The Search for Human Pheromones


Conduct an online search for pheromone products. Most likely, you’ll see many sprays and perfumes advertised as magical potions that can make you more attractive to the opposite sex.

One pheromone company, the Athena Institute, has just published its 108th pheromone product advertisement in The Atlantic. The company’s founder, Winnifred Cutler, claims her company has scientific research to back these advertisements.

Early Pheromone Experiments

For decades, experiments were done on armpit secretions, and most of them were sexual in nature. Unfortunately, many people are skeptical about these reports. George Preti, an organic chemist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, is one of these skeptics.

He doesn’t believe there is a specific steroid component from the underarm that can be linked to sexual attraction, and he was one of the first to research human pheromones.

The scientific community defines pheromones as chemical signals that are released by animals to get a reaction from other members of the same species. Usually, many equate these chemicals with sexual arousal. They can also cause other emotions such as aggression. In addition, they modify parental behaviors.

In The Animal Kingdom

Pheromones are common among other members of the animal kingdom, but they are not as defined within the human race. Ron Yu, a rodent researcher at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research, wants to keep an open mind when it comes to the existence of human pheromones.

However, he doesn’t have much faith in many of the published reports on the topic. You can learn more at

Cutler doesn’t agree with Yu. As told to The Scientist, she says there’s plenty of proof to show that her company’s pheromone cosmetic fragrance additives actually work. Both men and women pay $90 per ounce, and the products are available in the range of two to four ounces.

She says her company has used double-blind and placebo-controlled experiments to test the effectiveness of these additives. She claims they work to increase sexual attractiveness.

Dr. Cutler Pheromone Experiments

Cutler and her associates published a pair of studies in Hormones and Behavior in 1986. This study claims armpit secretions from men and women can impact a woman’s menstrual cycle. The media widely covered this claim. In fact, the Washington Post ran a story saying Cutler and her team were the first to discover human pheromones.

However, the reporter emphasized these pheromones were not responsible for sexual attraction. Also, it was stated they don’t act as quickly as animal pheromones. It was specified that human pheromones work gradually over a duration of weeks or months and that they could change the timing of a woman’s menstrual cycle.

Cutler also founded the Athena Institute during this time. A couple of years later, she trademarked two new products called Athena Pheromone 10X for Men and Athena Pheromone 10:13 for Women. According to Cutler, these colognes contain chemical components synthesized from human armpit extractions.

Double-Blind Pheromone Tests

These formulations were tested via 3 double-blind and placebo-controlled experiments. As a matter of fact, 38 men were tested during the placebo-controlled experiments by Cutler and her team. The double-blind experiments were conducted by two other independent teams.

One study had 36 female university students. The other study had 44 postmenopausal participants. Although the studies were conducted by different teams, each report claimed the participants who received the new formulations got more formal dates. This lead to more kissing and sexual intercourse.

Although the results seemed somewhat positive, Preti still wasn’t convinced. He appeared to be mystified and not excited about the paper’s results. When interviewed in 2002 by New Scientist about the experiment conducted on the 36 female university students, Preti stressed that he was skeptical about this new chemical.

In 1986, Preti was the co-author on both published reports on armpit extracts and their impact on menstrual cycles. However, he is still doubtful. Why? He told The Scientist that present-day scientists can’t conduct the same experiments, which means the reports can’t be validated.

When Cutler is questioned about her new pheromone formulations, she says the armpit extractions were chosen based upon research that she cannot disclose to competitors.

Yu says there are other problems associated with these studies. First, small samples were used. Secondly, the researchers relied on self-reported behaviors. So, he doesn’t think there’s enough evidence. Learn more about pheromones at

Searching for Human Pheromones

In the scientific world, there are possibly four human pheromones responsible for sexuality. They are androstenol, estratetraenol, androstenone, and androstadienone. However, according to Tristram Wyatt, a zoologist at the University of Oxford, he doesn’t believe there’s enough evidence to prove the validity of these substances. He argues this point in a 2015 paper called the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

In addition, Wyatt also says estratetraenol and androstadienone aren’t pheromones. They were designated as such by a pheromone company back in the 1990s. There are no studies to show why and how this company found these two molecules. But numerous studies have called them pheromones.

In 2014, a published report in Current Biology claimed these molecules could relay masculinity or femininity to the opposite sex. But other researchers contradicted this finding in a report published in Royal Society Open Science.

But there are also reports which show pheromones impact more than sexual attraction. According to Preti, some of the substances modify menstrual cycles or hormone release.

Wyatt believes when these molecules are identified in babies, it will make it easier for researchers to link human pheromones to sexual attraction.

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