Herbal remedy warn: Woman in life-threatening state after insomnia remedy tea mix-up

Herbs and Helpers

A WOMAN who erroneously utilized foxglove instead of comfrey leaves to make a herbal tea was rushed to hospital in a life-threatening condition.

Herbal remedy warning: Woman in life-threatening condition after tea mix-up

Writing in the journal BMJ Case Reports, doctors at Kingas College Hospital say the occurrence highlights the need to be aware of accidental ingestion of the foxglove plant in patients who use herbal remedies.

The previously well 63 -year-old woman arrived at the emergency department with symptoms including puke, palpitations, and lightheadedness.

She had no history of heart problems, however, she admitted she had tried a new herbal remedy.

A friend had recommended her the herbal beverage comfrey- Symphytum officinale- to help ease her insomnia.

Herbal remedy: The comfrey plant, pictured, resembles the foxglove

Doctors said the woman had purchased a handful of comfrey foliages from a local marketplace and brewed them into a tea. Her symptoms began several hours later.

Heart monitoring demonstrated an irregular heartbeat, but standard blood tests were normal.

The National Poisons Information Service( NPIS) database did not have an entry for comfrey.

However, the entry for foxglove- Digitalis purpurea- states it may be confused with comfrey herbal tea.

Herbal remedy warning: A limited knowledge of plants can be potentially fatal

The report told: aIn particular during Spring, it is very difficult to distinguish between the thick foliages of comfrey and foxglove.

aThis case illustrates how this subtly can lead to mistaken identity, and near-fatal consequences.

aA quick internet search suggested that the comfrey plant closely resembled the foxglove plant, which contains the organic forms of digoxin and digitoxin- active compounds that are frequently used in the treatment of irregular heart rhythm and heart failure.

Raised digoxin levels confirmed this and the patient was given an antidote.

Comfrey: The redres is sometimes taken for insomnia

After five days of monitoring, her heart returned to normal rhythm and she was discharged from hospital.

The patient was unable to find the original foliages she had purchased in the market but was advised to contact the seller to inform them of the mistake.

aHomemade herbal remedies on the surface may seem harmless, a write the doctors. aHowever, this case illustrates how limited knowledge of plants can be potentially fatal.a

They have also contacted the NPIS to recommend including the risk of accidental ingestion of Digitalis under the entry for comfrey.

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Source: Daily Express

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