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What Are The Best Supplements To Reduce Cortisol Levels?

Isaac Robertson
Published by Isaac Robertson
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: October 4, 2021

Cortisol is a stress hormone produced in the adrenal glands. It affects numerous functions of your body.

Since many clinical trials measure how supplements can affect cortisol levels in athletes, I set out to do extensive research in order to find the best supplement to reduce your cortisol levels.

So, read on to learn about what makes a good cortisol supplement and how one can support your fitness goals and overall health.

Let's begin.

Summary of the Key Findings

  • Several health issues can happen if you’re stressed all the time.
  • There are 6 herbal and 5 non-herbal supplements that can help you lower cortisol levels.
  • You can lower cortisol levels naturally through healthy lifestyle habits and certain nutrients.

What Are The Best Supplements To Reduce Cortisol?

aloe vera leaves, pills, capsules and leaves

While cortisol can help you in stressful situations that require urgent action, health issues such as weight gain, anxiety, and chronic illness may arise when you're constantly stressed out and keep cortisol levels high.

"Cortisol supports overall health. It helps us wake up, gives us energy during the day, and lowers at night to help us sleep and rest." - Yufang Lin, MD, FACP, FAAP (Center for Integrative Medicine, Cleveland Clinic)

Although studies have shown that keeping a healthy diet and lifestyle can control cortisol levels, you can also benefit from taking supplements. When choosing the right supplement for reducing cortisol levels, you can opt for a herbal supplement from adaptogenic herbs or non-herbal ones.

Let's take a look at these dietary cortisol supplements.

Herbal Supplements

1. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)

root and extract of Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, also known as Indian ginseng, poison gooseberry, or winter cherry, is a traditional adaptogenic Ayurvedic herbal remedy that can give an immediate feeling of calmness or the "zen effect."

Numerous analyses confirm that Ashwagandha is a powerful stress-buster, which is why it is widely used to treat anxiety and chronic stress.

One study on 60 chronically stressed individuals showed as much as 30 percent cortisol reduction after taking 200-300 mg of Ashwagandha extract for 60 days, compared to the group that didn't receive Ashwagandha extract [1].

This study proves that an Ashwagandha can be your great option to reduce stress-related depression, anxiety, and insomnia and revitalize your body's homeostatic state.

The best Ashwagandha supplement we've found is from a brand called Nuzena.

2. Arctic Root (Rhodiola rosea)

Rhodiola rosea plant

Arctic root, also known as roseroot and golden root, is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb.

Besides being adaptogenic, it is also nootropic, meaning it can stimulate memory and cognitive ability.

Rhodiola is also known to help reduce cortisol and increase mood-improving brain chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.

Since it is more invigorating than sedating, it makes a better choice for people experiencing stress-related fatigue and mood disorders.

In a clinical trial, researchers reported the positive effects of Rhodiola supplementation in patients with extreme fatigue.

The report showed a significant markdown in cortisol awakening response to stress, reducing the participant's depression symptoms by 50 percent.

Also, it has been reported to enhance dopamine and serotonin sensitivity resulting in better mental performance, focus, and mood.

The best Rhodiola rosea supplement we've found is from a brand called Double Wood Supplements.

3. Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri)

bacopa in a mortar and pestle

Bacopa, commonly called Brahmi and botanically referred to as Bacopa monnieri or Centella asiatica, is a traditional adaptogenic and nootropic Ayurvedic herb used to treat anxiety, insomnia, fatigue, and depression.

It is also known to treat digestive disorders and improve heart and lung functions.

A study suggested that Brahmi may help you alleviate fatigue by lowering your cortisol levels and enhance your mental health by elevating your mood [2].

Ayurvedic medical practitioners continue to use Brahmi for ages to confront other health issues due to its potential benefits in behavioral improvements and oxidative damage prevention.

In a clinical trial, researchers reported the positive effects of Rhodiola supplementation in patients with extreme fatigue.

The report showed a significant markdown in cortisol awakening response to stress, reducing the participant's depression symptoms by 50 percent.

Also, it has been reported to enhance dopamine and serotonin sensitivity resulting in better mental performance, focus, and mood.

The best Bacopa supplement we've found is from a brand called Himalaya.

4. Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba)

Ginkgo biloba leaves

Ginkgo is a popular adaptogenic herb that helps you become more stress-resilient.

