Overpriced moisturizers. Acupuncture. Korean sleep masks. European sunscreens. Laser facials. Bags of spinach in smoothies. You name it, I’ve either tried it or it’s currently in my shopping cart on Amazon. Call me a sucker but these kind of products intrigue me.
So naturally, when the internet went crazy a few months ago over the fact that the LA juice brand Moon Juice was selling bottles of various concoctions of dust — blended and dried herbs called Beauty Dust, Sex Dust, Good Night Dust, Brain Dust, Action Dust — for some $60 a pop, my reaction went from "LOL" to "hmmmm."
GOODNIGHTCAP// Our Goodnight Dust has been alchemized with calming herbs to gently and effectively lull you into your naturally inherent nocturnal rhythms. As you slip into deep, sound slumber, all systems are provided a sense of soothing support and emotional calm. True well-being is achieved with regular deep resting. #getdusted #moonfamily
Even though my best friend is studying Chinese medicine, and my mom’s been religious about taking herbal supplements since way before it was considered trendy, I’m not necessarily a practitioner of alternative medicine. It’s not that I don’t subscribe to the belief system — spend enough time reporting on the cannabis industry and you certainly can’t help but feel like there are better options to pharmaceuticals. It’s just that the lack of consistency often leaves me skeptical. And so I watched the Moon Juice wire from afar for a few weeks, going back and forth about whether or not I should make the purchase.
Then a Moon Juice Beauty Dust landed in a gift bag at a Goop skincare event where I made smoothies with Gywneth Paltrow. At the same time, an avid Racked commenter, PamB, pointed me in the direction of a sampler of the Moon Juice dusts selling on the Urban Outfitter’s website (which are now sold out, unfortunately). I ordered a few sets and decided to dive right in. I spent almost three months trying five different dusts on a regular basis, using them at home in smoothies, juices, and in night-time tonics. I took notes as the weeks went on, eager to see progress, although Racked beauty writer and former nurse practitioner Cheryl Wischhover did warn me that the placebo effect is high for an experiment like this.
Unsurprisingly, some dusts had zero affect on me. Others cued noticeable results, so I decided to speak to some professionals in the space. Below, read which dusts worked for me — and which didn’t— and what Chinese medicine has to say about the herbs behind the dusts.
Ingredients: goji, rehmannia, pearl, schisandra, organic stevia
My take: This dust piqued my interest the most— and not just because GP puts it in her smoothie every morning. Moon Juice’s site claims it is a "youth-preserving formula," that yields "glowing supple skin" and "lustrous shiny hair." I put one and a half teaspoons into morning smoothies I made several times a week that consisted of almond milk, banana, coconut oil, and chia seeds. About six weeks into using it, I started getting comments from several friends who said my skin looked different. "Milky," "creamy," and "bright" were just a few adjectives thrown my way. I’m not sure I notice significant results myself but this is an ingredient I’m going to start adding to my breakfast routine on a regular basis now.
A professional’s take: I spoke with Negin Niknejad, a New York City-based herbalist who makes herbal concoctions of her own, as well as Mark Frost, an acupuncturist, herbalist, and professor at the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine at the California Institute of Integral Studies. Niknejad says rehmannia, a popular Chinese herb, is key here because it is used to "purify the blood stream and clean the kidneys." Traditional herbalists often prescribe rehmannia for anemia and various blood deficiencies. "When your blood is clean, your skin is clean," Niknejad says. Frost says that ingredients like goji and pearl make Moon Juice’s Beauty Dust a powerful skin care product. Like rehmannia, Frost says, goji stimulates the body to produce more blood, and is known to help skin look "healthy and moist, especially amongst women."
Pearl, Frost says, is a particularly coveted ingredient in Chinese skincare products and Chinese medicine believes it "stimulates the finest little blood vessels and allow[s] increased circulation at the finest level." Frost will often use pearl with clients to treat eczema and psoriasis, and so he says it’s no surprise Moon Juice is using the ingredient too. Frost adds, however, that seeing skin results from herbs like pearl and rehmannia do not happen overnight, and that you should wait at least two months before looking for results.
Good Night Dust
Ingredients: chamomile, zizyphus, polygala, schisandra, organic stevia
My take: I’ve never had trouble falling asleep, but I’ve also never responded to any herbal supplement promising sleepy results, despite the countless "calming teas" I’ve tried. So I assumed Moon Juice’s Good Night Dust wouldn’t have much of an effect on me. I was wrong.
Each time I tried it, it nearly knocked me out.
I put a teaspoon of this dust into hot water, with a little bit of honey, and each time I tried it, it nearly knocked me out. I was stunned by how my body reacted, and so I tried it in different scenarios — after a very stressful day at work, after a difficult SoulCycle class, after a relaxing weekend at my parent’s house— but the results were pretty much the same every time, with the tonic making me extremely groggy. While I can’t promise this dust will work for you, I can report it beats any Sleepytime tea I’ve ever tried.
A professional’s take: While chamomile, a daisy-like flower, is often found in many teas (and is the main ingredient in Sleepytime teas), Niknejad says zizyphus is the secret ingredient here. It’s calming, soothing effects support the nervous system, Niknejad says. Frost adds that it is one of the strongest herbs in Chinese medicine and is often used as a sedative, and for sleep treatments. Another strong herb in this concoction is schisandra, which is typically used to boost energy levels but also treats anxiety and insomnia, Frost adds, because it targets scattered energy. I’m not quite sure I know what that means, but I’ll take it.
