I took an herbal remedy for menopause – it made me look like Marge Simpson and I almost needed a new liver
A Pennsylvania mother claims a store-bought herbal remedy to treat menopausal symptoms turned her skin yellow, and she ended up looking like Marge Simpson.
Amber Heimbach, 39, visited her doctor last October, complaining of a number of problems, ranging from mood swings to heavy bleeding.
The Harrisburg resident was offered a prescription, but chose to try physical therapy instead.
“I’m a pretty healthy person, so I didn’t feel ready to do this or take any medication,” Heimbach told Kennedy News.
“I wanted to take the healthy route and see if there were any vitamins or supplements I could take to alleviate some of the side effects.”
The mother of four took to the Internet to do some research, where she read about the supposed benefits of black cohosh, a plant promoted as a nutritional supplement for hot flashes and other menopausal symptoms.
She then purchased black cohosh pills without a prescription from a drug store.
“It was natural and over-the-counter, so I assumed it would be good and at first it made a difference,” Heimbach explained. “I had fewer mood swings. I slept better and had more energy. It worked well.”
However, after six weeks of taking the supplement, the mother began experiencing stomach pain, which quickly worsened. She then noticed that her skin and eyes “looked a little yellow.”
Concerned, she decided to visit urgent care two days later and was told her gallbladder was enlarged and her liver enzymes were elevated.
Less than a week later, Heimbach was admitted to the hospital for further tests.
“They were trying to find out what was happening to me,” the mother claimed. “There was a lot of talk about having a liver transplant and also monitoring my gallbladder. They were more concerned about my liver at this point and that my liver was leaking into my gallbladder.”
“I kept thinking, ‘What is happening to me?’” she recalled. “I’m a very healthy person. I never go to the hospital. I go to the doctor once every five years. It scared me.”
Heimbach told doctors about the natural supplements she had been taking for the past 50 days, and wondered if they had caused her sudden health problems.
“Taking supplements was the only thing I changed or did differently with myself,” she said. “They started doing a little research on the pills and told me how special black cohosh was for them because they had done other clinical studies on how it affects the liver.”
Published study United States National Library of Medicine The NLM reported in 2020 that products labeled black cohosh have been implicated in several cases of liver injury. Its severity ranges from mild elevation of liver enzymes to severe liver failure and death.
2016 report from UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency The MHRA said there was growing concern worldwide about the risk of harmful effects on the liver (hepatotoxicity) associated with the use of black cohosh. The government agency recommended adding warnings about rare adverse reactions to black cohosh products.
Heimbach says doctors felt “pretty confident” that black cohosh was causing her health problems.
After I stopped taking the supplements, my HEMPAK enzyme levels began to return to normal and I was discharged from the hospital.
However, her eyes and skin have not yet completely lost their yellow tinge, much to the amusement of her family.
“The biggest joke is that I looked like the prominent person in the family,” she said, explaining that she maintained her sense of humor amid this frightening ordeal. “Some family members said, ‘Why don’t you get a blue wig? You can be Marge Simpson.’
Heimbach is now on a mission to warn other women about the potential dangers of black cohosh.
“I feel very lucky that I didn’t need a transplant,” she declared. “Any woman considering taking supplements should do their research and consult your doctor. I will never touch them again in my life.”
(Tags for translation) Marge Simpson