Ways to calm down and speak right up


Q. I hope you can help me, because my career is on the line. I was recently promoted to a position that requires me to make periodic presentations to our senior staff and to other organizations.

The problem is that public speaking makes me very nervous. My doctor prescribed Xanax to calm me down. It does relax me, but during my last presentation I forgot the name of a team member I was introducing. It was incredibly embarrassing, and I fear my memory is getting worse. I have also had panic attacks for the first time in my life and wonder if they are linked to Xanax.

A friend told me you wrote about a natural remedy for stage fright. Please tell me about it.

A. Xanax (alprazolam) has been associated with forgetfulness. Although Xanax is sometimes prescribed for panic attacks, stopping the drug suddenly can trigger anxiety or panic. Taking it intermittently as you do might lead to such a withdrawal phenomenon.

One reader told us about an herbal concoction that works for her. The day before the event, she takes valerian and skullcap tinctures. She puts them in cranberry juice to make them palatable. Then, half an hour before the performance, she takes a smaller booster dose and spends 15 minutes meditating.

Valerian and skullcap were used together in traditional medicine to calm the nerves, though modern research suggests most of the efficacy may be attributed to valerian. You will have to experiment to see whether this approach helps you. You could also join Toastmasters, an organization that provides public speaking experience in a supportive environment.

Q. What's the story on Cholestin? I have been taking this dietary supplement to lower my cholesterol naturally. My doctor is pleased with the results but doesn't know anything about this stuff.

A. Cholestin comes from red yeast rice. It has been used for thousands of years in traditional Chinese medicine.

Chemical analysis revealed that Cholestin contains lovastatin, the cholesterol-lowering agent sold as the popular drug Mevacor. The FDA has recently classified Cholestin as an unapproved drug and banned importation.

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

Pub Date: 6/14/98

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