Ingredients: astragalus, lion's mane, shilajit, maca, rhodiola, organic stevia, ginkgo
My take: I had no idea what to expect from this dust, and to be fair, I am still unclear about how one determines whether such an herbal concoction works. The Moon Juice site calls this dust a "mental potion" that has "elite herbs used traditionally by great thinkers and meditators," which would produce "superior states of cognitive flow, clarity, memory, creativity, alertness, and a capacity to handle stress." While I fantasized it would have similar effects to the nootropic drug Bradley Cooper takes in the 2011 thriller Limitless, I also knew such a concept is bullshit. I added this dust to both morning and night-time smoothies but I still can’t confirm or deny if it works. However, if you happen to think my work has seen an outstanding increase in quality over the last three months, feel free to give me a shout out!
A professional’s take: Frost admits it’s impossible to know if any herbs are having positive effects on the brain, although he does believe the herbal makeup for the brain dust is "clever." Niknejad says lion’s mane is an herb that is traditionally used to support memory, and shilajit is an Ayurvedic herb used in Indian tradition to support anti-aging, mentally. Frost adds that the astragalus and rhodiola here promote better circulation and strengthening the cellular level of the mitochondria and neural brain transmitters.
Ingredients: astragalus, ginseng, schisandra, eleuthro, rhodiola, organic stevia
My take: I will admit, it’s hard to know where exactly your energy is coming from when you are ingesting a smoothie with multiple ingredients, including some, that are high in sugar, like fruit. Still, I will attest that this dust had caffeine-like results on me at times when I put one teaspoon in several smoothies.
I’ve never had one of those energy drinks, I imagine this provides a similar sort of pick-me-up.
In one instance, I felt juiced up enough to clean out a kitchen cabinet I’ve been avoiding for the last few months. Whereas I didn’t see effects from the Beauty Dust for weeks, this dust had me feeling results almost instantly. And while I’ve never had one of those energy drinks, I imagine this provides a similar sort of pick-me-up.
A professional’s take: Niknejad says astragalus has powerful properties, that it supports a healthy immune system and is an overall mood stabilizer; Frost calls astragalus "the energy tonic of Chinese medicine." The other powerful ingredient in here, Frost says, is rhodiola, an herb known to stimulate muscles after exercising. He says the herb is often prescribed to recovering athletes, and believes it can strengthen adrenal functions for immediate and long-term energy.
Ingredients: ho shou wu, cistanche, cacao, shilajit, maca, epimedium, schisandra, organic stevia
My take: I was the most excited for this dust (no pun intended) and when I told my husband I would be dosing our morning smoothies with some Sex Dust, he half-jokingly asked if he should be worried about walking around work with a giant erection. Moon Juice’s site says this dust will "ignite, excite, and cultivate the sexual flow in both men and women." Sadly though, we did not feel any of this dust’s promised aphrodisiac effects. I’ll keep this PG and just share that after several weeks of using the dust on a regular basis, no progress was made (beyond the regular magic, of course). I’m still using the Sex Dust but once I finish the bottle, I probably won’t order another one.
A professional’s take: Both Niknejad and Frost was surprised to hear I had no news to share about this dust, especially considering its main ingredient, epimedium, is an herb that has a rather hilarious nickname in Chinese medicine: horny goat weed. Said to increase the sensitivity in sexual organs and enhance pleasures, epimedium’s moniker comes from an urban legend: an herbalist visited a farmer in the mountains, and the farmer claimed his goats had an unprecedented amount of kids when they ate this weed. Frost says he prescribes epimedium to clients with a weak erection, or erectile dysfunctions, as the herb is said to increase testosterone levels too. Both ho shou wu and cistanche are hormone-increasing herbs and are said to "directly support the libido," says Frost. Niknejad adds that just the smell of the cacao herb can be an aphrodisiac. Bummer for me, I guess, although crossing my fingers there’s still hope.
After using the dusts for nearly three months straight, and speaking with both Niknejad and Frost, I’ve developed a higher level respect for Moon Juice, and its founder, Amanda Chantal Bacon. Rip on her highly specialized diet all you want, but as Frost put it, "these formulas were put together by someone who had a deep understanding of Chinese medicine."
As for the dusts itself, my favorites were the Beauty Dust and Good Night Dust. Personally, I’d just skip the others, given the rather steep price point and less-than obvious effects. Then again, when I asked around about other people’s takes on the dusts, several friends and coworkers had different opinions. One Racked editor bought the Good Night dust and said she saw zero results; a friend who describes herself as "all in on the wellness scene in LA" says she swears by the Sex Dust. Some beauty vloggers love the Spirit Dust, which I didn’t even bother trying.
When I ask Niknejad about all these discrepancies, she gives me a response I used to despise but now understand a little bit better: "With herbs, everything serves everyone differently, so it really just depends on the person." That is to say, if you like to spend your money on products that give you results one hundred percent of the time, Moon Juice dusts are probably not for you. But if you are interesting in playing around with different herbs, and are willing to spend a little money to see what does and doesn’t work for you, these dusts might be a good place to start.