Heart Beat: Tree of heaven may be hard on the heart

Heart Beat

Tree of heaven may be hard on the heart

Sap from a common, weedy tree known as tree of heaven, Chinese sumac, and stinking sumac (Ailanthus altissima) could cause myocarditis, an uncommon in--flam-mation of the heart.

Doctors at Strong Mem-orial Hospital in Rochester, New York, treated a 24-year-old tree surgeon with myocarditis. He had been clearing an area infested with tree of heaven, and sap from the plants entered his bloodstream through some broken blisters. He fully recovered. According to the man, others in his team also had chest pain and related symptoms.

In a letter to the July 19, 2005, Annals of Internal Medicine, the Strong team suggested that proteins called quassinoids in tree of heaven sap may cause myocarditis.

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