Studies suggest that ginkgo increases your body's ability to handle stressors by counteracting the effects of high levels of cortisol and adrenaline.

Although it is one of the most marketed brain supplements, some studies reported that ginkgo offers only a minimal effect to enhance memory or help prevent mental decline with age.

But on a positive note, ginkgo has been shown to effectively improve blood pressure and depression symptoms by lowering stress levels.

The best Ginkgo supplement we've found is from a brand called Nature's Bounty.

5. Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)

bowl filled of Cordyceps

Cordyceps is a combination of a caterpillar and a fungus used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine [3] to increase the body's performance and promote longevity.

Studies have shown that cordyceps have multiple benefits to offer.

Research suggests that cordyceps can help the body stabilize and balance stress hormones when they are too high or too low.

Additionally, it can increase muscle oxygenation needed to boost exercise performance.

Finally, with its anti-aging properties, cordyceps helps the body fight inflammation to manage diseases and treat functional disorders of the body.

Cordyceps is hailed as one of the best dietary supplements that you can combine with other adaptogens to boost your energy and better adrenal function.

The best cordyceps supplement we've found is from a brand called Host Defense.

6. Schisandra (Schisandra chinensis)

bowl filled of Schisandra

Schisandra is a herbal berry-bearing plant traditionally used in Chinese medicine.

It is considered most effective in athletes to improve coordination and endurance because it has been shown to lower cortisol levels only after strenuous physical exertion.

A study on Schisandra supplementation in athletes undergoing heavy physical activity reported a notable decrease in cortisol levels and an evident increase in performance.

However, more clinical trials are needed to confirm its benefits in less physically active individuals.

Finally, with its anti-aging properties, cordyceps helps the body fight inflammation to manage diseases and treat functional disorders of the body.

Cordyceps is hailed as one of the best dietary supplements that you can combine with other adaptogens to boost your energy and better adrenal function.

The best Cordyceps supplement we've found is from a brand called Micro Ingredients.

Non-herbal Supplements

1. Phosphatidylserine

spilled bottle of brown pills

Phosphatidylserine is a natural fatty substance produced in the cells of your body. Its primary action is to help the nervous system transmit signals throughout the body.

Phosphatidylserine is considered a superb supplement to enhance memory and protect the brain from mental decline.

In fact, it is the only approved supplement by the US-FDA for cognitive decline and dementia.

Besides being an excellent brain supplement, Phosphatidylserine is a tried and tested cortisol reducer and performance-enhancer.

It can help you alleviate exercise-induced stress by lowering your serum cortisol and keeping it in balance.

It’s suitable for athletes engaging in moderate to high-intensity exercise who have elevated cortisol.

A clinical trial showed that phosphatidylserine supplementation of 800 mg/d for ten days inhibited the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which significantly reduces cortisol responses to physical activity in men [4].

A good Phosphatidylserine supplement we recommend is from the Double Wood Supplements brand.

2. Fish Oil (Omega 3-fatty Acids)

bottle spilling fish oil supplements

Fish oil is a widely accepted dietary supplement that contains omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, EPA, and DHA to aid different body functions, from cell activity to muscle growth.

In particular, the DHA or Docosahexaenoic acid in fish oil is essential in maintaining normal brain function in adults [5].

Studies suggest that omega-3 can enhance the general mental well-being of individuals suffering from psychiatric disorders such as borderline personality disorder, ADHD, and schizophrenia.

Fish oil helps improve mood disorders by lowering stress response through serum cortisol reduction.

Also, the EPA and DHA in omega-3 supplements promote muscle growth by increasing protein synthesis and lessen post-workout muscle soreness by fighting inflammation.

Some studies also showed fish oil could help manage elevated blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity.

A fish oil supplements we recommend is from the brand Live Conscious called Omegawell.

3. L-theanine

wooden bowl filled with green tea powder

L-theanine is a non-protein amino acid with powerful stress-relieving properties. Primarily found in natural green tea powder, it has been shown to help lower cortisol levels, thus promoting a calming and soothing effect.

A significant number of health enthusiasts regularly consume green tea to better their sleeping patterns, induce relaxation, and lower stress levels.

Also, it is regarded to enhance mental focus and other cognitive functions.

