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Question: : I am an anxious person and find that I don't handle stressful situations very well. My doctor prescribed Lexapro, but it made me very nauseated. I woke up in a deep sweat with my heart racing.

Are there natural alternatives?

Answer: : Lexapro can cause nausea, sweating and palpitations. Drowsiness, headache and sexual difficulties also have been reported.

Physicians used to rely on a category of medications called benzodiazepines, which includes drugs like Ativan (lorazepam), Valium (diazepam) and Xanax (alprazolam). These medications can help reduce anxiety, but they also can be habit-forming.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is one approach that does not require medications. Herbs such as valerian and passionflower have sometimes been used to help control nervousness.

Question: : I took bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) to handle my horrible hot flashes. After taking it for three months, I started having pains in my breasts. A mammogram did not show any problems, but the recommendation was made that I stop taking the compounded HRT. The pain went away when I did so.

I did feel better while on BHRT. My doctor told me, though, that even compounded bioidentical HRT still counts as hormone treatment.

Answer: :: For more than 50 years, physicians prescribed hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms with the expectation that it would protect the cardiovascular system and the bones. The Women's Health Initiative in 2002 revealed that HRT could increase the risk for heart attacks, strokes and breast cancer.

Bioidentical hormone therapy has not been subjected to the same scrutiny as the WHI, so its long-term safety is still a question. Data from the WHI show that women who experienced breast pain or tenderness while taking HRT were at substantially higher risk for invasive breast cancer (Archives of Internal Medicine, Oct. 12, 2009).

Question: : When I read your column about gin-soaked raisins, I recalled a similar remedy I used several years ago. The man who told me about using gin-soaked raisins for tendinitis also said that, according to his own doctor, apple-cider vinegar worked just as well as gin. I think people who are not drinkers would like this alternative.

The recipe I used very successfully to treat my tendinitis was golden raisins soaked in a combination of 2 parts apple-cider vinegar and 1 part honey. Cover and soak for three days, and take about 10 raisins a day. The tendinitis gradually disappeared.

Answer: : Thank you so much for offering this alternative to gin for the raisin remedy.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of this newspaper or e-mail them via their Web site,

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