The People's Perspective on Medicine

Public Speaking Phobia Dissolves with Herbs

Q. I have been a middle school teacher for 37 years. I have never had a problem speaking to my students or their parents, but otherwise public speaking turns me to Jell-O.

I recently needed to give a speech at my own retirement party. After worrying for a month, I logged on and found an article about valerian and hops. I checked with my pharmacist to make sure there were no interactions with my meds, then went ahead (said some prayers) and took a capsule about 15 minutes before I had to speak.

It was like a miracle–I was able to get up and do a four-page thank-you speech that was actually funny! It just took the edge off and my voice didn’t even waver.

A. Thanks for sharing your story. Valerian is sometimes paired with other herbs such as lemon balm or skullcap to help overcome daytime anxiety. Hops are more often used in the evening to promote sleep.

Another reader shared her success with a valerian and skullcap mixture. She used it to get good sleep the night before a performance and half an hour before it started to calm her nerves.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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As a teacher I was like the one above. I played the piano and dreaded it when doing solo playing. If I was accompanying the choir, band, or a soloist, I was fine. When I went to college I tried to never play. It didn’t always work. While in college, my first semester, I was required to take a public speaking class. As soon as I got in front of the class my hands would sweat so bad the sweat would drop on the floor.
The teacher noticed this and told me to speak about something I really knew about. Since I had just moved to the city from a farm, I spoke about life on the farm. Luckily it was interesting to the class. I got through that. But I always had that phobia about speaking in front of groups.
Throughout my educational career I was required to do a lot of public speaking. No one ever knew how hard it was for me. People would tell me how easily I did it and they wished they could. I wished I had known about some the above remedies then. At that time you gritted your teeth and did it.

Might I also suggest Toastmasters International. It’s a great way to overcome fear of public speaking.

what where the amounts of valerian and hops?

Wish I knew before about this. Thanks.

Please tell us what exactly did you take, Valerian Root or Hops or do the two ingredients come together in one tablet? and what was the dosage or milligram content of what was taken.. Thanks. Mona.

I developed an absolute phobia of public speaking a number of years ago, to the point where it affected even the college major I chose! Once I found that a very low dose of a beta blocker prevented the disabling panic response, I was overjoyed. It’s been life-altering, to the point that public speaking is something I actually enjoy. Also, I found that once I had broken the Pavlovian automatic panic response, I seldom even need to take the beta blockers unless I know I’m going to be in an unusually stressful situation.
The advantage for me of the beta blocker is that it simply prevents my heart from racing (which starts the whole other cascade of reactions), rather than sedating me as a tranquilizer (natural or Rx) would.

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