Originally created 02/16/99

Drug interaction may be deadly



Q: I saw a story on television about a person who fell into a coma after combining kava with Xanax. I am very concerned about this because my niece's doctor recently prescribed Xanax for her nerves. She occasionally takes kava to help her get to sleep. I have asked her to stop taking the kava for now, and she has, but her insomnia is back. How serious is this combination?

A: Kava is a root from the South Pacific that has been used for centuries to induce relaxation. This herb has become very popular in this country for relieving anxiety and insomnia.

Kava may interact with other sedative medications. The show you saw on TV might have been Dateline NBC. It described the experience of a man who took kava and Xanax and ended up in the hospital in a coma-like condition. Fortunately, he recovered, but we would hate to see something like that happen to your niece. Tell her not to mix kava with alcohol or prescription drugs for anxiety.

Q: For several years, my wife suffered with gum disease. Her gums hurt constantly, and she got her teeth cleaned three times a year to try to combat the pain.

Occasionally, she would get toothaches, and the dentist would take X-rays. But although suspicious shadows appeared in different places in her mouth, there was never one particular tooth identified as the cause of the problem.

You suggested that taking Coenzyme Q10 might help her. Within two weeks of starting on 50 milligrams of the substance each day, her gums stopped hurting. She went back to having her teeth cleaned only twice a year and no longer has any mysterious toothaches. She has remained pain-free for over a year and a half.

While this is not scientific proof that CoQ works for gum disease, we thought our experience might benefit someone else.

A: Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like compound that plays a vital role in many biochemical reactions. It has a reputation for being helpful in periodontal disease as well as for congestive heart failure. We are delighted your wife got such great benefit.

Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of Graedon Enterprises, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. Send e-mail via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.com.