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Woman Dies After Drinking Herbal Tea In San Francisco

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Eric Lieberman Deputy Editor
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A California woman died after allegedly drinking herbal tea she bought in the Chinatown neighborhood of San Francisco.

Yu-Ping Xie, 56, was sent to a nearby hospital Saturday after ingesting the drink, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

She is the second person to be severely sickened by the beverage, after a man was also poisoned and hospitalized, according to officials.

“In separate incidents in February and March, a woman in her 50s and a man in his 30s became critically ill within an hour of drinking tea made from leaves supplied by the same San Francisco herbalist,” reads a press release from The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPA). “Each quickly developed weakness, and then life threatening abnormal heart rhythms, requiring resuscitation and intensive hospital care. A plant-based toxin, Aconite, was found in lab tests of the patients and the tea samples they provided.”

The tea comes from Sun Wing Wo Trading Co., just one of the many little oriental shops and bodega-esque stores that offer foreign products, like herbal remedies, within the area. The San Francisco Chinatown area is reportedly the largest and oldest Chinatown in North America.

The San Francisco Department of Public Health says that it has since removed the potentially toxic product from the shelves.

“Anyone who has purchased tea from this location should not consume it and should throw it away immediately,” Dr. Tomás Aragón, the health officer for the city and county of San Francisco, said in the press release. “Aconite poisoning attacks the heart and can be lethal.”

The National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) says that Aconite is found in the Aconitum species, a plant (usually a root or root tuber) that is extremely toxic.

“Severe aconite poisoning can occur after accidental ingestion of the wild plant or consumption of an herbal decoction made from aconite roots. In traditional Chinese medicine, aconite roots are used only after processing to reduce the toxic alkaloid content,” reads a study published by the NCBI.

At the moment, doctors and healthcare providers do not have an antidote to aconite poisoning.

“I myself even get sick eating at some of the places here,” Chinatown merchant Robert Kinann told ABC7 News. “Getting sick is one thing, dying is another.”

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