Gwyneth Paltrow’s company Goop has promoted some controversial products for sexual wellness over the years, from a jade egg meant to be placed inside one's vagina (and which may cause toxic shock syndrome) to an ultra-pricy gold vibrator that costs as much as many people’s yearly rent.
Now Goop has created a supplement designed to increase a woman’s libido. The new capsules, appropriately named “DTF,” are formulated to enhance women’s sexual desire, arousal and mood. They're vegan, and contain no hormones, GMOs, gluten or soy; ingredients feature a blend of saffron extract, shatavari (an asparagus species), and Libifem brand fenugreek extract. But the real question is: Does it actually work?
For starters, what is libido, exactly? According to Dr. Tami Rowen, an associate professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of California, San Francisco, it is defined as “the drive to have sex.” It’s controlled by neurotransmitters in the brain, mainly “dopamine and norepinephrine.” To increase libido, one must stimulate those neurotransmitters.
Dr. Uma Naidoo is a nutritional psychiatrist, professional chef, nutrition specialist, and author of the national bestseller This is Your Brain on Food, and says that Paltrow’s new supplement "is based on adaptogenic ingredients, meaning that they have the ability to modify one’s biochemistry over time. Many of the ingredients here are noted to influence the body’s hormone levels, which are responsible for libido. That being said, everything we consume, whether it be a food or vitamin, is all metabolized through the gut, and each of us has a unique microbiome, making our responses different, too.”
Rowen isn’t so sure that these DTF supplements — which she notes are not regulated by the FDA — can really be proven to have the desired effect.
“Based on the ingredient list, these herbs [have not been studied for their effect] on the neurotransmitters,” she explains. “But the placebo effect accounts for 30 to 50 percent of any drug response, so, sure, maybe.”
Naidoo says it’s best to talk to your physician before “starting a new vitamin or supplement routine for potential allergies or drug interactions.”
“People who are pregnant or breastfeeding should be especially cautious with this vitamin, as fenugreek can cause complications in doses higher than may be present in food,” Dr. Naidoo advises. “Though a low likelihood, as with any supplement, there is the possibility of side effects, so monitor yourself after taking this or any other [supplement].”
For those who want to increase their libido without the DTF supplements, Dr. Rowen says, “Exercise — best possible thing for libido — and make sure to get enough sleep. Talk to a healthcare provider if there seems to be a more psychological or biological cause of the low libido.”