May 28, 2017

Herbal Tea Poisons Two San Francisco Residents

Two residents of San Francisco were sickened by drinking an herbal tea that contained Aconite, a lethal poison, according to the San Francisco Department of Health. The patients are critically ill and were still hospitalized as of March 10, 2017.

Herbal Tea

One of the patients, a women in her 50s, and the other, a man in his 30s, got sick in separate incidents in February and March of this year. They drank tea made from leaves supplied by the same San Francisco herbalist. Each developed weakness, then life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms, requiring resuscitation and intensive hospital care. Aconite was found in the lab tests of the patients and the tea samples they provided.

The tea leaves were purchased at the Sun Wing Wo Trading Company at 1105 Grant Avenue in Chinatown in San Francisco. The Health Department’s environmental health inspectors are removing the products the two patients drank from the shelves. And the Health Department is working with the store’s owner to trace the source of contamination.

Dr. Tomas Aragon, Health Officer for the City & County of San Francisco said, “anyone who has purchased tea from this location should not consume it and should throw it away immediately. Aconite poisoning attacks the heart and can be lethal.”

If you have purchased tea from that store and drank it, and experienced no symptoms, you should be fine. But don’t drink any more of it. If you do drink the tea and experience those symptoms, call 911 or immediately go to the nearest hospital.

Symptoms of Aconite poisoning include sensory abnormalities such as numbness or tingling of the face, mouth, or limbs; weakness in the limbs; and paralysis. Cardiovascular abnormalities include dangerously low blood pressure, palpitations, chest pain, slow or fast heart beat, or irregular heartbeats that can lead to sudden death. And gastrointestinal abnormalities include nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhea.

There is no antidote for Aconite poisoning. Aconite is also called monkshood, helmet flower, wolfsbane, “chuanwu,” “caowu,” and “fuzi,” and is used in Asian herbal medicine to treat pains, bruises, and other health conditions. Raw Aconite roots are toxic but are used only after adequate processing.

If you have questions, you can contact the California Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.

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