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Woman, 56, dies after drinking toxic tea from SF Chinatown shop

21 March 2017

The Department of Public Health announced today that a woman who became critically ill after consuming a toxic herbal tea blend purchased in San Francisco died over the weekend.

Bay Area reports a man in his 50s and a woman in her 30s were also sickened and hospitalized recently after consuming tea from the same Chinatown herbalist, Sun Wing Wo Trading Company.

The incidents took place separately in February and March, when the victims drank different herbal tea blends purchased at Sun Wing Wo Trading Company (1105 Grant Ave.) in Chinatown.

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"Each quickly developed weakness, and then life-threatening abnormal heart rhythms, requiring resuscitation and intensive hospital care", San Francisco Department of Public Health officials said.

The culprit was a plant-based toxin called Aconite or Aconitum, a.k.a. monkshood, wolf's bane, devil's helmet, or blue rocket.

The shop's owner is cooperating fully with health department officials as they investigate the poisonings. One of those who were hospitalized, 56-year-old Yu-Ping Xie, died on Saturday according to The Examiner and the Chronicle's Evan Sernoffsky, via Twitter.

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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". The teas had several ingredients, and the ingredients that were common to both tea mixtures are now being tested.

In traditional Chinese medicine, the roots are used only after they are processed to reduce toxicity, according to the journal.

Individuals who consumed the tea and have not had any symptoms are safe, but should not consume it anymore.

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