The San Francisco Department of Public Health confirmed on Friday that two people were hospitalized after they fell critically ill within an hour of sipping a toxic herbal tea.
City public health officials said in a statement that in two separate incidents occurred in February and March, a woman in her 50s and a man in his 30s fell critically sick after they consumed tea made from leaves that they had bought from the Sun Wing Wo Trading Co., an herbalist located at 1105 Grant Avenue in Chinatown.
Both victims experienced life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms which required resuscitation and intensive hospital care. Both remained hospitalized.
Dr. Tomás Aragón, health officer for 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.”
Tea samples tested in a lab revealed the presence of a plant-based toxin, called aconite, which is also known as monkshood, caowu, fuzi and helmet flower.
Aconite has been used in Asian herbal medicines for thousands of years to treat various types of pains. While the herb’s raw flowers are highly toxic, they can be safely consumed if properly processed. No antidote is available for aconite poisoning.