A healthy vulva — which includes the labia and vaginal opening — tastes and smells like a healthy vulva. It might be sweet or sour, metallic or bitter, salty or sharp. You might even notice faint hints of what you last ate.

The taste can even vary throughout the month, thanks to your menstrual cycle. Blood can affect the way it tastes, as can the white discharge that’s common with ovulation.

But as long as you don’t experience any unusually strong scents — think fishy odors or whiffs of something foul — your smell and taste are fine, whatever they may be.

Read on to learn more about what it may taste like, why it might change, and what you can do if the taste or smell seems off.

The vagina — that is, the internal canal — is naturally acidic. That’s a good thing. It’s how the vagina balances the bacteria that blossom down below.

But that natural acidity can translate to some flavors that are stronger than neutral. Some people might describe this as a metallic or penny-like flavor. Others may even call it a “battery” taste.

A metallic taste may actually be more common in the days after menstruation, as trace amounts of blood may still be in and around the vagina. Blood naturally has a metallic taste because of its iron content.

Sweat — from exercise or your natural body perspiration — can leave your vaginal area with a hint of salt.

Not cleaning yourself well after urinating may leave behind trace amounts of urine, too, which can also taste salty.

A sour taste from excess sweat isn’t unusual, either, and it’s certainly not a sign of anything bad by itself.

If Mother Nature had intended for your vaginal area to smell like a flower stand or freshly-cut fruit, that’s what your vulva would offer.

Instead, the natural smell and taste are as close to neutral as your body can get, if not without hints of sweat, musk, and body odor.

After all, the vulva is often under layers of clothing, and anything that might be damp for a while can develop a bit of a stale smell or taste.

That doesn’t mean anything is wrong. It’s just the nature of bacteria, body fluids, and vulvas.

Certain conditions or infections can cause foul smells in your vaginal area.

Bacterial vaginosis, for example, often causes a yellow or gray discharge and a strong, unpleasant vaginal odor that people might describe as fishy.

Trichomoniasis, a type of sexually transmitted infection, can also cause odors that closely resemble dead fish. Unusual discharge may also occur.

If you or a partner detect a truly unpleasant odor, it’s time to contact a gynecologist. They can investigate the possible cause and provide treatment to restore your smell and flavor.

The taste can be a lot of types — salty, bitter, metallic, sour — but what it shouldn’t be is funky. If your vaginal area suddenly develops strong odors or tastes, it could be that there’s a disruption in your natural pH balance.

The vagina does a good job of maintaining the bacterial status quo. But the bacteria may skew when a new bath product or medication upends it.

That can lead to inflammation, itching, or even infection, which can all cause unusual smells and tastes.

Some foods affect how your vaginal area tastes, but the list is short — and no, it doesn’t include pineapple.

Asparagus, which can make urine smell strong, might also affect the way you taste. Anecdotal reports describe it as “grassy” or “green.”

Curry and other heavily-spiced foods may also have an impact. These foods often produce sweat with a distinct smell. Sweat in your groin may interfere with your vulva’s natural aroma and taste.

Your vagina may taste a bit off if your partner goes down on you after a night of drinking. That’s because alcohol can increase perspiration. It might even affect the taste of that sweat and your body fluids.

Depending on the type of drink you had, the taste may be bitter or sour. Sugary drinks, for example, might interfere with your taste.

Tobacco use might affect how much you sweat and your perspiration potency. That can affect your natural smell and flavor.

For example, tobacco use might cause acidic or bitter flavors. It may even cause a sour or stale taste.

Your skin and hair can absorb the odors from smoking tobacco, too, so the pungent smell may affect how you taste.

The vagina is a self-cleaning entity. Left alone, it can and will care for itself and maintain a healthy pH balance, so long as outside forces don’t interfere.

You need only wash the outside — the vulva — with mild soap and water when you bathe.

You may develop unusual or off-putting smells and tastes if you don’t follow regular hygiene practices or wash yourself regularly.

To properly wash, rinse the vulva and groin with warm water. You can use soap if you want — just be careful not to get any inside your vaginal canal.

Spread the lips of your labia apart and use a washcloth or your hands to clean around the folds.

Also, wash your anus and the area between your anus and your vaginal opening. If it isn’t clean, this area can affect the odor and taste of your vagina.

Because your vagina does such a good job taking care of its own health, you really don’t need to use any specialty products to help it along or mask any odors you think are bad.

(Again, if you think your taste or smell is repellent, contact a doctor instead of using spritz rose-scented body spray to cover it up.)

Many soaps, gels, and washes may seem well-intentioned, but they can worsen a condition or infection if there is one. They can also upend your natural pH level, which might invite bacterial growth.

It’s a good idea to leave the ‘feminine hygiene’ products, like washes, sprays, and deodorizers, on the store shelf and let your body and vagina fend for themselves.

No scientific studies suggest you can change your vulva’s taste or confirm ways you might do this.

Temporary sprays and washes might mask or deodorize briefly, but there’s little you can do permanently.

If you’re determined to find a way to make your vaginal area smell or taste more flowery and fresh, you might try to:

  • Limit certain foods before sex: Asparagus and spicy or heavily-flavored foods might cause scented sweat or body odor.
  • Limit alcohol and tobacco use before sex: Tobacco and alcohol can affect body odor and sweat, too. Ultimately, these foods may make the area taste more bitter, sour, or metallic.
  • Don’t eat right before it’s time to go down: If your partner wants to pop a piece of gum and spit it out just before doing the ABCs on your clitoris, by all means, let them. But keep in mind that what you eat affects how your vagina tastes. It’s a good idea to skip eating 30 minutes before they plan to go downtown.
  • Try not to worry: How you taste and smell is typical unless you’re getting whiffs of dead fish or rotting seaweed.

Your vulva’s natural scent and flavor aren’t like anyone else’s, and they can change throughout your life, even monthly. As long as you aren’t having symptoms of an infection, your smell and taste are just fine.

But if you’re worried that your odor might be off, talk with a healthcare professional. They can look for any underlying concerns, whether it’s a matter of hygiene or an untreated infection.