There are two Americas, we’ve been told.
There’s Duck Dynasty America and Modern Family America. There’s “gosh” America and “dope” America. Sometimes, though, Americans unite around a common idea. Like the healing powers of eleuthero root, cordyceps mushrooms, and “nascent iodine.”
Near the end of a profile of Amanda Chantal Bacon, founder of the “wellness” brand Moon Juice, the New York Times Magazine noted that many of the alternative-medicine ingredients in her products are sold—with very different branding—on the Infowars store. That’s the site run by Alex Jones, the radio show host and conspiracy theorist who has said that both the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School and the Boston Marathon bombing were staged. Moon Juice is frequently recommended by Gwyneth Paltrow’s wellness blog, Goop; it’s a favorite of Hollywood celebrities and others who can afford things like $25 “activated cashews.” Infowars, on the other hand, is a dark corner of the American right, heavy on guns, light on government intervention, and still very mad at Obama.
We at Quartz have created a compendium, from Ashwagandha to zizyphus, of the magical healing ingredients both sides of the political spectrum are buying, and how they are presented to each. We looked at the ingredients used in products sold on the Infowars store, and compared them to products on the wellness shops Moon Juice and Goop. All make similar claims about the health benefits of these ingredients, but what gets called “Super Male Vitality” by Infowars is branded as “Sex Dust” by Moon Juice.
Ashwagandha is an herb commonly used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine. In the wellness world it is purported to have all kinds of benefits—everything from reducing stress to preventing cancer. According to Goop, it “tonifies the immune system,” whatever that means. (The Oxford Dictionary says that means “increase the available energy of (a bodily part or system).”) Infowars says it is “rejuvenative.” Animal studies in the lab suggest Ashwagandha may be effective for treating cancer, diabetes, and somehow, both reducing fatigue and as a sedative, but these effects have not been thoroughly tested on humans.
Goop: Recommended in Magic Potions for Clarity, Beauty, and Energy
Tonifies the immune system; inspires vigor and strength; relieves mental, emotional, and physical stress; and harmonizes mind, body, and spirit.
Ashwagandha is regarded as one of the great rejuvenative [sic] herbs of India. According to Ayurveda, the traditional healing system of India, the root of this low-growing shrub is said to be effective for a host of debilitated [sic] conditions, including general weakness, impotence, infertility, and others. Ashwaganda is sometimes described as Indian Ginseng for the significance of this botanical in Indian pharmacopoeia.
Also an Ayurvedic herb, said to reduce stress, improve memory, and treat epilepsy, among other purported benefits. Goop uses bacopa in a supplement pack called “Why am I so Effing Tired;” Infowars sticks it in its “Brain Force Plus.” The science, based on animal studies, shows some preliminary—but contradictory—evidence of improvements to memory and brain function. There is minimal support for the claims about epilepsy and anxiety.
Goop: Why am I so effing tired
Formulated with a variety of vitamins (including a high dose of the B’s) and supplements—many sourced from ancient Ayurveda—this helps re-balance an overtaxed system. Replenishing the nutrients you may be lacking may improve energy levels and diminish stress.
Infowars: Brain Force Plus
Top scientists and researchers agree: we are being hit by toxic weapons in the food and water supply that are making us fat, sick, and stupid. It’s time to fight back with Brain Force Plus, the next generation of advanced neural activation.
Most of these wellness sites provide a long list of potential benefits from ingredients like the chaga mushroom. One site promises that Inonotus obliquus offers immune system support, “soothing properties,” blood pressure normalization, “DNA damage protection,” and a few more unbelievable health benefits. Moon Juice calls the mushroom a “joy promoter.” Studies on animals have shown that chaga can “inhibit cancer progression” and “activate some types of immune cells,” but the consensus is that studies in humans are needed.
Moon Juice: Chaga
Our Chaga mushrooms contain bio-active beta glucans [these have been shown to live up to some of their promises] to support the body’s innate defense systems.
Infowars: Caveman True Paleo Formula
The Ultimate In True Paleo Nutrition with Bone Broth, Turmeric Root, Chaga Mushroom, Bee Pollen, and other Ancient Supernutrients [sic, entire sentence].
Apparently colloidal silver is “a suspension of tiny silver particles in a liquid.” On Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow writes, “They say that active silver keeps germs at bay so I spray this in the air around me when I sit down.” The US National Institutes of Health, on the other hand, says directly that “claims made about the health benefits of taking colloidal silver aren’t backed up by studies,” adding, “colloidal silver can cause serious side effects.”
Higher Nature: Colloidal Silver (recommended by Goop)
Our Colloidal silver contains pure, medical grade silver, which has been used for many centuries. It is produced using electro-controlled technology and pure water from a 9-stage water purification process, to achieve a very small particle size (0.0006 to 0.005 microns). This small particle size is important because it provides a much greater surface area and therefore more of an effective liquid.