However, a cup of green tea contains only about 25 mg of L-theanine. That's why it's essential to get a higher dose of L-theanine through a supplement.

Also, the EPA and DHA in omega-3 supplements promote muscle growth by increasing protein synthesis and lessen post-workout muscle soreness by fighting inflammation.

Some studies also showed fish oil could help manage elevated blood sugar levels by improving insulin sensitivity.

A good L-Theanine supplement we recommend is from a brand called Nutricost.

4. Prebiotics

pink capsules on a pink background

Prebiotics are dietary insoluble fibers that feed the good symbiotic bacteria in your gut.

Moreover, adequate prebiotic intake resulting in a balanced microbiome has been shown to lower stress response in healthy individuals.

Simply put, when the pathogenic and symbiotic microbiota in your gut is in harmony, your brain is relaxed, resulting in hormonal balance.

In one study conducted, forty-five individuals were given two different prebiotic supplements for three weeks and reported a significantly reduced salivary cortisol awakening response [6].

Researchers confirmed that prebiotics balance the presence of gut microbiomes that affect brain activity and blood cortisol levels.

A good prebiotic supplement we recommend is from the brand 1MD, and it's called PrebioMD.

5. Vitamins, Minerals

different stack of vitamin pills

It is vital to satisfy your nutritional needs to prevent the life-threatening effects of long-term stress.

And one can always benefit from a high-quality source of vitamins and minerals.

Research says Vitamins C and B vitamins such as Folate (B9) and Cobalamin (B12) effectively reduce cortisol after prolonged physical exertion.

Some studies suggest that taking a multivitamin supplement with Zinc may inhibit the release of cortisol. Thus, helping the body reduce cortisol production.

Also, some multivitamin supplements are low in magnesium. That's why taking a separate supplement for magnesium [7] is vital for lowering stress levels.

While some studies support the relaxing effect of this anti-anxiety mineral, other studies show variable results for magnesium in lowering cortisol levels depending on physical activity.

Also, researchers suggest that magnesium may regulate cortisol release, thus increasing and decreasing it when needed.

Here are the best multivitamin supplements:

Can You Reduce Cortisol Levels Naturally?

sleeping male on bed hugging a pillow, and a woman in a lotus pose outdoors

Yes, you can reduce cortisol levels naturally.

Health experts suggest that supplements may offer a minimal benefit compared with life-long lifestyle and diet changes.

Here are some recommended lifestyle changes to lower cortisol:

Relaxation and Meditation practices

Studies suggest that mindfulness meditation is crucial in stress reduction, thus preventing, managing, and treating stress-induced diseases resulting from elevated cortisol levels can be achieved [8].

Improve Sleep

Regular sleeping habits can significantly reduce levels of stress hormones and contrastingly increase them in the blood with prolonged sleep deprivation.

Physical activity

Regular exercise can lower adrenaline and cortisol levels by stimulating endorphins, the chemicals in the brain that naturally make you happy.

Here are some recommended dietary changes to reduce the stress hormone:

High fiber intake

Regular intake of refined sugar may result in high cortisol levels. However, getting a high fiber-rich, complex carb diet can help you boost your gut health, mental functions, and hormonal balance.

Dark chocolate

Researchers found that eating dark chocolate each day for two weeks can reduce cortisol and catecholamines in chronically stressed individuals.

Turmeric

Curcumin, the other term for turmeric, has a positive effect in treating depression and anxiety because it can elevate neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which are both potent antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances.

Are You Going To Try These Cortisol Lowering Supplements?

Research suggests that both herbal and non-herbal supplements are effective in reducing cortisol levels.

While natural herbs may appear to be the most effective way to help you become more resilient to any stressful situation, non-herbal supplements can improve adrenal dysfunction to turn your fight-or-flight response to rest-and-digest mode.

Choosing the most effective supplement may depend on your personal needs, preferences, and current health conditions, so getting medical advice is recommended.

Loading up with the best supplements to reduce cortisol can be a great start. However, it's crucial to understand that supplements alone cannot manage stress and lower cortisol.

Consuming them in conjunction with a healthy diet, consistent workout, and adequate quality sleep can be the fastest and safest way to lower and balance your cortisol.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3573577/
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23788517/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3121254/
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1325348/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10479465/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4410136/
  7. https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/what-vitamin-should-i-take
  8. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23724462/

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