Pheromones: Function In Life, Sex And Relationships

shopper choosing bottle of pheromones

Simply put, the term pheromone refers to chemicals which an animal (including human beings) releases that can change or influence the behavior of another animal of a similar species. Human pheromones in particular are highly linked to sexual attraction and the power to influence sexual attractiveness. But what many don’t know is that these chemical communication agents also alter changes across many other areas apart from sex-related behavioral responses whether that is a male or female response. 

Unlike most of the other substances that the body produces, pheromones are secreted out of the body and they can influence or change another individual’s behavior. The most common effects of pheromones in humans are associated with sexual behavior.

This article will offer an insightful look at pheromones plus their function in life, sex, and relationships.

Types of Pheromones

There are generally four main types of pheromones among different animals including human beings. Besides the main categories, some deeper classifications can include mammalian pheromones (mammary pheromone) and putative pheromones (found in sweat and saliva).  The four main types of mammalian pheromones are primer pheromones, releaser pheromones, signaler pheromones, and modulator pheromones. Human pheromones whether male or female pheromone also falls under the mammalian pheromone type. 

Here is a more detailed look at the four main types of pheromones;

1. Modulator pheromones

These are a type of pheromones that are believed to synchronize the functions of the body and are mostly located in sweat. Experiments have shown that when modulator pheromones are placed on female lips, the females become relaxed, less tense, and easy. These pheromones are also thought to have some effects on monthly cycles among females.

2. Primer pheromones

Primer pheromones are thought to influence human functions and processes such as reproduction physiology, puberty, and even pregnancy success or failure. They are equally capable of altering hormone levels. Some scientists have discovered that pregnant females across some mammal species could actually abort if they were exposed to primer pheromones released by males of the same species. 

3. Releaser pheromone

The releaser type of pheromones are those that trigger an immediate response from those who detect the pheromones. And, wait for it, wait for it, these are the pheromones that trigger sexual attraction including the intense sexual attraction among human beings. 

4. Signaler pheromones

Signaler pheromones are the informational type. They can, for instance, enable mothers to recognize their newborn ones through odor. It’s important to note that fathers can’t release the signaler pheromones, and these types are therefore released in females.  

Pheromone Functions

The pheromones in animals are believed to influence so many functions. The majority of insects, for example,  use pheromones for communication. Indeed the way pheromones work is similar to the way hormones work, the only difference being that pheromones work outside the body while hormones work inside the body. From a commercial point of view, the internet is awash with many exciting pheromone products that you might want to try out. 

Animals in general release pheromones that in turn trigger a wide range of behavioral functions including but not limited to:  

  • Raising an alarm (alarm pheromones)
  • Trigerring sexual response
  • Warning a close individual animal to back off
  • Marking a territory 
  • Bonding between offspring and mother 

When Were Pheromones First Identified?

Experts have asserted that the first pheromone was identified or discovered if you like around the year 1959. This first ever identified pheromone, known as Bombykol is released by female moths to play the role of attracting male moths. The pheromone chemical signals have the capacity to move through long distances even in very low concentrations. In other words, a pheromone signal is so powerful enough to move from your body and travel to influence the behavior of a person some distance away from you.  

According to experts, insect pheromones are easier to comprehend compared to mammals. This is because the behavioral system of mammals is not as simple as that of insects. The belief is that mammals use an organ located at the nose, known as the vomeronasal organ (VNO), to detect pheromones. This organ that is associated with pheromone detection is connected to the hypothalamus within the brain.  Debate is still out on whether humans also have this type of organ.

But what is clear is that these sensory neurons, pheromones, play many roles in the human body which cannot be ignored or be written off. 

Pheromones In Life, Sex And Relationships 

First, some interesting history about the broad term pheromones

The idea of messages being sent by smell or body odor in the case of humans seems to have been common knowledge way back to the early stages of human progress and development. The ancient Greeks, for example, knew that female dogs released certain secretions that attracted male dogs. In 1623, a beekeeper’s manual by Charles Butler was published. In the manual, Charles observes that a “ranke smell” released by an injured bee will attract other “annoyed” bees into stinging.  

The virgin female moth

Joseph Lintner who is commonly referred to as the first state entomologist of New York noted that one day there was a spectacular crowd that assembled on the sidewalk to keenly watch a wonder of some 50 wild silk male moths that were seemingly attracted to what he referred to as a “virgin female moth” that was stationed at his window at that moment.  

Lintner further observed that the wondrous attraction exhibited by the male moths was probably a result of a chemical release from the female moth that must have been detected by the males’ elaborate and large antennae. He then advised that such a strong attraction could be used to control pest moths in farms if only scientists could accurately identify and use chemical processes to synthesize these molecules that seemed to possess such a powerful force.

