to these same substances? The answer appears to be yes.
In March 1998, CNN reported that a study found proof that humans react to pheromones. In findings published in the journal "Nature", researchers say they found that female ovulation can be regulated -- made longer or shorter -- through the use of pheromones.
"The pheromones regulate the time of ovulation. There are two pheromones -- one that makes ovulation more likely and the other that suppresses it and makes it less likely," said Martha McClintock of the University of Chicago. There could be important practical implications from this finding. Because pheromones influence the release of eggs, researchers say they may provide a more natural way of preventing pregnancy or treating infertility.
However, researchers say more study is needed to find out if there are other types of pheromones and if they are as powerful in humans as they are in other species. One enduring mystery of pheromones is that if they are undetectable by the human sense of smell, how can humans be influenced by them?
The answer, some researchers believe, is that pheromones are detected by the same nerve cells in the nose used to detect odor or perhaps by another structure in the nose called the vomeronasal organ.
The University of Chicago research seems to settles a 40-year debate about whether humans produce and can respond to "pheromones," molecules that are usually airborne and odorless and which, in other species, influence such physiological processes and behaviors as mate choice, the recognition of one's own family members, and the ability to "smell" the difference between friend and foe.
Specifically, the new research shows that women's underarm odors can alter the timing of other women's reproductive cycles. It explains why women who live together often develop synchronous menstrual periods, and could spur development of "natural" fertility drugs or contraceptives.
ABC News conducted an experiment of their own to see if pheromones really do work. They took a set of identical twins and applied a pheromone oil to one twin and plain, old witch hazel to the other one. They took the twins to a bar and had them switch places throughout the night so no one would realize they were 2 different people. The results were amazing!
Thirty men approached the twin wearing the pheromones while only 11 men approached the sister wearing witch hazel. The use of pheromones appears to have tripled the success rate.
What is known is that there are naturally occurring substances that the fertile body excretes externally, conveying an airborne message to trigger a response from the opposite sex of the same species. Does this apply to humans, you decide before purchasing any pheromone product.
It does make for interesting discussion and experimentation. For more on Pheromones, see the next page.