Woman Dies After Drinking Contaminated Tea From Chinatown Shop

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.

Another victim, a man in his 30s, has recovered and was released from the hospital on March 12th.

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. Both became critically ill and required resuscitation and hospitalization within an hour of consuming the tea.

Sun Wing Wo Trading Company, the shop that sold the contaminated tea. | Photo: Google Maps

Lab tests confirmed that a plant-based toxin, aconite (which also goes by "monkshood" and many other names), was present in both patients and tea samples. 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.

As we previously reported, environmental health inspectors have removed the products from the store’s shelves, and the business owner is reportedly working with DPH to trace the source of the toxin and make sure that this doesn’t happen again.

A photo of the contaminated tea. | Image: SF DPH

Anyone who experiences symptoms from the tea should call 911 or go the nearest hospital immediately, health department officials said.

Symptoms can include numbness or tingling of the face, mouth or limbs, weakness in the limbs and paralysis, low blood pressure, or other cardiovascular anomalies. They can take over within a few minutes or a couple of hours, depending on the amount consumed.

If you’ve purchased tea from the Sun Wing Wo Trading Company, health officials are asking that you dispose of the products immediately. 

For questions about potential hazards, contact California Poison Control or call 1-800-222-1222.

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San francisco woman succumbs to herbal tea poisoning