A small aircraft in a tailspin and trailing smoke.


Epic fail with the niacinamide experiment

liver damage, niacin, niacinamide

(Updated April 2023.) Niacinamide was the culprit behind my third self-induced toxicity incident, the first two being vitamin A and vitamin B2.

After coming across interesting info about niacin, it occurred to me that I stopped going out in the sun several years ago because a dark red circle would appear around my neck, a classic niacin deficiency sign. Deficiency is also associated with sugar cravings and insomnia, and that was enough to convince me to try it.

Initially promising results

I built up to 2,000 mg/day of niacinamide, which is a version of niacin that doesn’t cause flushing. Things went fine for about two weeks. My abdominal discomfort disappeared and my ruddy skin lightened. I didn’t notice any change in sleep or cravings.

Interesting mental change

The most interesting change was psychological: some internal concept of myself I hadn’t even known existed, much less that it was lacking, was now more fleshed out and solid. In CGI terms, you could say it went from being a wire-frame model to a rendered animation.

Hellacious turn of events

That sensation only lasted about a day before I had to quit the experiment. My hands and feet swelled up, turned yellow and began itching so horribly that before I realized what I was doing I had scratched bloody gouges in them. Tiny, hard bumps could be felt under the skin between the digits. The skin became so thin that my feet were rubbed raw where they rested on the mattress at night. My urine also turned dark brown. Aren’t you glad you started reading this?

“Hmmm,” I thought to myself. “Let’s call that liver damage once and for all.”

Milk thistle helps unbearable itching

The only way to stop the itching was to hold my hands/feet under very cold running water for several minutes. 30 minutes later I’d have to do it again. Finally I dug out the milk thistle, that ancient liver tonic. That stopped the itching in 20 minutes and kept it at bay for several hours. The non-itching periods got longer and longer and finally after three days the symptoms disappeared.

Once again, tests show nothing

My doctor saw me a few days later and said it was an allergic reaction. She did agree to order every type of liver test insurance would pay for, which was a blood panel and an imaging test. The results were normal, as they always are, even that time when I completely stopped sleeping after two months on flucanazole. I suppose I should research these tests to see if there are differing opinions on what “normal” is, but I don’t know where to begin.

Methionine also a winner

In investigating ways to heal the liver I discovered that one of the recommended supplements, methionine, is depleted by niacin. Sure enough, 1500 mg a day helped very quickly. In fact, two days later, my hands and facial skin were looking about five years younger. Eventually I had to cut back to 1000 mg due to sleep issues. I had to stop the milk thistle after a week or so, because of its tendency to lower my iron levels and turn me into a zombie.

No longer sure what happened

I later used niacinamide in 2,000 mg + doses every day for about 18 months for its effect on my skin, with no problem whatsoever. Either my liver had recovered very nicely, or perhaps the niacinamide had released a walloping dose of histamine that first time, and my later iodine experiments reduced my body’s total histamine levels. I do not know.


This content was first published in June 2013 and updated in April 2023.

Marjorie smiling, wearing an orange shirt.

Marjorie R.

Marjorie is the creator of AvoidingRx.com, a record of her and her guest authors’ experiences with non-prescription health solutions. She is a third-generation nutritional-therapy self-experimenter.

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