Body odor is something most people worry about. Even if it is just a little. Aside from regular bathing and applying deodorant there is seemingly little else that can be done. However, the food that we take in can make a big difference in the severity of our body odor. Some foods increase body odor, while there are other foods that eliminate body odor or at least reduce it.

In this excerpt from the book The Green Pharmacy Guide to Healing Foods by James A. Duke, PHD and Bill Gottlieb, CHC the authors discuss a range of common foods that can eliminate body odor and why we may be overly concerned with the way we smell in the first place.

Body Odor

Science is proving what I’ve suspected all along: Male body odor can be a turn-on. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, discovered that male sweat has a physiological effect on women. In two trials, 48 heterosexual female students at the university took 20 whiffs of androstadienone, a derivative of testosterone found in male perspiration. They reported greater sexual arousal and better moods than participants who sniffed a control odor. The women also had increased blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing. Androstadienone is an additive in some perfumes and colognes. Kind of makes you think twice about the typical male’s mating habits—he washes all of those naturally seductive scents down the drain and then splashes on cologne that’s spiked with the same components.

Despite what the folks at Berkeley say, however, my 79 years have taught me that many women are distinctly turned off by male body odor. Scientists at Rockefeller University in New York City and Duke University in North Carolina presented 400 people with a variety of odors, including male sweat, and asked them to rate the pleasantness of each. Some described the sweat odor as sweet and vanilla-like, while others found it foul. How can something smell “lovely” to one person and “locker room” to another? The answer is genetics. The way you perceive androstadienone is genetically determined. And for the hundredth time, I repeat, none of us is average. Average is theoretical, even though conventional medicine often treats us as though we were average.

The effect of body odors on others is rather complex. Fortunately, the reason body odor occurs is much simpler. We’re all equipped with glands that produce sweat in response to body temperature, emotions, diet, and medications. As for the scent, perspiration doesn’t actually have an aroma until it comes in contact with bacteria on the skin. That’s why bathing remains the best way to control odor. However, since bacteria tend to colonize every six hours, most people need reinforcements between baths in the form of deodorants. Before buying commercial roll-ons and sprays, though, try using these foods to keep your body odor from becoming someone else’s problem.

Healing Foods for Body Odor

Chamomile tea. A sip of this tea just may do the trick. Chamomile is an herb of many talents. It’s antimicrobial and sedative, so while it’s helping your underarms resist bacteria, it’s also coaxing your mind to relax and let go of the stresses that make you sweat in the first place. If you prefer a more direct approach to body odor, put chamomile in a cloth bag and add it to your bath or apply spent tea bags directly to your armpits. They’ve come in handy whenever I’ve needed a quick underarm wipe.

Chamomile is near the top of the list when it comes to antibacterial effectiveness and safety, but there are other herbs with deodorant properties that you can either brew or bathe with: thyme, myrrh, licorice, oregano, rosemary, ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint, and bay.

Parsley. Ever wonder why your dog vomits after eating grass? It could be because grass contains chlorophyll, a compound that binds to toxins and escorts them from the body via vomit and sweat. It’s that bonding action that makes chlorophyll one of the most powerful internal deodorants you can buy (or grow). In the mid-1950s, doctors administered chlorophyll to patients with colostomies and foul-smelling wounds to control the odor. Today, some people swear by chlorophyll supplements to freshen everyday body odor. Before buying supplements, though, try munching on sprigs of parsley or adding this savory herb to omelets, salads, and soups. If you’re not a fan of its slightly peppery taste, there are plenty of other greens to choose from. Anything green and leafy, including spinach, kale, endive, and alfalfa, is chock-full of chlorophyll. Broccoli and green beans are good sources as well.


The human digestive system is meant to function like a well-oiled machine. It breaks down food and propels it through into the intestines, where blood cells absorb and taxi its nutrients throughout the body. Since not much is known about how the ingestion of specific foods may influence our aromas, curious researchers from the Czech Republic decided to compare the body odor of vegetarians to the body odor of red meat eaters. Seventeen men maintained either a “meat” or “nonmeat” diet for two weeks. The men on the meat diet were fed beef for lunch and dinner during the final four days. Then 30 brave women sniffed underarm pads worn by the men during the last 24 hours of the diets and rated the samples according to their pleasantness. The scent of the pads worn by the nonmeat eaters was rated as considerably more pleasing and less intense than that of those worn by the meat eaters.

If your diet is largely carnivorous and your natural scent is something akin to a goat’s, do yourself a favor and opt instead for heart-friendly vegetables or white meat. Both your heart and your friends will thank you.

Spinach. Inside those dark green leaves is a powerhouse of zinc, an essential mineral that the body needs for overall immune system support. It’s been reported that a zinc deficiency can aggravate body odor. Breastfeeding, dieting, bouts of diarrhea, and heavy sweating can deplete zinc stores. A diet that includes spinach will help replenish this life-giving nutrient and may just make your armpits less pungent. To really give your zinc stores a boost, accent your spinach dishes with two more zinc-rich vegetables, cucumbers and cowpeas. If you favor a different flavor, choose other foods high in zinc, such as parsley, collards, Brussels sprouts, spring beans, endive, prunes, and asparagus. (If you suspect you have a zinc deficiency, be sure to see your doctor.)

Vinegar. Vinegar could be the world’s oldest medicine. It’s been said that Hippocrates used it as an antibiotic and a general health elixir in 400 BC. Sweat-munching bacteria thrive in alkaline environments, and acids such as vinegar neutralize the alkalinity, making your skin inhospitable to bacteria. Simply pour white distilled vinegar on a soft cloth and give your underarms a good wipe. To avoid stinging, don’t apply it to freshly shaved or irritated skin.

From the Herbal Medicine Chest

Sage is one of several special herbs in the mint family that are known to dry up bodily secretions, most notably sweat. You can make your own soothing underarm massage lotion that will reduce perspiration and deodorize with just a few ingredients. Dilute sage essential oil in vegetable oil (try a drop or two of essential oil per tablespoon of vegetable oil) and rub the mixture into your armpits. For additional advice on proven natural remedies for common health conditions, purchase The Green Pharmacy from

For additional advice on proven natural remedies for common health conditions, purchase The Green Pharmacy from

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