People’s Pharmacy: Use lemon juice as deodorant?

Q: When I was growing up, my mother suggested I apply lemon juice under my arms at least once a week while I was taking a shower to avoid using deodorant. So I did. I rubbed my armpit with half of the lemon and left the juice on for about five minutes while I washed. Before I ended my shower, I applied soap and water to remove the lemon juice.

Kimberly Smith/AJC Special

Kimberly Smith/AJC Special

I have never used deodorant and have never needed it.

A: Thanks for an unusual suggestion. We caution others that lemon juice should not be applied to abraded skin or scratches, so do not put it on right after shaving armpits. It could sting like crazy!

Editor’s note: Milk of Magnesia is also recommended by readers.

Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist, and Teresa Graedon is an expert in medical anthropology and nutrition. In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. 
E-mail them via their 
Web site: www.peoples They can be reached at peoplespharmacy

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42 comments Add your comment


March 10th, 2010
8:45 am

Probably can’t smell herself.


March 10th, 2010
10:21 am

You know this person. It’s the one in your office that smells like a rotten fruit salad…GAG!


March 10th, 2010
10:53 am

I read where Milk of Magnesia is good for Deodorant. It works. I started using it because my skin is so sensative and deodorant breaks out my armpits. Try it.

No BO (in more ways than one)

March 10th, 2010
11:07 am

Plain rubbing alcohol applied once a day works great also. No aluminum or other metallic components (which may be linked to Alzheimer’s and other diseases) and a bottle of it costs about 70 cents and lasts for months.


March 10th, 2010
12:10 pm

This is sooooo True!!!! Lemon juice is a natural antibiotic as well, there is just a wealth of knowledge of what you can do with lemon juice. Also great houshold cleaner!!!


March 10th, 2010
12:25 pm

It really works. Growing up we used nothing but lemon juice. Most, if not all, anti-perspirant deodorant contains lemon juice.


March 10th, 2010
1:17 pm

And also use lemon juice to shed some pounds, excellent weight lost when use with honey

Smellin Good

March 10th, 2010
2:27 pm

Deodorant has aluminum sulfate to block sweat. The sulfate after time causes more body odor than most peoples body chemistry does. The key is personal hygiene, powder and understanding how your diet affects your body odor. Oh, and all you smokers not only have bad breath, teeth and gums, you’ve also got really bad body odor.


March 10th, 2010
2:30 pm

Eat lots of garlic and asparagus and smell like a goat farm.


March 10th, 2010
2:54 pm

you people have made me laugh so hard i now need to take a shower!! LOL


March 10th, 2010
3:34 pm

I use the lemon afterwards in my tea too.


March 10th, 2010
3:40 pm

Steve Martin, in one of his old comedy routines, said he used Tuna Fish Sandwiches:

“Tunafish Sandwich! I put a tunafish sandwich under each arm, one or two behind the ears… I don’t smell like any other guy! And it’s economical too, because the smell lasts for four or five days.”


March 10th, 2010
5:44 pm

Teaman is right. I use whole lemons under my arms all day, then stir them into my tea at night. I also use apples, oranges, cantelopes, figs, pears, grapefruits, apricots, and ocassioanly asparagus or brocoli. My wife does too. She thinks persimmons are the best thought.


March 11th, 2010
3:52 am

When I was diagnosed with cancer 10 years ago, one of the first things my alternative medicine “doctor” did was to take me off all deodorants and shampoos and especially deodorant soaps. For a week or so, I did smell; however, that was my body being allowed to purge the poisons in it. From that point, the smell stopped. Also, there are alternative deodorants at Whole Foods that do not contain aluminum. My diagnosis was a deadly agressive type of cancer of the lymph nodes. I declined radiation and chemo. I am thankful I have been free for 10 years in April 2010! Also, avoid using the microwave for anything. It kills any life in the food. As I understand it, hospitals know this and do not use the microwave to thaw blood as an example.

Slobby Bobby

March 11th, 2010
8:02 am

Thanks for deleting my post. Nothing in my comment was untrue or offensive. You AJC mods have some serious problems.

Ferro Moan

March 11th, 2010
10:07 am

I like the way sweaty people smell.


March 11th, 2010
10:13 am

I’m all for recycling but are you folks saying that you use the lemon for your tea ‘after’ using it under your armpits? If so, thanks for sharing (your story…not the tea).


March 11th, 2010
10:19 am

Some people are so arrogant in their ingnorance! Lemons work! So many health issues can be solved right in the kitchen if people took the time to truly understand the relationship between food and thier bodies. I’ve never heard of using milk of magn, I’ll have to try it along with using alcohol. Thanks!


March 11th, 2010
12:09 pm

I think I will try lemon juice. Does it have to be fresh lemons or is bottled lemon juice just as effective? We really do need to be concerned about the contents of deodorant.


March 11th, 2010
1:30 pm

How do we know that the magnesium in the milk of magnesia isn’t just as bad as aluminum? I note that Magnesium is number 12 on the periodic table and Aluminum is number 13.


