What are pheromones, and where do they come from anyway? Most of us are only vaguely aware that they are some kind of odiferous substance produced by the body that seems to attract and/or sexually arouse others, and that is about it.
In an earlier issue of the Pheromone News, I attempted to describe research that has shown that human beings as well as animals possess a special smelling apparatus located in the nose but yet separate from our normal smelling organ, and which is used specifically for detecting pheromones. But how are these pheromones made, and how do they get to the nose of their target?
In both humans and animals hormones regularly break down into various other substances, which are finally acted upon by friendly bacteria in or on the body to produce what we now refer to as pheromones. I would guess there are currently hundreds of known pheromones with countless functions, but in short, any substance which is used by the body to communicate or otherwise stimulate others via the VNO (pheromone detecting organ in the nose) can be called a pheromone by definition. The most well-known spot for the production of pheromones in humans is right on our own skin.
Hormones and their metabolites (broken down versions) are excreted out through special sweat glands on the skin, where they meet up with certain sex-specific bacteria that actually make the pheromones and determine how we “smell” to the world. To a large extent though, these pheromones are undectable in the usual sense of the word, even though they have such a dramatic effect on our feelings and behavior. From sweat with the help of our hair these pheromones evaporate and become a gas in which form they can easily travel through the air to the noses of others. But this is only one way that pheromones travel. In a slightly different form, pheromones travel together with the numerous skin cells we lose every day.
The average person “sheds nearly forty million (skin) cells a day in an invisible airborne cloud of particles that contains sex pheromones..” (Scent of Eros; Kohl and Francouer)
While you probably won’t find this a very romantic image to dwell on, but if it is true and pheromones are really as powerful as believed, at levels far far below what we can consciously detect, this may give a whole new meaning to the old adage “love is blind”. Is it possible that we are being led around by the nose at least as far as romance goes?
I am going to belabor this point for a moment, not because it is so hard to understand, but because it is so hard to believe. If the theory is true, than we don’t actually have to be able to smell someone to be blown away by their pheromones, which means that the whole pheromone effect must be hard-wired into our brain, ie: it can bypass our conscious mind. From a distance further away than we can clearly make out someone’s face we may be getting invisible sexy signals from that person and never realizing how.
But sweat and our skin cell cloud are not the only way we communicate pheromonally. Pheromones as well as hormones themselves are present in great amount in human saliva, and therefore a major factor in determining the smell of our breath. And, as is the case at all pheromone launching sites, these pheromones are not limited to sex pheromones.
I expect the parents and especially mothers among you will not be surprised when I tell you that I find the smell of my small children’s breath literally intoxicating. I still pause occasionally by my four year old son’s bed to catch a whiff before turning in for the night. Not exactly a scientific study, but I don’t think anyone would argue with me for saying that parent-child attraction is also quite probably pheromonally regulated.