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The power of pheromones and aphrodisiacs

Aly Walansky is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She lives with her two Shorkie-Tzus, Scarlette and Max, and a display of pink polka-dot-themed home decor -- not to mention a selection of flavored vodka. Check out he...

Bending the laws of attraction

Love potions, aphrodisiacs, pheromones. We hear about them in songs, sigh about them in movies, and fantasize about them in -- never mind. Could they actually be real? Are we, as humans, still so primal a being that we can be drawn to one another solely on the basis of scent?


What are pheromones, exactly?

According to the Athena Institute, pheromones are naturally occurring substances the fertile body excretes externally, conveying an airborne message to trigger a response from the opposite sex of the same species.

"I really do believe great chemistry does involve smell in addition to the visual, mental, physical and emotional connection between people. And though you can't really 'smell' pheromones, our nose does pick them up, and when we like what our brain is smelling, our body and mind does follow," says Rina Valan, founder and president of Fantasia Home Parties.

"Basically, humans detect the odorless sex pheromone with their Vomeronasal Organ (or VNO, also called the sixth sense as per Fortune magazine's Technology column). Located deep in the nasal passage, its only purpose is to detect odorless sex pheromones. Evolution, in its grand plan, created this organ to instantly transmit the presence of this hormone to the areas of the brain the regulate sexual drive."

But the question remains, is all this for real?

"There is no doubt that smells are sexual and can attract!" says Dr. Steven Rosenberg, Ph.D., a teacher, psychotherapist and hypnotist.

"It is true that some foods contain certain compounds that behave in certain ways to put you in the mood," she says. "A lot of this work is done by stimulating your sense of smell. When you eat, 80 to 90 percent of the flavor actually comes from the aroma," says Dr. Kathleen D'Ovidio, assistant professor of food science and management at Delaware Valley College in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.

aphrodisiacs: The sexual arousal foods

D'Ovidio says research shows that certain smells cause a degree of sexual arousal in men and women.

Aromas & aphrodisiacs that attract men:

  • bananas
  • cinnamon buns
  • pumpkin pie
  • vanilla
  • strawberries
  • cheese
  • pizza
  • buttered popcorn

Aromas & aphrodisiacs that attract women:

  • cucumbers
  • anise
  • licorice smells
  • garlic
  • ginger

"Throughout history, basil was supposed to drive men wild. Women would dust their breasts with dried basil powder. Carrots have also been used since ancient times, when they were used by royalty to aid in seduction," D'Ovidio says.

Next page: chemical attraction

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