Herbal tea poisoning suspected in Chinatown

Two people became critically ill after drinking herbal tea that was purchased at a Chinatown store, officials with the San Francisco Public Health Department said Friday.

The victims, a woman in her 50s and a man in his 30s, both were hospitalized in separate incidents that occurred in February and March, according to health officials.

The tea was made from leaves purchased at the Chinatown business Sun Wing Wo Trading Company, located at 1105 Grant Avenue.

Within an hour of drinking the tea, the victims suffered from weakness and life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms, requiring resuscitation and intensive hospital care.

Lab tests found that the tea contained Aconite, a plant-based lethal poison, health officials said.

Health department officials have removed the product from the store’s shelves and are working with the store’s owner to trace the source of contamination.

“Anyone who purchased tea from this location should not consume it and should throw it away immediately,” San Francisco Health Officer Dr.

Thomas Aragon, MD said in a statement. “Aconite poisoning attacks the heart and can be lethal.”

Individuals who consumed the tea and have not had any symptoms are safe, but should not consume it anymore. Anyone who experiences symptoms from the tea should call 911 or go the nearest hospital immediately, health officials said.

Symptoms can take over within a few minutes or a couple of hours and can depend on the amount consumed, according to health officials.

Symptoms include sensory abnormalities such as numbness or tingling of the face, mouth or limbs, weakness in the limbs and paralysis.

Cardiovascular abnormalities such as low blood pressure, palpitations, chest pains, slow or fast heartbeats, as well as irregular heartbeats, which can lead to sudden death, may also be experienced, in addition to gastrointestinal abnormalities, such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and diarrhea.

There is no antidote for Aconite poisoning, according to health officials.

Aconite is also called monkshood, helmet flower, wolfsbane, “chuanwu,” “caowu,” and “fuzi,” and is used as a remedy in Asian herbal medicine for bruises, pain and other conditions. Raw aconite roots are generally toxic but may used after adequate processing, health officials said.