Body odor that smells like pot is a real phenomenon, according to some of the world's most eminent biologists and cannabis experts. Another theory relates to the terpenes found within cannabis, and the overlapping elements found in their sweat. It turns out that your sweat and cannabis…
Why Does BO Sometimes Smell Like Weed?
Body odor that smells like pot is a real phenomenon, according to some of the world’s most eminent biologists and cannabis experts.
The first time I noticed my BO smelled like weed, I’d just had sex with my girlfriend at the time. She nudged her nose affectionately into my chest. “Hey, you smell like skunk,” she said. I sniffed my underarms—she was right, I did.
Turns out I’m not the only one to have experienced skunky sweat. A Google search revealed several discussions and a Reddit thread where others talked about the phenomenon. Like me, most were baffled. “I smelt my armpit after working out,” Reddit user RIP_MAC_DRE told me. “I had been smoking for maybe two or three years at this point and noticed it smelled like weed; I thought it was pretty funny.”
I stayed up all night trawling the internet for answers. But my search brought up little more than the “top answer” on Yahoo Answers, which was just a description of how to wash. Undeterred, and with nothing better to do, I sought out some of the world’s most eminent biologists and cannabis experts and distracted them from far worthier business in order to discover, once and for all, why my BO sometimes smells like weed.
In an original piece of research for VICE, Dr. Matan Shelomi, a researcher at Germany’s Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology, compared studies that broke down cannabis and human sweat into individual chemicals to see if there were any shared compounds. Out of 233 elements and compounds found in marijuana and nearly 100 in human sweat, 11 matched.
“It looks like several of the compounds most strongly associated with the distinct aroma of Mary Jane are also found in gym socks,” Shelomi told me. “Now all we need are a statistically significant number of sensimilla-scented volunteers and an olfactometry lab that’s totally down for whatever.”
Scientific breakthroughs started coming thick and fast. It wasn’t long before Dr. Shelomi realized the cannabis smell probably comes from apocrine sweat as opposed to eccrine sweat. Eccrine sweat is clear and watery, and used to cool the body down, while apocrine sweat glands, clumped mainly around the armpits and genitals, activate during sex and times of stress.
“I remember walking into a [high school] class before giving a presentation and noticing it,” Trent, from Kansas, told me. “Eventually, I figured out that my armpit sweat only smells like weed during or before a stressful situation.”
Dr. Shelomi used this as the basis for a potential hypothesis. “If [this] experience holds true for others, then we can narrow down the source of the pot odor to apocrine secretions.”
Another hypothesis, suggested by Dr. Justin Fischedick, a researcher at the Institute of Biological Chemistry at Washington State University, is that aromatic plant chemicals known as terpenoids and terpenes (“terps,” for short) are present in the sweat. Plants release terps from their leaves and flowers in order to attract pollinators and repel munching insects. “It seems like people who work out are noticing it quite a bit,” Dr. Fischedick told me. “Since [terps] are fat soluble compounds like THC they might be stored in fat cells and get excreted during exercise.”
That covers people who still consume cannabis, but I haven’t smoked any weed in years. Perhaps it’s because, when I was young, I got through enough of it on a daily basis to permanently alter my body odor. “It wouldn’t surprise me if heavy weed intake could alter your smell,” Dr. Shelomi told me. “Others online also report having stopped smoking but still reeking of it.”
I didn’t want to second-guess an expert, but this just seemed impossible to me. The smell, I figured, is more likely caused by dietary plants that share the same terps as cannabis—an idea mooted in the Reddit discussion. “There can be some similarities between the smells,” wrote user LarsHoneytoast. “I think weed, BO, and the lettuce at Subway are all in the same realm of scents.”
I needed to confirm this hypothesis, ideally with the help of someone who isn’t named after a breakfast dish. “The smell of cannabis is produced by its terpenes,” Dr. Franjo Grotenhermen, the executive director of the International Association for Cannabinoid Medicines, told me. “The consumption of other plants with the same terpenes may result in a similar smell.”
Thanks to weed enthusiasts constantly breeding new strains, there are now a host of cannabis varieties that share terps with many other plants; famous strains like Blueberry Cheesecake and Orange Bud are two notable examples. So there are plenty of plants out there that could make sweat smell like skunk.
