A woman has died after drinking poisonous tea that she bought from a Chinatown shop in San Francisco. She passed away more than a week after she and another man fell ill after drinking the toxic brew from the herbalist.
The cases prompted the city's department of public health to identify the establishment the tea was bought from and issued a warning for residents not to drink tea bought there.
Poisoned After Drinking Tea
San Francisco health officials on Monday said that 56-year old Yu-Ping Xie died on Saturday after ingesting tea that contains aconite, a deadly plant-based toxin. The tea was made from leaves bought at the Sun Wing Wo Trading Company.
Health officials said that the shop cooperates with the investigation and is helping them to identify the sources of the toxin. The toxic tea was mixed in the store using several different ingredients.
Yu-Ping Xie and the other 30-year-old victim bought different blends of medicinal teas that were put together by the shop for them. Health officials said that since the teas had several ingredients, the ingredients common to both of the mixtures are now being tested.
The San Francisco Medical Examiner said that the two victims experienced weakness and abnormal heart rhythms that require resuscitation within just an hour of consuming the tea. The woman died while hospitalized on March 18 but the man was released after treatment when he recovered from the illness.
Tea is a popular beverage consumed by millions worldwide. Studies have touted the benefits of this brew. A 2015 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition, for instance, found that substances that can be found in tea contribute in maintaining good heart health as people grow older.
A newly published study in the The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, which involved 957 Chinese people who were over 55 years old, also showed that regular consumption of the drink is linked to lower risk for cognitive decline. Carriers of the APOE-e4, who are prone to developing Alzheimer's disease, were also found to benefit from drinking tea regularly.
The Ugly Side Of Tea
Despite associated health benefits, brewed tea may come with ingredients that can potentially make people sick. Earlier studies have shown that tea can contain or absorb toxic compounds such as lead and high levels of heavy metals. Lab tests revealed that the San Francisco woman and the man who fell ill after drinking herbal tea, drank brew with aconite.
Aconite has been used for thousands of years in Chinese herbal medicine. Its flowers are toxic and while they become safe when processed, incidents of food poisoning linked to aconite continue to occur.
Aconite is used to treat pains, bruise, and other conditions but it has fast-acting poison that can cause nausea, inability to move, weakness, breathing problems, and even death.
"It can give them neurological symptoms like tingling; it can also give you nausea and vomiting," said Tomas Aragon, health officer for the city and county of San Francisco. "Aconite poisoning attacks the heart and can be lethal."