Despite all the GOOP-related press in the past few weeks I still keep to my general frequency of bi-weekly GOOP medical rounding so I can be up to date on their biologically implausible yet expensive health conversations. It seems that after they got all uncensored with me on July 13th there have been no new medical learned ghosts, lunar charged orifice rocks, or scary new fake parasites. Is it possible the GOOP editors and even, dare I say it, GP herself have taken to heart my suggestion that biased half-truths are the opposite of female empowerment? Maybe, just maybe, they were trying to do better.

And then someone sent me this GOOP gardening article where landscape artist Miranda Brooks drops the heretofore medically unknown pearl about balancing hormones by touching plants.


I never though to check a gardening article.

Brooks tells GOOP, “I’ve learned it’s important for women to touch certain plants to balance hormones: rosemary and black currant are two that are important to me.”

Not ones to lose the product placement the GOOP editors quickly fill in the rest with a plug for Uma Pure Energy Oil and some glow-inducing cream. The message is clear –  if you can’t balance your own hormones because the Garden of Eden is not in your backyard we’ve got you covered with this oil and cream which have, wait for it, rosemary and black currant. They are very good at this.

I am pretty sure that touching plants cannot balance hormones (whatever that actually means) but to be appropriately confident I asked Dr. Jani Jensen an OB/GYN and board-certified reproductive endocrinology and infertility (i.e. an expert in lady hormones) and this is what she said:

Although there are many medications that have their origin in plant sources and there are formulations of hormone therapy that are meant to be applied to the skin it is extremely unlikely that enough plant-based hormone precursors could be absorbed through the skin to make a difference in hormone levels or to affect symptoms such as hot flashes.

Then she added:

This is another example of something that sounds good in theory.

This could be the GOOP byline.

Although Jani was all for the idea that it is pleasing to maintain a nice garden and that could be good for one’s overall health. This is the kind of advice regular doctors give as part of medicine. Go outside. Garden. Go for a walk. This is not “alternative” or “functional” medicine this is medicine.

I find these kinds of *almost* throw away lines about “balancing” hormones very damaging. Hard sell woo, say goat milk cleanses or a dude who speaks with a ghost to diagnose the chronic EBV that you don’t have, are more obviously offensive and fringe. I doubt most GOOPies never mind causal readers have embarked on a two-week raw goat’s milk cleanse for parasites or purchased the $5,000 infrared sauna that is almost as good as chemotherapy just because they were part of GP “exploration.” However, there is a whole industry built on selling fake hormone facts to women whether it is salivary hormone testing (useless), “bioidentical” hormones (no, they are not ground up yams and if you want to read a great article on them check out this piece), or fake illnesses such as adrenal fatigue (a GOOP favorite).

Casual ludicrous lines about “balancing” hormones subtly reinforce a false and often medically harmful narrative and can send people to get expensive yet unnecessary tests, therapies, and supplements that can never hope to help or to buy $85 energy oil because they don’t have the budget for a “functional medicine” doctor (which, by the way, is not a specialty recognized by the American Board of Medical Specialties). While Paltrow is merrily grifting off of women I do not buy the argument that her success in the hormone aisle is the fault of a male dominated and inattentive Western medicine. Modern patriarchy can’t explain the Alex Jones supplement circus for men and there was very little “Western” in medicine in 1917 when John Brinkley, a medical school drop out, began implanting goat testicles in men in Kansas to…wait for it…balance hormones and restore make vitality.


Both men and women have long been vulnerable to hormones shills. Why not, after all vitality is the cousin of the fountain of youth. The humors of old are the unbalanced hormones of today. I readily accept the fault of a male oriented medicine for inadequately treating and studying women with heart disease or pain (and many, many other conditions) but mining hormones and humors for gold is the oldest game on the medical midway and it is aimed at anyone, man or woman, who steps right up. The product might be in bespoke glassware from the latest pop up shop or a plastic barrel that looks gym-worthy but it’s the same shill and the same snake oil.

Why can’t gardening simply be fun and rewarding and relaxing? Why can’t the products be there for their beautiful smell, then again if that moved product it would likely not be called energy oil.

Ms. Brooks is clearly a talented landscape artist so it is a shame that the positive health message of being outdoors and working with your hands can’t be the thing. I do wonder if women are more likely to buy an $85 energy oil than $120 garden tool, especially after they are primed with the absurd notion that plants can balance hormones.

Telling someone that gardening for the simple love gardening probably deviates too much from the core GOOP ideals and likely reduces the opportunity to make a sale under the guise of female empowerment.

I guess you have to watch out for weeds in GOOP’s garden.

Join the Conversation


  1. Dr Gunter, a serious question – I can’t use any kind of hormone therapy due to my family history of breast cancer. Are there any other options?

  2. Right on, Jen! The promulgation of an unvalidated (and in this case frankly absurd) claim of therapeutic value which is then used to sell product(s) is not just quackery – it is outright predation. The damage it does on multiple levels is often well-hidden but always very real. Thank goodness for those like you and Quackwatch and others who fight the good fight. Hang in there and thank you for this public service.

