Is Tea Healthy? Poison Brew Kills San Francisco Woman In Chinatown

Posted March 21, 2017

A woman who was sickened and left in critical condition after consuming herbal tea from a San Francisco medicinal shop in San Francisco's Chinatown has died, health authorities announced Monday.

Officials said there is no indication that the people were poisoned intentionally. The second victim is said to be a man in his 30s who remains hospitalized after developing weakness and a life-threatening abnormal heart rhythm. One of those who were hospitalized, 56-year-old Yu-Ping Xie, died on Saturday according to The Examiner and the Chronicle's Evan Sernoffsky, via Twitter. Xie and another victim, a man in his 30s, became immediately ill after consuming tea made from leaves bought at the Sun Wing Wo Trading Company, local news reports said.

"Both patients developed symptoms about an hour after consuming the tea", said Dr. Tomas Aragon, health officer for the city and county of San Francisco. The tea blends contained different ingredients that are now being tested.

Investigators found plant-based toxin aconite in tea samples the two provided to the health department. The teas had several ingredients, and the ingredients that were common to both tea mixtures are now being tested.

Health officials are also testing the other ingredients used to make the teas. Also called wolf's bane, helmet flower, "chuanwu", "fuzi" or "caowu", the plant is used in traditional Asian herbal medicine as a treatment for bruises, pain and other physical ailments. "Aconite poisoning attacks the heart and can be lethal".

According to health officials, there is no antidote for aconite.

Health inspectors removed products containing aconite from Sun Wing Wo Trading Company while the merchant worked with the health department to track down the source of the toxin.

It is unclear how the poisonous plant got mixed up with the tea leaves, Kagan said.

The shop's owner is cooperating fully with health department officials as they investigate the poisonings.