Two people are in the hospital fighting for their lives in San Francisco after drinking tea containing a poisonous compound from a Chinatown herbalist.
The tea leaves containing aconite– a toxin derived from the wolfsbane plant– were purchased from Sun Wing Wo Trading Company, the San Francisco Department of Public Health said on Friday (10 March).
A woman in her 30s and a male in his 50s become critically ill within an hour after consuming this tea and are in healthcare facility, authorities said. They showed symptoms including abnormal heart rhythms and were admitted to intensive care.
Health authorities are investigating the source of the tea leaves and have issued a warning to the public not to drink it.
“Anyone who has purchased tea from this area should not consume it and must throw it away immediately,” stated Dr Tomás Aragón, health officer for the city and county of San Francisco. “Aconite poisoning assaults the heart and can be deadly.”
The plant-based aconite was found in lab tests of both patients and the tea samples they provided, health officials said.
“The investigation is just beginning, however we know that the tea in both instances originated from the same place,” said Rachael Kagan, spokesperson for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “And in each circumstances, the person had drank the tea recently.”
Two sickened by tea from Sun Wing Wo at 1105 Grant- if you have tea from them-do not consume.
— SFDPH (@SF_DPH) March 11, 2017
Aconite, also known as Queen of all Poisons, wolfsbane, helmet flower and monkshood, is used in Asian herbal medicines. The roots of the plant contain big amounts of the alkaloid pseudaconitine, which is a deadly toxin.
Symptoms include cardio and gastrointestinal abnormalities, pain and nausea. There is no antidote for aconite poisoning, inning accordance with health authorities.
In Chinese medication, aconite root is usually used in the treatment of acute myocardial infarction induced shock, hypotension, coronary heart disease and rheumatic heart disease.
A UK gardener died after presumably brushing against the lethal flower aconitum. According to a Telegraph report, a pre-inquest hearing was told that Nathan Greenaway died in hospital from multiple organ failure.