  3. Not giving up my morning coffee for energy oil just yet. What a shame, the first two paragraphs of gardening advice were quite good, really. I love growing things I can eat. P.S. if this actually worked, an awful lots of male gardeners would be growing boobs from fondling the rosemary too much.

    1. You might like growing things you can eat but their smell is not a good guide as to whether they are edible no matter what Paltrow’s sycophants say. Many highly poisonous flowers smell sweet, off the top of my head I come up with datura, hyacinths, frangipani, lily of the valley, oleander, daphne, some lilies, sweet peas, nicotiana. There are almost certainly more.

  4. Here`s an idea – find out which plants are supposed to give this `vitality` and buy and plant your own . Then , you won`t need to buy the oil .
    Ooops sorry , too much common sense .

    1. BTW , don`t forget to read Goop`s Disclaimer – if it don`t work , you don`t get your money back .

  5. Awesome book…should be required reading for anyone considering using so called ‘alternatives’, ‘bio-identicals’ or vitamin supplements. The similarities between Brinkley’s marketing and business plan and some businesses today should give people pause. Sadly there are too many wearing white coats of respectability and trust who market and promote these products leading patients to believe they are real options. And as to safety or efficacy, well, we all know the FDA is just there to protect big pharma and stop these wonderful caring charlatans from helping people. Keep up the good fight…we need more white coats to speak out about ‘bioidentical’ hormones, vitamins and supplements and so many other scams being perpetrated on patients.

    1. The FDA cannot regulate supplements in the same was as pharmaceuticals, thanks to the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act of 1994, and Sen. Orrin Hatch, who led the march and continues to be the biggest proponent in congress for quack science.

      There’s a great article in The Atlantic from last year titled “What Aren’t Dietary Supplements Regulated” that explains it all very clearly.

  6. The saddest truth here is that the women most vulnerable to this nonsense should already be under the care of a decent Gyn. Many women with Fibroids (or other pain inducing uterine condition) that are thought to be estrogen driven are desperate to do something … ANYTHING, to avoid surgery, especially when the pharmaceutical options have already failed. I am sure you see this daily in your own practise. Hormone balancing is a regular suggestion!

    For some back story, I have spent approximately a year on a couple of these Facebook pages, not sure why I stayed. The level of misinformation about anti-Inflammatory diets, Detoxes and cleanses is mystifying. I try to bring a level of common sense to some of the discussions, and have the most egregious claims removed. In my own journey, I also had 2 differnent naturopaths, who are friends, are quite confident they could have cured me (post surgery … because I kept all the crap I was managing to myself till I was thru it all), presumabley by drinking their goops or injections of bee venom! By their accounts I took the easy route … I am absolutely certain my issues were not going to be cured by any of their nonsense. I was happy to put my faith in a fantastic surgeon. This is especially important since in the end I didn’t even have Fibroids but Adenomyosis, which if you want to find an almost unstudied but ridiculously painful female health condition that would be it! Hysterectomy might have been easy, but the 15 months after the last big escalation in symptoms, that lead to surgery were not! Make no mistake, these women are desperate for anything, especially if they have crappy or no insurance. (I’m in Calgary, Canada, so at least that wasn’t an issue … but explains the 15 months to get through the system)

    I know that down the road, and not too far down I will need to examine HRT … The amount of conflicting information out there that I already know about is staggering. Where does one turn!

  7. Gardening was a great way for Mom to ground, as my psychologist uses the term. To focus on little things in a way that calms her emotions. (It was also plain fun for her) Helped her keep her sense of humor, not balance her humors.

  8. On the Goopidness 1-10 scale, that article barely a 5. Here’s a solid 8:

    Tips for preventing toxic energy from entering our spaces/bodies in the first place?

    1. I wear crystals around my neck, keep them in my purse—and yes, even squirrel them away in my bed and bra. The crystals that are best for grounding and for protection from all types of energy vampires and bad juju are: shungite, black tourmaline, black obsidian, hematite, and onyx.

    2. Cultivate an energetic doormat so you’re not tracking “energetic mud” into your home: I like to sage my body off in my doorway before I even step foot into my home so I’m not bringing any unwanted energy with me.

  9. I don’t agree with Steven Colbert.

    There is nothing wrong with having a lifestyle brand/website selling things. Martha Stewart has been branding a lifestyle and selling products with the Martha Stewart brandname for years.

    But I don’t think Stewart ever offered medical advice along with her products.

    If government testing of drugs is cut back as some are predicting, consumers will need more men and women to yield “lassos of truth,” because it will be very much “buyer beware” in the medical marketplace.

    Curious now whether Goop has any kind of disclosure that if someone does get toxic shock syndrome from a jade egg purchased from their site, they will not be held liable? Since they absolutely don’t think that this will happen, they do not? What could go wrong?

  10. The phrase “I doubt most GOOPies never mind causal readers…” should read “I doubt most GOOPies never mind casual readers…”

  11. If Goop is so solidly behind the products they purport are supported by evidence, why not supply a list of the empirical RCTs?

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: