S.F. woman sickened by herbalist’s toxic tea dies

Associated Press

San Francisco — A San Francisco woman who fell critically ill after drinking tea from a Chinatown herbalist has died, while a man who also was sickened has recovered.

The tea leaves bought at Sun Wing Wo Trading Co. contained the plant-based toxin Aconite, the San Francisco Department of Public Health said. Calls to the company’s number rang through unanswered Tuesday.

The woman in her 50s became sick within an hour of drinking the tea in February. She grew weak, then had life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms that required resuscitation and intensive care.

She died in the hospital Saturday.

A man in his 30s had identical symptoms after drinking tea from the same herbalist. He was released from the hospital March 12. Their names weren’t released.

Environmental health inspectors removed the products that sickened the two from the herbalist’s shelves. The health department is working with the owner to trace the source of the contamination and ensure products are safe for future customers, a spokeswoman said.

Aconite, also known as monkshood, helmet flower and wolfsbane, is used in Asian herbal medicines. It must be processed properly to be safe.