Beta blockers used, but not approved, for stage fright


I've read about a pill to combat "stage fright" symptoms in public speaking or similar situations. It is called "propol-something" and is taken before the event. Do you know what it is and if it works?

You are probably referring to a medication called propranolol (Inderal). This beta blocker is prescribed for problems from high blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms to angina and migraine prevention.

Propranolol and other beta blockers are used clandestinely by many musicians to control stage fright, but the Food and Drug Administration has never approved these drugs for this purpose. There is surprisingly little research on effectiveness and appropriate doses for performance anxiety.

The drugs work by blocking the action of adrenaline, the "fight or flight" hormone. But these prescription medicines may trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals and should be used only under careful medical supervision.

Do sunless tanning products protect the skin from ultraviolet light? Are these products safe?

Sunless tanning products have evolved to produce a natural-looking tan. They are safe for the skin but provide no protection from the sun. You will need a sunscreen to keep from burning.

What is the latest research on the benefits of blueberries? I saw a doctor on Larry King Live discussing his book on this topic, but unfortunately, I fell asleep.

Blueberries have more antioxidant activity than most other fruits and vegetables. Animal studies have shown that these compounds appear to improve learning and memory in aging lab animals. Muscle strength and coordination also benefit. No one knows, though, whether blueberries will turn out to be as helpful for humans.

I have a new use for Vicks VapoRub. It keeps ants away from my hummingbird nectar feeder! I put Vicks on the wire hanger [of the feeder], and those ants don't even go near. They turn back at least 8 to 10 inches from the wire hanger. Of course, this isn't a medicinal use for Vicks, but some of your readers might have hummingbird feeders.

Camphor, eucalyptus and menthol, which provide the distinctive smell of Vicks VapoRub, are probably responsible for repulsing the ants. Others have told us that Vicks keeps squirrels away from bird feeders. It has also been used for mosquito bites, headaches, paper cuts, nail fungus and coughs.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site:

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