A Brain Full Of goop: The sinister side of alternative medicine [Extended Version]

Last week, alternative medicine company goop (stylized with a lowercase G) released, and promptly sold out of, a $75 candle titled “This Smells Like My Vagina.”

The 10.5 ounce candle, produced by a company called Heretic, has the following description: “With a funny, gorgeous, sexy, and beautifully unexpected scent, this candle is made with geranium, citrusy bergamot, and cedar absolutes juxtaposed with Damask rose and ambrette seed to put us in a mind of fantasy, seduction, and a sophisticated warmth.”

While the title of the candle is controversial, rather surprisingly the rest of the website is not. goop sells a variety of products that are supposed to help with issues like postmenopause, low immunity and low libido. All of the products are also horribly expensive. A 3.5 ounce jar of Sun Potion’s Cordyceps dietary supplement, said to reinforce immunity and boost libido (“especially for men”), costs $53. A 3.4 ounce spray bottle Paper Crane Apothecary’s Psychic Vampire Repellent, a blend of lavender, rosemary, juniper, colloidal silver, “reiki, sound waves, moonlight, love, [and] reiki charged crystals”, is $27. And a 10-pack of their Body Vibes stickers, which are “programmed with one of the Solfeggio frequencies in a symbiotic combination of other supporting harmonic frequencies” in order to “influence the mind/body bio-field with signals transferred through sympathetic resonance”? $60.

While I’m not experienced enough in medical terms to fully argue the validity of all of goop’s products, I can say from a simple Google search that cordyceps are the same fungus that is famous for turning ants into zombies; colloidal silver can cause argyria, a usually permanent bluish-gray discoloration of the skin; and it is not possible to program an adhesive piece of paper with any type of frequency. Furthermore, the FDA warned in 1999 that colloidal silver isn’t safe or effective for treating any disease or condition. The health benefits of cordyceps are grayer territory.

Selling overly expensive health foods that at best are only mildly beneficial is definitely a shady business practice, but the lengths goop will go to to claim their products are efficable is also concerning. In 2017, Dr. Jen Gunter wrote on her blog about goop’s controversial $66 jade egg, which goop CEO Gwyneth Paltrow claimed could increase “chi, orgasms, vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy” when inserted into the vagina. However, due to the way the eggs were made, they were porous, which Dr. Gunter pointed out could lead to bacterial infections and toxic shock syndrome. This lead to an article in which goop’s editorial board publicly called out Dr. Gunter, claiming she was “strangely confident” about the vagina and calling her a “tool of the patriarchy.” Dr. Gunter’s official title is “Dr. Jen Gunter MD, FRCS(C), FACOG, DABPM, ABPM (pain). “A woman with no medical training who tells women to walk around with a jade egg in their vaginas all day, a jade egg that they can recharge with the energy of the moon no less, is the strangely confident one,” said Dr. Gunter in her official response.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Jen Gunter. The original listing with full caption for the Jade Egg has since been removed and replaced with a listing that has no description.

What concerns me the most about goop is the market. From what I have seen from the products on the site to official videos showcasing goop health retreats, goop is marketed to impressionable young women and suggestible middle-aged women. The $55+ bags of mystery vitamins sold on the site are marketed towards women of menopause age (between 45-55). The tarot cards and amethyst-core water bottles seem to be marketed to younger women who want to reduce their carbon footprint.

Amethyst Crystal-Infused Water Bottle, sold for $84. “If you’re seeking spiritual support, amethyst is the stone you want.  Its claim to fame: helping you tap into your own intuition. Here, amethyst is at the core of a glass bottle that helps cut down on waste and looks pretty enough to keep in your eyesight all day long.” Photo and caption courtesy of goop.

Paltrow’s health advice also reminds me a lot of some of the health opinions my mother (a middle-aged woman) has or had when I was younger. For example, in 2017, Paltrow went on a raw goat milk diet in order to detox her body of “parasites.” For a time when I was younger, my mother got raw cow’s milk from a farmer in our area because she believed that “all the good bacteria comes out of the milk when they pasteurize it.” Unsurprisingly, the CDC has an entire article about the dangers of raw milk, which can contain harmful germs such as E. coli, Listeria, and Salmonella.

For women like my mother who fall for the trap of alternative health, the supposed “cures” they buy from sites like goop can cost them hundreds of dollars and at best do nothing. It’s only a matter of time before some desperate woman accidentally dies trying to use a $90 remedy to cure her of her “toxins,” but until then goop will continue to do what they do best: make money off women who don’t know any better.

Categories: Opinion

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