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Liver failure associated with the use of black cohosh for menopausal symptoms

Belal Naser and Eckehard Liske
Med J Aust 2009; 190 (2): 99-100.
Published online: 19 January 2009

To the Editor: The recent case report by Chow and colleagues raises questions about the causal link between black cohosh use and hepatotoxicity.1 The authors state that the patient had no history of “significant alcohol consumption”, but a presumably related adverse drug reaction report available from the Therapeutic Goods Administration reveals her alcohol use was “3–4 units [of] alcohol per day, [with] 1–2 alcohol-free days per week”.2 Alcohol misuse is a known risk factor for severe liver disease, as is gastric bypass surgery for obesity,3 also in the patient’s history. Unfortunately, because histological examination of the liver 6 weeks after first presentation found no recognisable residual hepatocytes, the diagnoses of alcoholic steatohepatitis, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and non-alcoholic steatohepatitis cannot be excluded. Without this, the specific conclusion of the liver biopsy that the “Massive hepatocellular necrosis [was] associated with herbal medication”2 cannot be substantiated.

  • Belal Naser
  • Eckehard Liske

  • Schaper and Brümmer GmbH and Co KG, Salzgitter, Germany.


Competing interests:

We are both employed by Schaper and Brümmer, manufacturer of black cohosh preparations.

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