Two San Francisco residents - a man in his 50s last month and a woman in her 30s this month - fell critically ill and was hospitalized after consuming herbal tea from the same Chinatown herbalist in San Francisco. She grew weak, then had life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms that required resuscitation and intensive care.
A 56-year-old San Francisco woman died after drinking tea made from leaves sold by the Sun Wing Wo Trading Co., an herbalist at 1105 Grant Ave.
The man recovered from the poisoning and was released from the hospital on March 12. A man in his 30s also became sick from drinking the tea and was hospitalized, but survived. The woman remained critically ill and died in the hospital on March 18.
Investigators say the poisonous ingredient is called aconite, which is derived from the helmet flower or plant commonly called "Monkshood".
As we previously reported, environmental health inspectors have removed the products from the store's shelves, and the business owner is reportedly working with DPH to trace the source of the toxin and make sure that this doesn't happen again. Both people drank tea that was mixed in the store from several different ingredients, authorities said, adding that the shop was cooperating with the investigation.
Common ingredients in the teas are now being tested. However, the flowers were usually safe when processed. As Drugs.com explains, Aconite has been used both as a homeopathic medicine and a poison for centuries, with its medicinal use as an extract for reducing fever, treating pneumonia and croup, and for its sedative powers.
As city health officer Dr. Tomás Aragón said the other week, "Anyone who has purchased tea from this location should not consume it and should throw it away immediately".