paltrowMs. Paltrow’s recipe for sex bark caught my eye while I was on GOOP reading about what not to do with vaginas.

I’m pretty adept in the kitchen, especially with desserts, and so I thought, “Why not?” I mean Valentine’s day is coming up and this cocoa cacao bark promises “a sweet bite after a romantic dinner.”

This dessert’s super-sexiness above what mere chocolate can accomplish is apparently courtesy of Ho Shou Wu

“…an herb tonic used for centuries to enhance youthfulness, reproductive function, and sex drive

as well as Moon Pantry Sex Dust ($60 for 4 ounces). The description from the Moon Juice site:

The aphrodisiac warming potion will send waves of blood to all the right places. This is a holistic approach to deeply enjoyable sex and fertility for both men and women, supporting brain chemistry, hormone production, as well as glandular and fluid replenishment.

Add one teaspoon to 8oz of any hot or cold liquid. Delicious with nut milk water or tea. Makes anywhere from 25- 50 servings depending on taste and desired level of potency. Don’t be afraid to double dose!

Wild Crafted Ingredients: Epimedium, Ho Sho [sic] Wu, Schizandra, Cristanche, Shilajit, Maca, Cacao, Lo Han Guo, Stevia

Suspect hormone claims

The idea that something could truly enhance youthfulness, reproductive function, and sex drive is not quite compatible with the modern understanding of endocrine function. Testosterone is the hormone that typically increases sex drive, but additional testosterone isn’t ideal for reproductive function. I’m unaware of a hormone or anything else that promotes youthfulness (what is youthfulness anyway?).

It’s also unlikely that anything taken by mouth can send blood only to “the right places.”

By this I assume GOOP et. al. mean the genitals (although I don’t know about you but I like my head in the game when I’m having sex). Cerebral contributions aside, medications that increase blood flow to the genitals also increase blood flow to other places because they work by relaxing the muscles in blood vessels (a more relaxed blood vessel is essentially a larger tube reducing resistance and allowing more blood to flow). Viagra increases blood flow to the penis, but it also dilates the blood vessels in the head (hence the headache and facial flushing some men experience) and is used to treat constricted blood vessels in the lungs. So claims of a genital-specific-blood-flow-enhancer are biologically suspect, but do make better copy.

(As an aside, many products, pharmaceutical and otherwise, claim to increase genital blood flow. And some clearly do (like Viagra), however, studies haven’t yet shown that increasing clitoral blood flow is the Holy Grail for better sex. For example, studies with Viagra and better sex for women have been largely underwhelming).

So what is Ho Shou Wu? (FYI it’s also in the Sex Dust).

It’s also called Fo-Ti and it is listed as possibly unsafe in the National Medicine Comprehensive Database due to many reports of liver damage.  The anthraguinones in Fo-Ti are converted to anthrones in the gut and these are highly reactive and can cause liver inflammation (not good). It also has a lot of potential drug interactions, including birth control pills, medications for depression, oral medications for diabetes, and blood thinners to name a few.

The sex claims with Ho Shou Wu might be because it is a phytoestrogen, like soy and red clover. However studies on the effect of phytoestrogens having any significant clinical impact GYNO wise are underwhelming. Large doses of estrogen can improve blood flow to the pelvis, but that’s not what this product claims to be. Large doses of estrogen also typically don’t increase sex drive.

Oh, and another effect of Ho Shu Wu is a bowel stimulant. Yes, it is  a laxative.

Personally, I find the potential liver toxicity of a “sex” ingredient that is biologically unlikely to do what it claims and its potential laxative effect somewhat off-putting, never mind the $90 just for the Moon Pantry ingredients. Needless to say I never made it.

Of course just like the V-steam some people will vigorously claim these herbal products help them, but any positive effects are likely due to the fact that expensive placebos work better than cheap ones. Also, keep in mind many herbal products never actually contain what they claim.

Gwyneth Paltrow may well be on the fast track to becoming the high priestess of the pricey placebo. Me, I’m going to sick with 70% dark chocolate and something that definitely increases blood flow to the pelvis, physical stimulation.




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  1. Ya know you never did actually tell us what Ho Shou Wu is. Quite a bit of what it does but zero about what it is.

    1. It’s a root dirivitive. Just like about 80% of “Eastern” holistic ingredients. I don’t think exactly what it is – since you can purchase it as an extract in powder, liquid, or tablet form – is as important as what it does.

  2. Word to the wise- if Gwenyth is recommending it, think twice or three times before you do it, I’m sorry to be rude but I really think this woman is “off” in much of her thinking. She does not live anywhere near planet Earth with the rest of us. JMO.

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