Though pheromones and aphrodisiacs both have the reputation for stimulating sexual arousal and attraction, they have little else in common.
Pheromones are a chemical released (excreted or secreted) by an individual’s body which stimulates an emotional or behavioral response within the receiver. This exchange typically occurs between like species and the response elicited by the “receiver” can vary in nature from sexual arousal, attraction, self-protection, identification, aggression, etc. Pheromones function primarily as modulators of both social and sexual behavior in human species, non-human species (insects and animals), and even among certain plants.
Aphrodisiacs are a substance that more specifically stimulates or enhances sexual desire, arousal, and pleasure. An aphrodisiac can come in the form of food, herb, chemical compound, sex hormone, or drug and alcohol. Some of the foods that are widely believed to have aphrodisiacal properties are chocolate, oysters, saffron, watermelon, and avocado (among others).
Aphrodisiacs can work in a few ways. The first way they can work is through actual physical stimulation. This is the case with the oyster, for example. Oysters contain high levels of the mineral zinc. Zinc has been known to control progesterone levels in humans, which have a positive effect on libido. Therefore, foods rich in this mineral can potentially enhance sexual desire in that respect. Herbs, like cayenne, have been proven to increase blood flow, and therefore enhance the body’s natural stimulating processes. Certain drugs, as well as alcohol, work to promote relaxation and lower an individual’s inhibitions. The second way in which an aphrodisiac can work is through visual stimulation. Some foods are considered aphrodisiacs simply because of their sexually suggestive nature, and are also known as “erogenous foods”. For example, foods like bananas, carrots and or eggs can remind us of sex organs, etc. Lastly, an aphrodisiac can also work through the sense of smell. Certain scents, like lavenders or musks, have been known to stimulate chemicals in the brain which can arouse sexual desire.