There is no shortage of health fads and nonsense on the Internet, but when it comes to women’s health, actress Gwyneth Paltrow seems to lead the charge on the wackiest and most dangerous woo. Her lifestyle website and newsletter, called GOOP, recently promoted (and began selling) a dangerous and implausible practice for improving female genital health and sexual performance: the vaginal insertion of egg-shaped pieces of jade.
Ms. Paltrow’s website recommends this activity for a plethora of wholly implausible health benefits. She has previously credulously advocated another dangerous and useless women’s health fad—vaginal steaming—and continues to find new lows in snake oil promotion. Let’s take a look at this practice and see if there are any benefit or risks.
If you see any fad health claim I recommend that you use some simple questions as a filter to decide if you need to look at it further.
- Does your doctor recommend it? If you don’t know, you should ask first, preferably a competent provider with whom you have a relationship. These people are full of good advice, and, unlike celebrities, are professionally trained in human healthcare.
- Does it make a claim of ancient knowledge and/or wisdom? Always be suspicious if this is a major part of the attraction. The appeal to ancient wisdom is a fallacy, not evidence. Humans made terrible mistakes in pre-scientific health care. The “ancient or traditional” treatments that actually hurt people are too numerous to count and more often contributed to the death of persons rather than improving their health. It is not a positive thing to say about any health claim and offers no evidence of effectiveness.
- If it works as advertised why isn’t it in conventional medical use? This is an important question and can be a tremendous red flag. There are more than 200 years of chemistry, physics, and medical science underpinning current treatments, and at least 100 years of science systematically looking for ways to treat disease. Very few traditional treatments have escaped testing. Alternative claims often suggest suppression by “the establishment” due to corporate greed or physician greed. This is patently ridiculous. Even if you assume all doctors are corrupt and all of physical science is conspiring against humanity, those claims require a grand conspiracy that is totally impossible—see Skeptoid episode 264 for some good reasons why grand conspiracies are unlikely. There is no extant protection for patenting any medical treatment. If you find that lawn clippings cure cancer, a corporation can do the research, concentrate the substance, own it, and charge a boatload for it. The fact that the medicine is lawn clippings in no way prevents a company from patenting it. It makes no sense that greed always equals suppression; it is illogical and nonsensical. Drug companies and medical device corporations spend billions searching for treatments, most folk remedies have been explored, and either adapted or rejected. Moreover, Ms. Paltrow and her cohort aren’t promoting this junk out of charity. They’re selling pieces of jade at high markups. The rocks can be found online at bead stores, gem vendors, and wholesalers for a fraction of the price GOOP offers them at.
- Does a medical claim have a magical explanation? You have good reason to be skeptical if anything claims energy fields, magnetism, Chi, life force, vibrations, or quantum effects as the mechanism of effect. These things are magical nonsense that violate what we know about the human body, physics, and often use language that is fuzzy, factually inaccurate, or completely wrong.
- Does a medical claim use the word toxin? I can’t stress this enough! Unless you are talking about a snake bite or the like, be wary of the word toxin. It is nonspecific and arbitrary claim that preys on the scary feelings that the word invokes. It is almost exclusively used in quackery, often to promote some nonsense cure.In my opinion there is an equivocal level of proof surrounding demons and toxins for typical health concerns. So my advice is to always substitute the word demon into any health claim that uses the word toxin. You will quickly see how the phrases become laughable.
The bottom line is that you have good reason to avoid any health claim for which these questions produce problematic answers. These problems are more concerning if personal anecdote is the primary method of promotion.
Jade eggs for vaginal health hits all of those questions’ red flags.
The strictly guarded secret of Chinese royalty in antiquity—queens and concubines used them to stay in shape for emperors—jade eggs harness the power of energy work, crystal healing, and a Kegel-like physical practice. Fans say regular use increases chi, orgasms, vaginal muscle tone, hormonal balance, and feminine energy in general. [Promoter] Shiva Rose has been practicing with them for about seven years, and raves about the results; we tried them, too, and were so convinced we put them into the goop shop.Jade eggs’ power to cleanse and clear make them ideal for detox; here, Shiva Rose answers all our questions and shares her jade egg tips for improving your sex life, your cycle, and your overall well-being.
From a medical standpoint putting a rock into your vagina is not a good idea. No matter how much you prepare it—or call it “gem quality”—that does not make it a good idea. The GOOP author has tried to address this slightly by suggesting boiling the stone. I think that is why she mentions cleaning it, but realistically offers no warnings:
When you first get your egg, boil it for a few minutes to make sure it’s clean. It’s your sacred space, so it’s like making sure your feet are clean when you enter a temple. For me, it’s not just about physical cleansing—you can put it out under the light of a full moon to cleanse or recharge it like a crystal, or you could burn sage—the egg does absorb energy, so really clearing it when you first get it is a great thing to do.
I am going to guarantee right now that if your doctor was cleansing a pelvic speculum by boiling it, wafting it with sage smoke, or putting it under the light of a full moon, she/he would be sued for malpractice in the United States, with good cause. There is a reason why we autoclave surgical instruments: boiling is insufficient for bacterial, viral, and fungal sterilization. The same goes for moonlight and smoke.
Jade is a stone. It has a porous surface, and like all porous solids it absorbs things and there are microscopic pores that bad things can hide in. You are inserting a unsterilized stone with a porous surface into your vaginal area. Think about that seriously before attempting to improve your chi.
Of course, neither vaginosis nor toxic shock syndrome are cheap to treat. GOOP is charging $50 to 60 for the privilege of explaining to your obstetrician how you got this infection. Even if—a big IF—placing weighted items in your vaginal canal is a plausible method to maintain vaginal tone, a rock is not the way to do it.
In my opinion, this was the most disturbing part of the advertisement: “Some people say it can be useful in preparing for childbirth, but again, definitely consult a doctor in that situation.” What people? Are people at the airport offering advice? Or the author? Or someone with a lot of jade to sell? Trying to introduce a rock as a preparatory device for a pregnancy is, by far, the scariest thing associated with this claim.
Overall, I feel free to say, even without looking at any research, that this is terrible and possibly dangerous way to improve your vaginal health and sex life. I don’t need proof to know this is a bad idea anymore than I need research to know that swallowing the eggs to improve your bowel movements is a bad idea. Save your $50, and chalk this up to another good example of why you should get health advice from a doctor, rather than a celebrity with a store. If you have concerns, your obstetrician does have good advice to maintain vaginal health. I know it is probably an embarrassing conversation to have. Still, it’s far better than reading some quack’s opinion pitching a woo claim on a website.
At the end of GOOP‘s promotional article, used to encourage sales of the rocks in its own online store, one finds the most accurate statement about the woo the reader has just been bathed in: “This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.” Vaginal jade beads are not medical advice; they’re potentially dangerous junk used to fleece the unsuspecting.
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Disclaimer: This post is my personal opinion, it is not a substitute for medical care. It is for informational purposes only. The information on Skeptoid blog is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions. This post does not reflect the opinion of my partners, professional affiliates, or academic affiliations. I have no financial conflicts of interest to disclose.