It's the final frontier for natural products: deodorant. Americans, in particular, are very conscious of possible body odors, and so going all-natural has been an uphill battle in the United States, but we finally have some great options. While there are quite a few natural deodorants that just don't work all that well, there are plenty that do the trick. Don't confuse deodorants with antiperspirants, which none of these are; that is a separate chemical function and as far as I know, one cannot block underarm sweat glands with any natural substances.
As an aside, I haven't used antiperspirants since the middle of college, when I was up to using "extra-strength" Secret and it still wasn't working. My friend suggested I take a break from the stuff, and so I took two weeks off from using antiperspirants at all, and used just deodorant instead. It did take over a week, but all of a sudden I was sweating a lot less. From that day on, I have never used an antiperspirant because I'm convinced they actually make you sweat more, since your body is so desperately trying to do so and you're just blocking the natural process. Also, it's a bit creepy to me that there is no non-chemical way to keep yourself from sweating.
If you are really worried about body odor, eat a diet full of fruits and veggies, and cut way back (or eliminate) processed foods, and exercise plenty. I don't know anyone who lives a healthy lifestyle who regularly stinks, and pungent or overwhelming body odor is a good sign that you aren't healthy (you should be able to go a whole day and not smell too much even without deodorant, which is just backup). Showering or washing your underarms, even if you don't have time for a full shower, works well too; instead of covering the smell-causing bacteria, it makes more sense to actually get clean.
But back to deodorants; I have found that when it comes to natural, sticks just aren't effective. Only roll-ons and sprays work for me. I've ordered these from most effective to less-effective, but I haven't included those that don't work at all (those lame products shall remain nameless, but they are out there, right on the shelves next to those below, which work).
Kiss My Face's Liquid Rock Roll-ons are the most effective natural deodorant I've ever found. I prefer the patchouli scent (which is really quite light), but there's also lavender, sport, cucumber green tea and unscented. While KMF deodorants do contain potassium alum (the same compound used to make those "crystal deodorant balls"), this type of aluminum is understood not to cross the skin barrier easily (as other types of aluminum, which are used in conventional deodorants, probably do).
Side note: Potassium alum is a naturally occurring aluminum salt. Since many people switch to natural deodorants because they have heard of the possible risks of absorbtion of aluminum and breast cancer (women may absorb more of whatever is in a deodorant because it is applied directly after shaving armpits—which results in microcuts — that allow chemical directly into the bloodstream), it should be noted that potassium alum is not the same type of aluminum that's in typical drugstore deodorants; that would be aluminum chlorohdrate or aluminum zirconium. I feel comfortable using potassium alum, since the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Database gives it a rating of 1, which is extremtely low risk. You can read more about all those details, and the possible link between aluminum with breast cancer here.
Weleda's deodorants come in three scents, each of which is totally refreshing and lovely (I love this brand so much, I have tried them all). This deodorant is so effective, my boyfriend also uses it. Their blend does contain alcohol (some people don't like putting it on their skin, but I haven't had any problems with this one; the alcohol is blended with water), as well as licorice root, a skin soother and natural pH balancer; tea tree oil, a natural bacteria killer (and bacteria is what causes body odor); as well as various other essential oils that smell fantastic. We both prefer the sage scent, which is naturally clean smelling, though if you like citrus, that one is really uplfiting too.
Blissoma's Natural Deodorant is one of Organic Beauty Talk's top natural beauty picks. Made in juniper and lavender scents, it is very low in alcohol (it's one of the last ingredients, not one of the first) and still quite effective. In a base of organic cucumber and aloe juices and baking soda, a host of delicious essential oils unique to each formulation combines for a fresh and warm (juniper) or clean and sweet (lavender) scent.
Lafes Roll-on is made with natural hemp oil, essential oils, aloe leaf juice, witch hazel and mineral salts. It smells great, works well, and is made with 72 percent organic ingredients.
Burt's Bees herbal deodorant is a simple mix of alcohol and water and essential oils. It's not quite as strong and long-lasting as the similar Weleda brand above, but it works for most days and it's also an excellent body spray.
Related on MNN: 5 deodorant alternatives