An Ode to Fenugreek: Goodbye Deodorant Sticks

A herb with many health benefits, Fenugreek also makes you smell like maple syrup. Really.

Annie Windholz
4 min readJul 5, 2017

The other day my mom was telling me about her work teaching English to refugee families. She said that the other day, a Nepali woman leaned over and asked her a question, and the woman smelled just like maple syrup. My mom was surprised, and asked her if she had been eating pancakes. The Nepali woman did not know what pancakes were, but she told my mom that it was because she takes a spoonful of fenugreek seeds every morning. Who knew. My mom decided to try it, and soon she was smelling like warm maple syrup as well on the hot summer days. She had ditched the deodorant sticks completely, and I was intrigued. Instead of trying to cover up the body odor that naturally comes out of you, why not change that way it smells in the first place and not need to cover up anything?

What is fenugreek?

Fenugreek is a herb that is native to the Mediterranean region, western Asia and southern Europe. In India fenugreek leaves are eaten as a vegetable, and in other cultures the seeds are used in cooking and to make medicine.

Fenugreek seeds are taken by mouth for a variety of issues including digestive problems, diabetes, cramps, obesity, heart health, kidney problems, vitamin deficiencies, bronchitis, mouth ulcers, chapped lips, baldness, cancer, hernias, tuberculosis, erectile dysfunction, infertility in men, milk production in women and the list goes on. Externally, fenugreek is also used to treat pain and swelling as well as eczema.

Oh yeah, and it makes your arm pits smell like heaven compared to what you’ve been used to your whole life.

Why ditch deodorant?

For the list of health benefits fenugreek provides, there is also a laundry list of potential health risks that deodorant exposes a person to. There are links between shaving armpits and using deodorant to breast cancer. Aluminum is found in many deodorants, and works to completely shut off perspiration, causing potential risk of seizures, alzheimers disease, bone formation disorder and kidney problems later on. Many deodorants also contain parabens, which are commonly used as a preservative in personal care products, but parabens mimic estrogen in the body and can throw off hormone balances. Phthalates and triclosane are found in deodorant and are endocrine hormone disrupters which can cause a variety of issues. Propylene glycol is used in deodorants to keep the product from drying out, but was originally developed to be used in antifreeze and can cause damage to the central nervous system and liver.

My experience

Comparing the list of benefits offenugreek and risks of deodorant, I would have to say it’s no contest in my mind. I have started taking a teaspoon of fenugreek every morning with my coffee, and my life has changed. Within a day I was smelling like maple syrup, with all other previous body odor smells gone. I have struggled with strong smelling armpits my whole life, and every

Taking a teaspoon of fenugreek in the morning

morning when I put deodorant on it offends my hippie ideals. Little did I know that I could have easily traded years of searching for the right deodorant that capitalism and the patriarchy are trying to sell me, and I could smell amazing and sweat freely and enjoy health benefits from smelling great instead of hoping my deodorant doesn’t kill me. When I googled “benefits of fenugreek,” the term natural deodorant never came up. It makes me wonder how many other great remedies other cultures have that we refuse to acknowledge in America. Whether this is because the deodorant lobbyists have worked hard to cover up this great secret, or because Americans don’t fancy smelling like pancakes, or because we just don’t even give a second glance to other cultures’ common knowledge. Finding this great secret has changed my life in that I no longer need to worry about how I smell, but it has also made me realize that we have so much to learn from other cultures that is being hidden from us by Western ideals.

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