Dr. Jen Gunter

GOOP camouflages hormone hints among the hydrangeas

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.