March 11th, 2010
1:35 pm

True Story: I once put a lemon under my arms for about an hour, then squeezed as hard as I could with a glass underneath to catch the juice. Then I added some sugar and water, a little ice and served it to my Ex-wife when she came over to pick up her alimony check!!!!

Now that’s was funny


March 11th, 2010
3:49 pm

Sweat does not smell. The smell is caused by bacteria that eats the sweat and excretes waste that has a strong odor. The alcohol remedy probably works by killing the bacteria. I’ve heard about using Milk of Magnesia before and will probably try it.

Apples vs. Oranges

March 11th, 2010
5:26 pm

Do you folks know that there’s a difference between deoderant and anti-perspirant?


March 11th, 2010
9:13 pm

This blog is too funny!!!!!


March 12th, 2010
12:07 am

glad to here you survived the cancer, but I think I’ll keep microwaving my food. I’d rather it didn’t have anything LIVEin it!


March 12th, 2010
12:09 am

Wow, I can’t spell, must be the aluminum on the brain. Meant to say glad to HEAR (actually read) you survived the cancer.

No offense

March 12th, 2010
12:23 am

but while you were detoxing from stink, did every one avoid you?


March 12th, 2010
8:17 am

I’ve used the mineral salt bars for 20 years. Lemons would be great, if you had a tree. At 25 cents each, that’s not a cheap alternative.

Slobby Bobby

March 12th, 2010
8:48 am

When life hands you B.O. – make some lemonade from the lemons under your arm.

Giggling so much coworkers stare!

March 12th, 2010
10:30 am

Agree with jj, but the images still have me laughing! Mineral salts are the cheapest way to stay fresh smelling, and you can use it on your armpits and your feet! It may look expensive in the store, but one “stick” will last over a year.


March 12th, 2010
11:06 am

I’ve been using lime juice from fresh limes for 3 yrs and it works for me…


March 12th, 2010
1:20 pm

Thanks y’all. I really needed a good laugh at work. After reading all the comments, I feel like I’ve watched a sit-com.


March 12th, 2010
2:29 pm

What about the anti-perspirant aspect of regular deodorant? I would like to use a more natural deodorant, but I can’t stand being sweaty. This doesn’t address that problem, worse for some of us than others.


March 12th, 2010
4:29 pm

@JMoore… of course they don’t microwave the blood in hospitals- they don’t want to cook it! That has nothing to do with whether microwaves are an acceptable way to cook food.

mystery poster

March 15th, 2010
11:44 am

OK, once and for all…. sweat does not smell, noses smell.
Sweat stinks.


March 19th, 2010
10:02 am

I’m wondering. The people that are having a huge laugh at all this…have you ever tried it? If not then you’re one of those that see someone overweight, then holler out “whale on beach!” Very small minded….I’d like to be the fly on the wall to see what you would do to not die from cancer! Of course I’m sure you would smack me with a book or flapper since it’s ok for others to die from whatever…

Nikki Babie

March 19th, 2010
1:19 pm

I use lemon juice from real lemons, (not the fake lemon juice) I squeeze a little juice from one half of a lemon every morning and let dry and im fresh all day! I cannot tell you how long I have been looking for a remedy, as an adult I have come to be allergic to everything, I used secret all my life and in an instant couldnt use it anymore, I used drysol wich is very uncomfortable, I even tried mens deodorant but nothing worked I read about using lemons and went for it! IT WORKS GREAT!! I am so happy!! not stinky anymore!! lol


March 25th, 2010
12:35 pm

You naturalist will fall for anything that comes along if you think it’s natural.I bet you all smell like a pack of mules.


July 19th, 2010
6:55 pm

I haven’t tried the once-a-week application listed above, but I’ve applied fresh lemon juice using a cotton ball after showering and I have absolutely no BO. I’m amazed because I’ve tried all sorts of natural deodorants and nothing kept me odor-free for long. Hope this keeps working without any irritation …


July 29th, 2010
5:19 pm

It works really well! I recently got hooked into a heavy curry food and for some reason it affected my body and I smelled almost horribly at the end of the day and I tried the remedy that my mom taught me which is LEMON. Since then I felt pretty cleanse and never had odor problem ever. I simply slice a lemon each morning and apply it on my underarms and it gives me a refreshing feeling all day long. I even went camping for days in the middle of the wilderness and of course no showering involved but felt and smelled fresh! Thank GOD for the LEMON!!!


August 1st, 2010
9:57 pm

dont believe them when they say not to use lemons after shaving. it feels great! the nice, stinging burn that lingers. ooooh yeah


August 30th, 2010
2:54 pm

I have tried EVERYTHING as I am developing chemical allergies by the day… This really does work BUT you have to put a little splash; it won’t work if you’re stingy with the juice. I also read that you can’t use soap on your pits at all…the bacteria are feeding on the soap residue. The good news is since you won’t smell, you can just rinse, or use baking soda to scrub. Also for some reason when I sweat it now smells like pankace syrup! ( Smelled like a man when using deoderant! )