But if cannabis-smelling terps are so common, why don’t more people smell like London’s Hyde Park on 4/20? Well, BO is not just caused by terps, but also by skin-dwelling bacteria that break down sweat molecules into smaller, volatile compounds that evaporate into smells. Apocrine sweat is also a cocktail of minerals, pheromones, and urea. It seems the skunky smell is down to a particular combination of these composites, making it unusual but not outlandish.
There could be many more people out there who have the right combination of factors to produce the chronic whiff, even if they don’t smoke weed. Naturally, they wouldn’t notice because they’ve never smoked marijuana and so wouldn’t know what to sniff for. Or maybe they know what it smells like but just don’t care enough to spend all night on Google, before bothering multiple scientists about it.
All that can be done for now is to trot out the old scientific banality that “more research needs to be done.” But at least Dr. Fischedick is up for it. “The only way to find out for sure would be to ask volunteers to smoke a bunch of dank, work out, collect some sweat, and measure it in machines,” he told me.
Is Weed BO a Thing? Reginald Investigates!
The other day, as I was surfing the Internet trying to discover interesting new topics to write about, a particular thread on Reddit caught my attention. I was going to write about the latest study that suggests that THC remains within breast milk for months, and how the findings were very nonscientific- however, the comments in the thread itself inspired this article.
One of the users said that their body sweat smelled like cannabis. this was then echoed by several other users who said the same thing. For my 22 years of consuming cannabis, I have never smelled like weed due to my sweat. Until reading this for the first time, I didn’t even know it was possible.
This prompted me to quickly begin searching for answers, because if smoking weed can make your sweet smell like cannabis then why aren’t more people talking about it.
After going down several rabbit holes on the Internet, I can more or less say with certainty that there is a possibility the cannabis can alter your body odor to smell like weed. However, as with most cannabis things “more research is required.”
Nonetheless, in this article I am to share with you that I have discovered in my research.
When you are most likely to produce cannabis-like body odor
The most compelling article I found on the subject matter comes from vice magazine. Written by Nathan Thompson, he speaks about how his girlfriend on a post coital event, notice that his sweat was smelling a bit like skunk. When Thompson smelled for himself, he confirmed what is girlfriend I told him.
While there isn’t a lot of research on this idea, he did reach out to a few experts within their fields who essentially confirmed that smoking cannabis can impact the smell of your body. This is because the terpenes within cannabis is fat soluble, and one scientist theorizes that the particular sweat that contains the cannabis smell is “apocrine sweat”.
“It wasn’t long before Dr. Shelomi realized the cannabis smell probably comes from apocrine sweat as opposed to eccrine sweat. Eccrine sweat is clear and watery, and used to cool the body down, while apocrine sweat glands, clumped mainly around the armpits and genitals, activate during sex and times of stress.” – Source
Another theory relates to the terpenes found within cannabis, and the overlapping elements found in their sweat. It turns out that your sweat and cannabis share 11 terpenes. This means that even if you don’t smoke cannabis you can still smell like cannabis if the number of terpenes is similar to a particular cannabis strain.
Many of these researchers believe that cannabis can in fact alter your body odor, by increasing the availability of some of these terpenes.
Don’t just blame the weed though.
One Reddit user did point out that even if you don’t smoke cannabis you can smell like weed because food also contains terpenes. Mycrene, limonene and similar terpenes existing a wide variety of other plants. This is why blueberry cannabis, smells like blueberries.
If some of these turbines can be obtained from regular food, then even a unique ingestion of particular foods can alter your sweat to smell more like cannabis.
Additionally, your sweat doesn’t smell the way it does solely by the foods that you eat but also by the bacteria that live on your skin. Thus, for some people the particular combination of bacteria coupled with the terpene profiles of weed or other foods- can result in a body stank that stinks like weed.
Does your sweat smell like weed?
This article was meant to educate people on the fact that yes- weed can make your sweat smell like weed. However, as with everything related to cannabis it’s not that simple either. The human body is a complex Organism that processes complex compounds but result in unique manifestations within our own organic chemistry.
Yet, if there is one thing that we can learn from this is that there is still so much to learn from a plant that has been actively part of human history for more than 10,000 years.
I’m interested and knowing that some of my readers have experienced this phenomenon. Does your sweat smell like weed? if so, what strain? Let me know your answer in the common section you nug-wreaking stoner!
Some people have claimed that they continue to smell like cannabis even after they have stopped smoking weed, meaning that there is a small possibility that it can alter your smell indefinitely. But if we have to be honest about things, I’d much rather have my sweat smell like Girl Scout cookies than stanky balls!