From celebrities peddling the latest crazes to holistic promises that skirt around big Pharma, it’s little wonder how the global wellness industry has ballooned to a staggering $4.5 trillion.
But are people actually getting well?
It’s a question at the heart of Netflix’s latest docuseries, (Un)Well.
“The wellness industry is just so enormous, and it’s so unregulated,” says executive producer Erica Sashin. “So the idea of looking at the wellness industrial complex was something we all felt was important to do.”
In six episodes, (Un)Well unpacks essential oils, tantric sex, breast milk for adult health, fasting, ayahuasca, and bee sting therapy, with interviews from the believers, skeptics, scientists, and entrepreneurs entangled within each industry.
(Un)Well covers a broad range of topics and even different use cases for a particular remedy or treatment. For example, in the breast milk episode, there’s one subject who’s drinking it as a nutrimental supplement for bodybuilding and another who’s found it beneficial in fighting prostate cancer.
But across all episodes and use cases, there’s a common thread that runs throughout the wellness industry.
“I think that people become anxious and exhausted and disillusioned with mainstream medicine. Some people have health issues and they’re left without answers or are left without an affordable solution,” Sashin says. “That’s what draws people in. It’s wanting to take control of their own health and looking for answers.”
Sometimes there are promising answers, such as a mother seeing results in soothing her autistic daughter with essential oils. But there are also dead ends to some wellness quests—or even worse, alleged pyramid schemes, sexual assault, or death.
Showing that full scope within each episode was paramount for Sashin.
“There are definitely some dangerous and darker sides to this industry because it’s so unregulated,” she says. “I want to draw attention to the potential benefits, but also the fact that people need to have their eyes open. I hope that [(Un)Well will] spark a conversation.”