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I took a herbal remedy for menopause — it left me looking like Marge Simpson and almost needing a new liver

A woman taking a selfie with Liz Ellis, Liz Ellis detected in the picture.
A woman taking a selfie with Liz Ellis, Liz Ellis detected in the picture.

D’oh!

A Pennsylvania mom claims a store-bought herbal remedy for menopause symptoms turned her skin so yellow, she wound up looking like Marge Simpson.

Amber Heimbach, 39, visited her doctor last October, complaining of a number of issues, ranging from mood swings to heavy bleeding.

The Harrisburg resident was offered prescription medication, but opted to try a natural remedy instead.

“I’m a pretty healthy person so didn’t feel ready to do that or go on any medication,” Heimbach told Kennedy News.

“I wanted to go down the healthier route and see if there were any vitamins or supplements I could take to ease some of my side-effects.”

The mom-of-four took to the internet to do some research, reading about the supposed benefits of black cohosh, a plant promoted as a dietary supplement for hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.

She subsequently purchased black cohosh pills over the counter at a drug store.

A Pennsylvania mom says a store-bought herbal remedy she used to treat her menopause symptoms made her skin so yellow that she was left looking like Marge Simpson. KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach
A Pennsylvania mom says a store-bought herbal remedy she used to treat her menopause symptoms made her skin so yellow that she was left looking like Marge Simpson. KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach
Heimbach informed doctors about the natural supplement she had been taking for the last 50 days, wondering whether that could have caused her sudden health issues. KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach
Heimbach informed doctors about the natural supplement she had been taking for the last 50 days, wondering whether that could have caused her sudden health issues. KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach

“It was natural and over-the-counter, so I presumed it would be fine and initially it did make a difference,” Heimbach explained. “I had less mood swings. I was sleeping better and I had more energy. It was working well.”

However, after six weeks of taking the supplement, the mom started experiencing stomach pains, which quickly worsened. She subsequently noticed her skin and eyes “looking a bit 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 a hospital for further testing.

After six weeks of taking the supplement, the mom started experiencing stomach pains, which quickly worsened. She subsequently noticed her skin and eyes “looking a bit yellow.” KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach
After six weeks of taking the supplement, the mom started experiencing stomach pains, which quickly worsened. She subsequently noticed her skin and eyes “looking a bit yellow.” KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach

“They were trying to figure out what was happening to me,” the mom claimed. “There were a lot of conversations about getting a liver transplant and also keeping an eye on my gallbladder. They were more concerned about my liver at this point and that my liver was seeping over into my gallbladder. “

“I just 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 was scaring me.”

Heimbach informed doctors about the natural supplement she had been taking for the last 50 days, wondering whether that could have caused her sudden health issues.

“Taking the supplement was the only thing I’d changed or done differently with myself,” she said. “They started doing a bit of research about the tablets and told me about how black cohosh stood out to them because they have done other clinical studies of how it affects the liver.”

I just kept thinking ‘What is happening to me?'” the mom recalled. “I’m a very healthy person, I never go to hospital, I go to the doctor once every five years. It was scaring me.” KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach
I just kept thinking ‘What is happening to me?'” the mom recalled. “I’m a very healthy person, I never go to hospital, I go to the doctor once every five years. It was scaring me.” KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach

A study published by the United States National Library of Medicine (NLM) in 2020 stated that products labeled as black cohosh have been implicated in many instances of liver injury. The severity ranges from moderate elevations in liver enzymes to acute hepatic failure and death.

A 2016 report from the UK Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) said there has been a growing concern worldwide about the risk of adverse effects on the liver (hepatotoxicity) associated with the use of black cohosh. The government agency recommended that warnings regarding rare adverse reactions should be added to black cohosh products.

Heimbach says doctors were left feeling “pretty confident” that the black cohosh was causing her health issues.”

After she stopped taking the supplement, Heimback enzyme levels began to return to normal and she was released from the hospital.

“The big joke was that I looked like the highlighter in the family,” she said, showing she has kept her sense of humor amid the scary ordeal. “Some family members said ‘Why don’t you get a blue wig? You could be Marge Simpson’,'” KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach
“The big joke was that I looked like the highlighter in the family,” she said, showing she has kept her sense of humor amid the scary ordeal. “Some family members said ‘Why don’t you get a blue wig? You could be Marge Simpson’,'” KennedyNews/AmberHeimbach

However, her eyes and skin are still yet to completely lose their yellow tinge, much to the amusement of her family.

“The big joke was that I looked like the highlighter in the family,” she said, showing she has kept her sense of humor amid the scary ordeal. “Some family members said ‘Why don’t you get a blue wig? You could be Marge Simpson’,'”

Heimbach is now on a mission to warn other women about the potential perils of black cohosh.

“I just feel so blessed I didn’t need a transplant,” she declared. “Any woman considering taking supplements, do your research and consult with your doctor. I’ll never touch it again in my life.”