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Herb interaction could lead to coma


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 television 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 comalike 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. I have alopecia areata. A friend heard a discussion on your radio show about a successful treatment for this condition. I have tried most of the usual drugs, but I still have big bald spots. Is there something new? I would greatly appreciate getting this information.

A.Alopecia areata, sudden unexplained hair loss on parts of the scalp, may be an autoimmune disorder. It can clear up on its own, but it is a challenge to treat.

Last year researchers published results from an investigation in the Archives of Dermatology (November 1998). Although their study is recent, the agents they used are centuries old.

They mixed essential oils of cedar, rosemary, lavender and thyme in an oil base and had the patients apply it to their scalps. Almost half of the people using the essential oils had documented hair growth, compared with only 15 percent of those using the oil base alone. It is tantalizing that one man had male-pattern baldness as well, and noted some hair regeneration in those bald areas, too.

Write to the Graedons in care of The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278, or e-mail to

Pub Date: 02/22/99

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