Infowars: Silver Bullet
The Infowars Life Silver Bullet Colloidal Silver is finally here following Alex’s extensive search for a powerful colloidal silver product that is both free of artificial additives and utilizes high quality processes to ensure for [sic] a truly unique product that has applications for both preparedness and regular use.
Another obscure fungus, this one used in traditional Chinese medicine. It is purported to “increase immune function,” act as a natural aphrodisiac, and improve stamina. According to Goop, it’s “an important Yang tonic,” which means it provides “masculine energy.” There is some preliminary evidence for the immune system thing, but other claims are unproven. Goop sells cordyceps as a dietary supplement; Infowars infuses them into its “Wake Up America” coffee.
Goop: Sun Potion
Organic, USA-grown cordyceps mushroom and is [sic] an important Yang tonic. May support the oxygenation of the whole body, mental power, muscle tone, sexual energy, and immune function. Mix 1/2 teaspoon (2 grams) in warm water or tea 1-2 times daily. Great added to soups, smoothies, raw chocolate, and anytime you are looking to activate fortitude, sensuality, and endurance.
Certain strands of mushroom such as Cordyceps and Reishi have a history of medicinal use spanning millennia in countries such as China, Tibet, and Japan. Throughout history these are [sic] some of the most expensive herbal raw materials in the world. Only recently has western medicine begun to research all the potential medical benefits of medicinal mushrooms. The cutting-edge Wake Up America! Immune Support Blend brings ancient Asian wisdom together with modern technology.
There is some preliminary evidence that eleuthero, another ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine, has various benefits, such as reducing fatigue and stress, and improving immune functions. Both Moon Juice and Infowars sell it blended with a bunch of other herbal medicines, though, so it would be difficult to isolate eleuthero’s possible positive effects. Moon Juice says it can help “fuel your physical and entrepreneurial feats.” Also, this is the one case Quartz found where the Moon Juice product sounds more hardcore than the Infowars version.
Moon Juice: Power Dust
Power Dust® is an elite blend of adaptogenic superherbs and supermushrooms that help combat [sic] the effects of stress to fuel your physical and entrepreneurial feats.
Infowars: Relax & De-Stress Herbal Extract
Relax & De-Stress Herbal Extract is a [sic] herbal tincture great for relaxing and supporting the nervous system while aiding in maintaining [sic] a healthy heart and adrenals [sic] gland function.
The two sides of our herbal medicine spectrum seem to have come to different conclusions about what “eyebright” does for the eyes. Infowars sells it in a supplement called “Occu Power,” which makes your eyes “healthy.” Goop sells it as an ingredient in eye makeup. There is no scientific evidence for its purported eye health benefits.
This is a sheer, modern wash of gleamy color that’s as brilliant all over the lid as it is when used as a translucent, smoky touch of liner. Made with organic chrysanthemum, eyebright, and horsetail herb—the blend is Vapour’s famous Herbal Eyebright complex—the creamy stick is hydrating and packed with antioxidants to treats [sic] the delicate eye area, soothing inflammation and stimulating circulation.
Infowars: Occu Power
Occu-Power by Infowars Life is a new formulation specifically designed to nutritionally assist the natural function of healthy eyes. Arguably the most important sense, sight is the primary input to the brain. Combining key ingredients like astaxanthin, lutein, and Eyebright herb extract, Occu-Power is a long awaited ‘super formula’ now available exclusively through the Infowars Life line.
Maca is supposed to increase sex drive and male fertility. The Sloan Kettering Cancer Center says “the evidence to support the use of maca in improving sexual function is limited,” and that “more studies are warranted.” Both Moon Juice and Infowars sell it as an ingredient in products targeting an increased libido. (Although, at Moon Juice, it is an ingredient in both “Sex Dust” and “Brain Dust.”)
Moon Juice: Sex Dust
Sex Dust™ is a lusty edible formula alchemized to ignite and excite sexy energy in and out of the bedroom.
Infowars: Super Male Vitality
As men age, they may often experience a slow-down in vitality, energy, and overall wellness. Super Male Vitality is specifically designed to assist the body in regulating proper balance to create superior vitality in males, and has been used by Alex Jones in order to maximize vitality when working up to 12 hours a day or more in the fight for freedom.
We couldn’t find any reliable scientific information on “nascent iodine.” Normal, run-of-the-mill iodine is an important thing to have in your body, but most people get enough from foods that are rich in the mineral. The “nascent” stuff is supposed to have an “electromagnetic charge” that makes it easier to digest.
Putting the question of the veracity of those claims to the side, ConsumerLab, an independent group that tests and vets dietary supplements, says that iodine in this “charged” form cannot even exist in liquid form, which is how Alex Jones and company distribute it. What’s more, the amount of nascent iodine wellness websites suggest you take—in order to supposedly maintain a healthy thyroid, usually—is way beyond normal levels for the normal iodine we usually get from foods. The US National Institutes of Health says that “adults should avoid prolonged use of doses higher than 1,100 micrograms per day.” Infowars and the “Global Healing Center” both recommend 1,950 micrograms a day.
