Launched in 2008 by Gwyneth Paltrow as a personal newsletter, Goop has since evolved into a lifestyle blog and online store. The website features a wide variety of recipes, travel tips, expensive clothing (seriously, $1,500 for a dress?), detoxes and “holistic” health advice. Recently, for example, Goop did an interview with “earthing” expert Clint Ober, who claims that walking barefoot in the grass can cure depression and insomnia. “The earth has an infinite supply of free electrons,” he explains, “so when a person is grounded, those electrons naturally flow between the earth and the body, reducing free radicals and eliminating any static electrical charge.”
There’s just one problem: there’s no evidence for Ober’s claims. “Our cells don’t need an infusion of electrons,” wrote Dr. Harriett Hall in a 2016 Skeptic article. Hall also explains that there’s “no evidence that EMF [electromagnetic fields] disrupts communications in our body or that grounding protects us from any hypothetical ill effects of using cell phones and other technology,” or that you can absorb elections through the ground. Plus, although feeling grass between your toes feels great, you’re more likely to absorb parasites from the soil than electrons.
Sadly this is just the latest example of Goop trying to pass pseudoscientific woo as legitimate medical advice. Not only are these tips not based on science, but they can also be dangerous.
Another recent example is an interview with so-called “beauty guru/healer” Shiva Rose about vaginal jade eggs that are supposed to “increases chi, orgasms, vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general.” Rose first discovered jade eggs through her local yoga community, and says they are a great way for people with vaginas to tap into their inner spiritual power. “The word for our womb, yoni, translates as ‘sacred place,’” she says, “and it is a sacred place—it’s where many women access their intuition, their power, and their wisdom. It’s this inner sanctum that we can access when it’s not in use creating life. Sadly most people use it as a psychic trash bin, storing old or negative energy.” Goop currently sells these jade eggs for $66, and claims they can be cleansed by moonlight.
Oh boy, where to start with this one? For starters, as gynecologist Dr. Jen Gunter points out, jade is porous, so it can give you a horrible infection. Second, Gunter also says, the uterus and vagina are two separate things, so cobbling them together until the Sanskrit word “yoni” doesn’t make any sense. As far as the “yoni” being the source of “feminine energy,” Gunter replies, “I’m a gynecologist and I don’t know what that is!? How does one test for it? Organically sourced, fair trade urine pH sticks coming soon to GOOP for $77 I presume?”
Probably the most infamous product Goop endorsed is the Mugwort V-Steam, aka the vagi-steamer. The original article is no longer online, but thanks to The Daily Beast, we still have Paltrow’s glowing review of the vagi-steamer. “You sit on what is essentially a mini-throne,” she wrote, “and a combination of infrared and mugwort steam cleanses your uterus, et al. It is an energetic release—not just a steam douche—that balances female hormone levels. If you’re in LA, you have to do it.” Apparently Paltrow forgot that the vagina cleans itself and douching is actually bad for the vagina. Not only that, but according to Women’s Health, the vagi-steamer burns like hell, destroys good bacteria in the vagina and does absolutely nothing to balance hormones. This probably explains why the original Goop is no longer online.
What is still on the website, however, is an article by Dr. Habib Sadeghi that claims a link between breast cancer and … wait for it … underwire bras. According to Sadeghi, studies show that “women who wore their bras 24 hours per day increased their breast cancer risk by 125 times over women who rarely or never wore a bra.” The reason for the increase, he says, is because tight-fitting bras prevent “toxins” from passing through the lymph nodes in the breast/underarm area and out of the body. Sadeghi goes to say underwire bras have the “ability to magnify and sustain electromagnetic frequencies (EMF) and radiation from things like cell phones and Wi-Fi.”
It sounds alarming at first, until you realize the American Cancer Association debunked that myth long before Goop published Sadeghi’s article. There’s also a 2014 case-control study done by the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center where researchers looked at more than 1,000 women in the Seattle area aged 55 to 74 diagnosed with breast cancer during a four-year period. The results found no evidence linking bras to breast cancer, proving once again that correlation does always equal causation.
To cover their tracks, Goop always includes a disclaimer that says their articles are not “a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.” However, in this day and age of fake news, it is unclear how many readers actually read the disclaimer. Also, with almost 300,000 likes on Facebook, Goop still has a wide audience, so now is a good time as ever to remind everyone this: Don’t take medical advice from Gwyneth Paltrow.
Trav Mamone is a queer trans blogger who write about the intersections of social justice and secular humanism at Bi Any Means. They also host the Bi Any Means Podcast and co-host the Biskeptical Podcast.