Body Odor

Body Odor: Overview

Conventional wisdom suggests that perspiration is the cause of body odor.  However, perspiration by itself is basically odorless, but it is the bacteria and odors coming from other sources that are the real culprits.

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Causes and Development

Anaerobic bacteria, which flourish when your body doesn't have enough oxygen, may well be the cause of your body odor.  As the body's metabolism goes to work, it gives off odors which is the body's way of ridding itself of waste products.  Any imbalances in metabolism will result in stronger odors.

Waste products can also be the result of toxins that accumulate in our bodies.  In today's world we are bombarded with toxins in our homes, food, and air that accumulate in the body when the organs of elimination cannot dispose of them.  The liver and intestines may be clogged up, causing odors to emanate from the body.  In this case, a thorough detoxification program that cleanses the liver, kidneys and colon may be useful.

Dietary imbalances, resulting in constipation or a deficiency of magnesium or zinc may be other causes of body odor.  Because of different body chemistries, some people who eat large quantities of meat or who are vegetarians have a very distinctive body odor which can be quite offensive.  Some individuals cannot metabolize foods containing large amounts of choline, such as eggs, fish, liver and legumes.  The result is a "fishy" smell.  If you are one of these people, cut out these products and see if this is the cause of your odor.  Certain foods and drinks, such as onions, garlic, curry, certain spicy foods, coffee and alcohol, are also prime causes.  Fried and baked goods may contain rancid fats and oils that lead to body odor.

Sweat glands (apocrine glands) under the arms and in the groin secrete a substance that is the major non-food/drink related cause of body odor.  This substance, which contains protein, carbohydrates and lipids, is often secreted by a surge in sex hormones caused by tense moments or emotional stress.  It is then quickly attacked by bacteria, causing odor.

Some other possible cause of body odor:

  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Fungal infections
  • Refined sugar (feeds bacteria and fungus on the skin)

Treatment and Prevention

Folk Remedies:

  • Alcohol/witch hazel.  Wipe your armpits with alcohol, white vinegar or witch hazel instead of deodorant.
  • Alum.  Try using a crystal rock made from the mineral salt potassium alum instead of a deodorant.  It won't keep you dry as an antiperspirant will, but antiperspirants clog your sweat glands and contain aluminum chlorohydrate, which may lead to future health problems.
  • Apple cider vinegar.  Apple cider vinegar eliminates under arm body odor when used in place of deodorant because it reduces the pH of the skin.  Bacteria can't live in areas with low pH.
  • Baby powder.  Use baby powder or talc in areas of heavy perspiration.
  • Baking soda.  Baking soda, the odor-eating standby, can be used instead of deodorant.  Just apply the powder to your dry armpits.  It will kill bacteria and help absorb perspiration.  Cornstarch can also be used instead or mixed with the baking soda.
  • Parsley/alfalfa.  Chewing parsley, alfalfa and other leafy greens will help neutralize body odor, probably because of the deodorizing effect of the chlorophyll.
  • Radishes.  Juice about two dozen radishes, add 1/4 teaspoon of glycerine, and put in a squirt or spray-top bottle.  Use as an underarm deodorant or to reduce foot odor.
  • Rosemary is an antibacterial herb.  Put 8 to 10 drops of the essential oil in 1 ounce of water and apply it where needed.
  • Sage.  Herbalists suggest drinking a cup of sage tea daily to reduce sweat gland activity.  This is especially true for those who perspire excessively due to tension.  Use 11/2 teaspoonsful of dried sage or two tea bags in one cup of water; steep for ten minutes; drink in small doses throughout the day.  Fresh sage leaves blended with tomato juice has been found to be very effective.
  • Tea tree is an antibacterial herb.  Make a deodorant by putting 2 drops of the essential oil into 1 ounce of water and apply where needed.
  • Towelettes (baby wipes).  Useful when a tense moment surges the sex hormones which produce fluid under the arms and around the genital areas that, when combined with bacteria, causes odor.
  • Turnip juice.  Turnip juice will reduce underarm odor for up to 10 hours.  Grate a turnip, squeeze the juice through cheesecloth, so that you have two teaspoonsful.  Wash your armpits first, and vigorously rub one teaspoonful on each one.
  • Wheat grass.  Take 500mg of wheat grass daily on an empty stomach and wash down with a glass of water.  The chlorophyll will dramatically reduce body odor.

Silicea Homeopaths recommend dissolving three 6X tablets of the tissue salt Silicea under the tongue each morning and evening to knock out odor.

Signs, symptoms & indicators of Body Odor:

Symptoms - Metabolic

Symptoms - Skin - General

Risk factors for Body Odor:

Environment / Toxicity


Organ Health

Symptoms - Muscular

Being very skinny or being lean or underweight

Thin people tend to have less body odor because they perspire less and lack the folds of skin that harbor moisture and bacteria, and decrease air flow to those parts of the body.

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Body Odor suggests the following may be present:

Organ Health

Recommendations for Body Odor:

Botanical / Herbal


One or two chlorophyll tablets or chlorophyll liquid taken with each meal may help, as chlorophyll is a great deodorizer.


Sauna Detoxification Program

Since toxic overload may be one of the causes, try taking steam baths or saunas frequently as part of an overall detoxification program.


Elimination Diet

Dietary changes are very important in eliminating various sources of odor.  Certain foods, such as meat, onions, garlic, exotic spices, and drinks such as coffee and alcohol can lead to body odor.  Try eliminating these from your diet for a week or two and see if this makes a difference.  Although you can usually smell your own B.O.  if it is from your armpits many people don't realize they have general body odor because they have become accustomed to it.  Have someone you can confide in do a "smell test" – before and after you start eliminating certain foods.  That may be the only way you will find out.


Change In Clothing Habits

Clothing is an area many people overlook.  Loosely-fitting clothes allow the body to breathe better than tight clothes.  The perspiration escapes and doesn't become a breeding ground for bacteria.  The type of fabric is also very important.  Synthetic fabrics for shoes and clothes don't allow the body to breathe, so use all-natural fabrics.  Wash your clothes often.


Tobacco Avoidance

As well as causing bad breath, tobacco use is a major cause of body odor.  Not only does it come back through your lungs, but it comes through the skin.  It probably mixes with other elements of your body's chemistry to create a distinct odor.  If you stop smoking it may take several weeks for the body to rid itself of odor-causing substances.

Personal Hygiene Changes

Bathe daily to remove bacteria from your skin, especially the armpits and groin area where the bacteria is most prevalent.  Scrub the armpits with a soapy washcloth as that will work better to remove the bacteria than just soap in your hands.  Deodorant soap is preferable as it helps fight bacteria more than regular soaps.  If you have a serious odor problem, soak for fifteen minutes or longer in a tub of water with three cups of tomato juice added.  (Tomato juice also works on you and your pets if you have been "skunked"!)



Try taking zinc tablets.  Zinc, plus magnesium, will help balance your body's metabolism and reduce the cause of bad odor.  Studies have shown that taking 30 to 50mg daily will dramatically reduce certain body odors, although you may need less.  Zinc may also reduce perspiration and sweaty feet.


Take magnesium supplements or augment your diet with food sources high in this important mineral.  Between 200-500mg of magnesium daily has been recommended.  You will have to try different doses until you get the amount that is right for your body.  See the links between Body Odor and Vitamin B-Complex / Zinc.

Oxygen/Oxidative Therapies

Hydrogen Peroxide (H2O2)

For excessive underarm odor, try using a mild solution of hydrogen peroxide (3%) – cheap, effective, widely available.  Put a teaspoonful in a glass of water and wash the underarm.  If that doesn't work, increase the amount of peroxide.

Skin / Topical


A unique herbal deodorant exists that is free of aluminum and other harsh chemicals, yet so effective that just one application can eliminate perspiration odor for days without the need to reapply even after showering.  This product is available from most health food stores.  Lavilin makes a foot deodorant also.  Ingredients: zinc oxide, petroleum jelly, talc, potato starch, calendula oil, arnica oil, vitamin E, ascorbyl palmitate, citric acid, natural fragrance.


Vitamin B-Complex

A high-potency B-vitamin (50mg or higher), when combined with magnesium, will help reduce certain secretions that can be a cause of odor.  Make sure you are getting 100mg of PABA and 100mg of B6.

Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)

See the link between Body Odor and Vitamin B-Complex.

Vitamin Paba

See the link between Body Odor and Vitamin B-Complex.

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