Goop: No particular product, but recommends nascent iodine in a Q&A published on the site
Infowars: Survival Shield X-2
Experience the benefits of next level proprietary nascent iodine, developed using our Thermodynamic Pressure Sensitive High Energy Sound Pulse Nano-Emulsion Technology [sic] that allows for a highly unique nascent iodine that is both concentrated and free of unwanted additives and genetically modified ingredients.
More fungi with a load of supposed health benefits. Current research shows there’s no scientific evidence to support the claims that reishi mushrooms can treat fatigue or increase stamina. There is a small amount of inconclusive scientific support for claims that the fungi improve immune system function, reduce inflammation, and lower cholesterol. Reishi mushrooms are another ingredient in Infowars’ Wake Up America coffee.
Moon Juice: Spirit Dust
Spirit Dust® is an uplifting blend of adaptogenic superherbs and supermushrooms that help [sic] combat the effects of stress to expand peaceful awareness and align you with bliss.
Prized for thousands of years for their culinary and medicinal properties, mushrooms are more than just a low kilojoule, low sodium and high-fiber ingredient for pasta and pizzas. One of the many conditions that certain species of mushrooms have been found to heal is human papilloma virus infections, which are feared due to their association with certain cancers.
Selenium is an element found in trace amounts in all animals, including humans, and is required for cellular function. Infowars says the element “supports a healthy thyroid gland, supports the immune system, is essential for metabolic pathways, and much more.” Some of these claims are backed by evidence, though many are not. The claim that selenium defends against cancer is also dangerously inconclusive. “Clinical trials show that selenium may not help prevent cancer; it may actually increase the risk of aggressive and secondary cancers,” writes Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
Goop: Balls in the Air
This antioxidant-rich (beta-carotene, vitamin C, and vitamin E) regimen plays defense so you can play offense, helping to unburden inflammation in the body, ensuring that all systems operate at full capacity. Formulated with a blend of building blocks that boosts the body’s production of glutathione—the master detoxifier—this regimen is designed for women who function at an intense pace, and want to keep it that way.
Infowars: Bio-True Selenium
Selenium is an essential trace mineral that supports a healthy thyroid gland, supports the immune system, is essential for metabolic pathways, and much more. Selenium even plays a role in the natural function of reproductive health, DNA production, and eyesight. As a powerful antioxidant, selenium helps fight free radicals and may even be considered a super antioxidant’ [sic] because of the way in which it may support other antioxidants.
The science on this tar-like substance found in the Himalayas is scant. One study found it increased testosterone levels. Another said it might have some benefit in helping control Alzheimer’s, but adds that “more investigations at the basic biological level as well as clinical trials are necessary.” Alex Jones sells it in his Z-Shield drops, with “proprietary science” behind them, saying it defends us from the “toxic substances” that “bombard” us. Over at Moon Juice, it is yet another ingredient in Brain Dust.
Moon Juice: Brain Dust
Brain Dust® is an enlightening blend of adaptogenic superherbs and supermushrooms that help combat [sic] the effects of stress to align you with the cosmic flow for great achievement.
More than four years ago, our team of doctors, chemists, master herbalists and nutraceutical experts set out to develop a toxic metal and chemical defense support formula that didn’t cut any corners. Now, after years of deep research and the development of new proprietary processing technology, our team is proud to announce the launch of Z-Shield: The next big game-changer in the Infowars Life line of super high-quality formulations. Z-Shield is designed to help you fight back with natural ingredients that don’t hold back.
Zizyphus (sometimes referred to as “ziziphus”)
Infowars calls this a “nourishing tonifier” and recommends using it to calm your kids down. Both Infowars and Moon Juice market it as a sedative, though there are “no human studies on the sedative or anxiety-reducing effects of Jujube” (though some studies on rats have shown promise), according to Examine.com, an online encyclopedia that analyzes evidence on supplements. Getting a good night’s sleep may remain a zizyphean task.
Moon Juice: Dream Dust
Dream Dust® is a tranquil blend of adaptogenic superherbs that help combat the effects of stress to soothe your tension for deep, nocturnal rest.
Infowars: Child Ease
Children today live in a stressful world. Over-stimulation can affect their behavior and concentration. Child Ease™ by Infowars Life™ is a special blend of herbs that has been specifically designed to soothe the mind and bodies of children. Our new formula uses soothing botanicals like chamomile, lemon balm, and catnip, with the nourishing tonifiers hawthorn, zizyphus, gotu kola extract, and amla. We have even added additional herbs and key nutrients that have been traditionally used by cultures around the world.
Read next: Not all “wellness” is bullshit