Why Does My Body Odor Smell Like Weed?

In our latest question and answer, our pharmacist discusses whether cannabis can cause body odor resembling the smell of the plant.
Why Does My Body Odor Smell Like Weed?

Stephen Asked

Dear Cannabuff I am a daily edible cannabis user but I am not a medical expert and would appreciate your advice about a body odor problem I am experiencing with cannabis. Apologies for this being a lengthy message but there are personal details I need to make you aware of. I am 58 years old, male and I am in good health with normal liver function. I have used edible cannabis for around 3 years and I take it in the form of a full spectrum oil infusion (canna oil). I swallow a single dose of the oil containing around 20mg of THC every evening. The next morning, my skin smells strongly of terpenes and this is easily detectable by others and creates serious social problems for myself. I wash my skin thoroughly and regularly, but the smell reappears within 1-2 hours of washing, so I believe that the odor is the direct result of unmetabolized terpenes permeating through my skin. I have spoken to other cannabis users about this but nobody else has experienced the same degree of body odour, so I started doing some research and would appreciate any suggestions from the experts. My doctor is unable to help me as she has little experience of cannabis. Until very recently, I was also taking a daily dose of 20mg paroxetine (prescribed by my doctor for treating anxiety and depression). I learned that paroxetine is a P450 enzyme inhibitor and I also understand that these same enzymes are also needed for metabolizing terpenoids. I theorized that the P450 inhibiting properties of paroxetine are the cause of my body odor. I believe that paroxetine is inhibiting the same enzymes which are needed to metabolize the terpenes from cannabis. Because the terpenes in my body are not being metabolized fast enough, they remain in my bloodstream at higher concentrations and are being excreted through my skin. I recently had the opportunity to put my theory to the test as my doctor changed my antidepressant from paroxetine to mirtazapine. 4 weeks after changing the antidepressant, I noticed that the cannabis body odour has almost completely disappeared, so for now, I am odor-free compared to when I was taking paroxetine. The downside however is that mirtazapine is not working as well as the paroxetine for treating anxiety and depression, and it is looking likely that I may need to move back to one of the SSRI antidepressants (with my doctor's agreement of course). My questions: (1) Have you come across any similar cases to mine or am I unique in having this problem? (2) Does my theory about P450 enzymes affecting cannabis body odor make any sense? (3) Do you know which SSRI drugs I could ask my doctor to prescribe which may have less of an inhibitory effect on enzymes needed for terpenoid metabolizm? Any words of advice will be welcome as I benefit greatly from taking cannabis and I don't want to have to discontinue it. Regards Stephen


Terpenes are natural chemicals found in plants that contribute to smell. Cannabis is rich in terpenes.
There might be some overlap between the chemicals present in cannabis and those in sweat.
It's not uncommon for body odor to just smell similar to weed.
Paroxetine can cause excessive sweating which may explain what happened.


Hi Stephen, and thanks for this question and all the information. I'm sorry you're in this predicament. 

I don't believe that paroxetine inhibits terpene metabolism, and I have a much simpler explanation for you. Let's dive in below!

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are chemicals found in plants that contribute to their distinctive smells. People often think of cannabis when they think of terpenes because cannabis is very rich in them, but terpenes are not specific to cannabis.

Terpenes contribute to the unique aroma of weed. For example, limonene smells citrusy whereas pinene has more of an evergreen scent. Different combinations and levels of terpenes create different smells and possibly contribute to different effects and user experiences. 

Can Body Odor Smell Like Cannabis?

Since terpenes are nature's "smell" chemicals, sometimes our body odor can smell somewhat similar to these. So, its not impossible for your natural body odor to smell like weed. This is way more common than you think. 

Are Terpenes Excreted in Sweat?

Unfortunately, we don't know for sure if terpenes are excreted in sweat or not. In an exclusive bit of research done for VICE (not high-quality evidence). A researcher in Germany found that out of 200 compounds present in marijuana and 100 compounds present in sweat, only 11 compounds matched. Since some of the compounds are the same it's not impossible. However, I personally don't think this is likely because terpenes have extremely poor oral and inhaled bioavailability.

Can Paroxetine Cause Excessive Sweating?

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRs), like paroxetine (Paxil), can cause excessive sweating. In fact, about 10% of people taking an SSRI report this side effect! 

In Conclusion

So, to wrap up. While the scenario you described is not completely insane, I think a much simpler explanation is that your body odor just happens to smell like weed.

Paroxetine is also known to cause excessive sweating which could be why your body odor is worse when you first wake up in the morning. When you stopped taking paroxetine this might have reduced your sweating and subsequent body odor. That's what I think is most likely to have happened. I hope this helps!


  1. Insight into the Various Approaches for the Enhancement of Bioavailability and Pharmacological Potency of Terpenoids: A Review PubMed.

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