Jennifer Logan dies after drinking 'tobacco purge' tea in Peru

Family members of Jennifer Logan, a 32-year-old woman from Saskatoon who died after drinking a tea meant to induce purging at a spiritual retreat in Peru, say they are looking for answers.

Cleansing ceremony at rainforest retreat ends in tragedy for Canadian woman

Staff at a Peruvian jungle retreat said Jennifer Logan had an 'extreme and unusual' reaction after drinking what they described as a 'tobacco purge' tea. (Facebook)

Avid traveller Jennifer Logan had finished a job teaching English to women in Saudi Arabia, and was visiting family back in Canada, when she set off last month for her next adventure in Peru.

She had been gone nine days when staff at a rainforest retreat where she was staying called her parents in Saskatoon to tell them she had died.

Logan's younger sister says they learned that the 32-year-old had a medical reaction after drinking tea during a ceremony with a shaman. She was taken by motorcycle and boat to hospital but doctors could not revive her.

"We suspect the tea had a role" in her death, said Amy Logan, who works in Toronto as an employee of Pagemasters, a wholly owned subsidiary of The Canadian Press.

She recently travelled with her mother and other relatives to Peru to retrieve the woman's remains. While there, the family met with prosecutors and police, who said an investigation was underway. Officers had interviewed centre staff and seized the cup she was drinking and the jug the tea was poured from, Amy Logan said.

Initial autopsy results found she died of pulmonary edema, an accumulation of fluid in that lungs that can cause respiratory failure.

Jennifer Logan is shown in a family photo. Relatives say they are hoping test results will reveal why she died at a rainforest retreat in Peru. (Takumi Furuichi/Canadian Press)

But the family is awaiting further tests in the next few weeks that may show whether the tea was to blame.

An obituary for Jennifer Logan describes how she travelled the world — tutoring sex-trafficked women and girls in Nepal and working on educational programs in India.She had also visited Tibet, Thailand, Europe and Saudi Arabia, it said.

"After graduating from Saskatoon's Aden Bowman Collegiate in 2000, she joined the Katimavik volunteer program. She attended the University of Saskatchewan for one year and then the University of Winnipeg where she completed a BA with honours in geography and international development studies," her family wrote.

"Jennifer loved academia, and moved to Toronto in 2007 to attend York University. She earned her master's degree in geography in 2010," the obituary said. "She focused on Tibetan households in the Parkdale neighbourhood of Toronto for her research."

Intended to cleanse body

In Peru, she had booked a two-week stay at the Canto Luz Centre outside Puerto Maldonado, then planned to meet up with her mother, who would be travelling through the country with friends.

The other three women in the group stopped vomiting within 15 minutes ... Jennifer didn't stop and began to panic.- Amy Logan

Amy Logan said staff at the all-female retreat made various teas for clients and, on Jan. 17, crafted a drink for her sister to give her "clarity on her future path." The teas are designed to make people vomit, or purge and cleanse the body.

"The other three women in the group stopped vomiting within 15 minutes ... Jennifer didn't stop and began to panic."

She then passed out, said her sister. Staff gave her first aid before taking her to hospital.

Amy Logan said her sister was healthy, about 120 pounds, and a vegetarian who did yoga and meditation.

'Extreme and unusual'

Staff at the centre have been kind and apologized, she said. And although the family doesn't want vengeance, they want more answers.

She said the tea was not ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic drink that has become a tourist draw in the Amazon, but also reportedly caused several deaths.

An emailed statement from Canto Luz called the tea Jennifer Logan drank a "tobacco purge" and described her reaction to it as "extreme and unusual."

Its shaman has 20 years of experience, it said, and people are given full disclosure about activities and must provide written consent. It is no longer accepting visitors while it deals with the tragedy.

We "are devastated by this reminder of the power of nature, both for life and death, and the absoluteness of life deep in the Amazon rainforest," the centre said in its statement.

With files from CBC News

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.