Watch above: A young Saskatoon woman died while participating in a cleansing ceremony in Peru last month. Wendy Winiewski tells us its prompting travel warnings from some agencies.
TORONTO – Tragic news of the death of a Saskatoon woman who lost her life while at a rainforest retreat in Peru is leaving family with more questions than answers.
Avid traveller Jennifer Logan, 32, had a “medical reaction” after drinking tea during a ceremony with a shaman.
“We suspect the tea had a role” in her death, Logan’s younger sister, Amy, told the Canadian Press.
She travelled with her mother and other relatives to Peru to receive the victim’s remains. They also met with police officials who said an investigation is underway.
Her cup and the jug the tea was poured from have been seized. Logan was staying at the Canto Luz Centre for two weeks. It’s an all-female retreat.
Here’s what we know about what happened so far:
What is a pulmonary edema?
Initial autopsy results suggest that Logan died of a pulmonary edema. It’s a condition caused by excess fluid in the lungs.
“It means that the lungs are full of water and that’s going to impair a person’s ability to get oxygen from the air they breathe into the blood stream,” Dr. Randy Wax, section chief for critical care at Lakeridge Health in Oshawa, Ont., told Global News.
There are two reasons why this condition would occur. In the first instance, there’s too much liquid in the blood stream that’s then pushed into the lungs. People dealing with kidney failure, who aren’t able to urinate liquid they need to get rid of, and heart failure patients are the most vulnerable.
In the second instance, toxins related to an infection or from ingesting poisonous substances can cause the barrier between blood vessels and the lungs to break down. Your lungs, subsequently, fill with liquid leaking in from your blood stream.
Logan drank a tea meant to provide her with “clarity on her future path.” The teas are designed to induce vomiting, or to purge and cleanse the body.
“The damage the acid and vomit can do to lungs can cause a significant leakage,” Wax explained.
How is a pulmonary edema treated?
It’s pretty common in the emergency room and is easily manageable if treated quickly.
Initial treatment starts with oxygen to compensate for the extra water in the lungs – it opens the lungs, absorbs water and allows oxygen to get in faster. Underlying causes are also addressed. A heart failure patient, for example, would be put on an IV drip. Most patients’ urgent issues could be resolved within 15 minutes, Wax said.
“In many cases, these conditions do resolve with appropriate support depending on where you are and how fast you can get advanced medical support,” he explained.
In Logan’s case, she was taken by motorcycle and boat to hospital from the rainforest. Doctors could not revive her.
What was Logan drinking?
The family is waiting to see if the tea was to blame. The victim’s sister said the retreat made various teas for clients, but on Jan. 17, she consumed the tea that was designed for purging and cleansing.
“The other three women in the group stopped vomiting within 15 minutes…Jennifer didn’t stop and began to panic,” she told the wire service.
Logan passed out. Staff gave her first aid before she was taken to hospital, her sister said.
She notes that the tea was not ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink that has become a tourist draw in the Amazon, but has also been linked to deaths.
An emailed statement from Canto Luz to The Canadian Press called the tea Jennifer Logan drank a “tobacco purge” and described her reaction to it as “extreme and unusual.”
There are a lot of missing pieces, according to Morwenna Given, a Toronto-based medical herbalist.
“We don’t know the lady’s medical history, we don’t know the particular plant,” how long it was steeped or how much she drank, Given said.
“It’s very hard for us to make an assessment.”
She notes that tobacco has high levels of nicotine: “It doesn’t take very much for a plant like this to work…it only takes about 60 milligrams to get a toxic dose. Put it in a pot of tea and it isn’t very much,” she said.
It’s still unknown if Logan was taking other medications, such as prescription pills, that could have led to a negative drug interaction.
“You should never use these substances as a tea…the risks are high and the benefits are low,” she explained.
Tobacco is often used to purify the organs, such as the liver, and the respiratory system, according to websites that promote similar retreats.
“Tobacco is considered one of, if not the most powerful and spiritual of all master plants in the shamanic world. An incredibly potent healing tool, it will cleanse your body not only of physical backlog but also of emotional and spiritual negativity that takes up residence within you,” one website explains.
Given says consumers should be cautious.
– With files from the Canadian Press