Q. I love acting but I suffer from stage fright. My doctor prescribed propranolol to ease my anxiety during a play.

Fortunately, I experimented during the final days of rehearsal. The first night, I couldn’t remember where I put my clothes during a scene change. The second night, I couldn’t recall my lines. It was a very strange and frightening experience.

Instead, I took Benadryl an hour before going on stage, and it took the edge off my anxiety.

A. Benadryl (diphenhydramine) is not an ideal solution for stage fright. This antihistamine can be very sedating and might interfere with your best performance.

Propranolol (Inderal) and other beta blocker heart medicines like atenolol (Tenormin) and metoprolol (Toprol) have been used for years by professional golfers and musicians to steady their nerves and hands. The PGA banned beta blockers in 2008 as part of its antidoping policy.

Another option for performance anxiety is cognitive behavioral therapy. Readers of this column report the herb valerian also can be quite helpful: “I am a professional singer, and my daughter does public speaking for her job. We both swear by valerian. It does the trick for nerves if you take it 15 minutes prior to performing or taking the podium.”


Q. I am 69, and my sister is 71. We don’t remember ever having chickenpox. I have asked two doctors if you can get shingles if you never had chickenpox. I got two different answers. The same thing happened with two pharmacists. Please break the tie. We’re trying to decide if we should take the shot or not.

A. If you really never had chickenpox as children, you can’t get shingles as adults. The virus that causes chickenpox (Varicella zoster) lingers in the body and can crop up later in life as painful blisters called shingles.

Although it’s rare, adults can catch chickenpox, either from an infected child or directly from skin contact with someone who has shingles blisters.

Even for people who are susceptible to shingles, the vaccine (Zostavax) is not foolproof. Studies show that it reduces the risk by about 55 percent (Journal of the American Medical Association, Jan. 12, 2011).

A reader points out what this means in practical terms: “Getting the shot does not guarantee that you will not get shingles. I had shingles years ago and got the shot when it first came out. I had shingles again two years ago.”


Q. My mother has been sending me newspaper clippings with your remedies for years. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t keep all of them. Now she is desperate for the grape-juice-and-pectin remedy to ease arthritis and lower cholesterol. She also wants the power-pudding recipe for constipation. I sure hope you can help me out!

If you have a book with all these remedies in one place, it would make a great present for Mom.

A. You are in luck. “The People’s Pharmacy Quick and Handy Home Remedies” is a 264-page collection of our favorite recipes and remedies, including the ones your mother has requested. It is available ($16.95 plus $4 s/h) online at or from Graedon Enterprises, Dept. QHHR, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027.

There are several variations of the pectin-and-grape-juice remedy. One calls for 2 teaspoons of liquid plant pectin in 3 ounces of grape juice.


Q. I take a multivitamin after breakfast. I notice that my urine turns bright yellow for several hours afterward. What causes this change in color, and is it dangerous?

A. Riboflavin (vitamin B-2) can color urine an almost fluorescent yellow. It is not dangerous.