The health officials are requesting consumers who bought the Sun Wing Wo Trading Company tea to dispose it. Both victims became weak and suffered abnormal heart rhythms that required resuscitation.
Investigators found the plant-based toxin aconite in tea samples the two provided to the health department. When the plants' roots are prepared and processed correctly, the toxin can be used as remedy for pain and bruises, DPH explained in a press release issued today. The product was immediately removed from store shelves and are continuing to trace the origin of the poison.
The tea leaves were purchased at the Sun Wing Wo Trading Company at 1105 Grant Avenue in Chinatown in San Francisco.
The identity of the woman, who was in her 50s, has not been publicly released.
San Francisco health officials encourage anyone who purchased tea from the Chinatown location to stop consuming it. 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.
Once it is consumed, symptoms occur within a few minutes or up to a couple hours, depending on the amount ingested.
At the moment, doctors and healthcare providers do not have an antidote to aconite poisoning. Some symptoms are: paresthesia and numbness of face or limbs; muscle weakness; hypotension; chest pain; palpitations; ventricular tachycardia; nausea; vomiting; and abdominal pain.
Aconite is also known as monkswood, helmet flower and wolfsbane, according to NBC Bay Area. "And that's really sad". Liu said chances were that shop assistants mistook the ingredient containing aconite for other ingredients; or the herbal suppliers shipped the poisonous ingredients to the shop, or the victims took the poisonous herbal somewhere else.
She stressed that people using using herbal products should get them from trusted companies recommended by health care professionals, who can also give advice on how herbal medicines interact with pharmaceutical medications, she added. News of her death spread quickly in Chinatown, where the two people bought the tea leaves.
The teas were purchased and consumed in separate incidents in February and early March.