It is not clear which moth species were used for this observation, but it still stands out through history as an awakening real-time demonstration of pheromones at work.  

The scientific dawn

All the above observations were later fulfilled through scientific approaches. But one fact worth noting is that the pheromones produced by an individual animal are quite small and this might explain why it took so long for the first pheromone to be identified chemically. This identification is believed to have been successfully carried out around 1959 by a team led by Adolf Butenandt, a German Nobel Prize-winning chemist. 

This short piece of history indeed serves to demonstrate that the whole idea of pheromones did not start with the modern commercialization of this concept through colognes, perfumes and what have you. History shows that pheromones have indeed been linked to animal connections all along.  

While there is still a lot of uncertainty when it comes to human pheromones and what they can influence or not, there can be no denying that there is some natural phenome that influences certain aspects of human behavior especially when it comes to stuff like relationships, friendship, sex, etc. For example, when you meet so many people at once perhaps in events, what is it that makes you feel so comfortable with certain persons and be uncomfortable among others.

There are those persons you would normally meet for the first time and you feel a nice instant connection. Then there are those you meet and you want to disappear from their presence as soon as possible. This is a reality that points to something special. And this special force of attraction or disaffection is believed to be a result of pheromones.  Here now are the various ways in which pheromones can influence various aspects of our lives: 

1. Menstrual cycle synchronization

Menstrual synchrony is one aspect of female life where pheromones are believed to play some fundamental roles. To help get your mind around this if you are female, reflect on the school days especially during college. Alternatively, take a look at the moments when you have lived together with other women including family members, friends, or colleagues. Most women have confessed that they realize synchronized timings of their menstrual cycles whenever they are living together in a group. 

In a study conducted by the University of Chicago where a group of women was exposed to some whiff of other women’s perspiration,  there emerged some sort of menstrual syndrome where their menstrual cycles slowed down or accelerated depending on the time of the month when the perspiration was collected. The times included before, after, or during ovulation. This study, therefore, advances the idea that indeed human beings do respond to pheromones. 

2. Influence on sex and relationships

Pheromones are believed to be such a strong determining force when it comes to relationships, from sexual attraction to long-term perceptions. Studies upon studies have observed that how we find sexual attraction in certain people and not others is a process that is very selective and highly determined by a type of pheromones that has been referred to as sex pheromones. Of course, you will always hear most people proclaiming the qualities they desire in a partner, from physical to educational and career levels. But there is just that one magical thing that pulls you to one person and not the other. 

Even more interesting is the fact that physical attractiveness ratings do not play such a big role after all, at least when compared to pheromones’ influence. You must have met couples that you can look at and wonder what exactly brought them together, right? One might be so on top there in terms of physical attraction but the other not that much. Well, pheromones are at work here, meaning even a not-so physically attractive individual can attract a stunningly attractive partner. It simply means that pheromones did the magic, nothing else can explain such occurrences. 

No wonder some family and sexuality studies have revealed confessions from people who have used manufactured pheromones claiming that they experienced more kisses, hugs, and even sex when they used certain cologne perfumes packed with sex-triggering commercial pheromones. So don’t you ever get shocked the next time you attend an event and you suddenly feel so strongly attracted to some random individual you have never seen before, and you realize that they are equally attracted to you. Just know that pheromones have done their thing!

3. Influence on fertility and depression

Though not so much advanced yet, some studies have indicated that there are possibilities of using pheromone molecules to improve fertility among couples who are trying to conceive, or even as contraceptives for those who do not want to conceive. Couples struggling in sex can also use pheromones alongside traditional therapies to improve their sexual desire. 

Additionally, some researchers have observed that human pheromones can improve moods thus helping to reduce stress and depression. There are also some emerging observations that pheromones can actually be employed to manage prostate cancer in men and effectively control the risk of prostate cancer among other related conditions. 


The subject of pheromones continues to attract riveting views across research and academic institutions such as the University of Oxford and Columbia University. Some experts oppose strongly the existence of pheromones, but this is mostly because there is no tangible pheromone that has been found with solid consensus. But as we observed earlier, what the experts cannot and will never dispute is the existence of this unique force that seems to influence behaviors among animals including human beings.

For example, what makes a newborn baby learn to detect their mother’s breasts, know there is milk, and suckle the breast milk? What causes instant love, love at first sight? As much as there is no unanimous agreement on pheromones, the practical triggers of behavior cannot be swept away. There is certainly something about animals that seems to be so powerful in a natural way. This force can only emanate from within our bodies.

Please feel welcome to share your insights about pheromones and ask any questions you might have in the comments section. This is a very interesting topic worth contributing from all of us. Don’t forget to share across your social media handles if you have enjoyed the read!