What supplements lower cortisol? Unfortunately, the answer may be none.

Many short-term studies of supplements show a transient reduction in cortisol. However, because these studies aren’t long-term, they don’t address years-long health issues.

Also, supplement manufacturing is unregulated. There’s no guarantee that the substance reviewed in those studies is the same as what’s in the bottle you purchase.

Taking a pill means you’ve chosen a short-term cost over a long-term investment. It may yield poor results, and you’ll likely be disappointed.

In this blog post, I discuss cortisol, what supplements lower cortisol (or don’t), and how you can successfully regulate your cortisol naturally.

What Is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a stress hormone your adrenal glands release when they receive a signal from your hypothalamus. This process is part of your fight-or-flight response.

There are times when your body rests, digests, or reproduces. Other times, when you enter “fight-or-flight” mode, your body is triggered to release adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and cortisol.

These chemicals pulse through the bloodstream, increasing blood glucose and heart rate as they prepare our bodies for action. This hormonal activity can last from a few minutes to several hours.

Among these chemicals is a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine, which also mobilizes the body for physical activity. Cortisol is released from a different part of the adrenal gland than norepinephrine and responds much slower — it can last many hours.

Think of epinephrine and norepinephrine like soldiers stationed at your body’s front lines, ready to fight at a moment’s notice. By contrast, cortisol is on a slow-moving train. As the train brings cortisol to the front lines, it’s unable to take resources to other parts of the body.

When our bodies sustain cortisol over long periods (such as in the case of chronic stress), it hurts almost every other bodily system. From digestion to immune function to reproductive issues, the effects of sustained cortisol are myriad and often dangerous.

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What Supplements Lower Cortisol?

Like you, I’ve seen supplements online that allegedly lower cortisol, such as:

I’m skeptical of these supplements. The more treatments exist to address one health issue, the less likely those treatments are to be effective. If one of them worked, we wouldn’t need alternative options. We’d all use that one treatment.

I’ve also looked into the existing research, and I’m not impressed. As I mentioned earlier, they’re short-term and minimal at best. The best example I could find was a meta-analysis (a review of multiple studies) of ashwagandha. Unfortunately, only seven studies met the criteria for review, and of those seven, only five showed reduced cortisol. There were side effects and uncertain formulation.

The literature is lacking. Sure, supplement manufacturers can say “studies show,” but those studies aren’t high-quality.

The Allure of a Magic Pill

I understand the appeal of a magic pill, and I wish I could prescribe one to my patients. The compulsion to find an easy fix is human nature.

But we’re adults. We’ve lived enough life to realize that’s not how it works. You don’t get anything of value for free. If you want something worth having — long-term health, for example — you’ve got to work for it.

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Stress-Beating Strategies

So, what supplements lower cortisol? Right now, none. Thankfully, there are other ways to lower cortisol.

Stress reduction is the best way to lower your cortisol. That’s much easier said than done, which is why we work with our members to develop personalized stress-management strategies. These strategies may include:

  • Limiting alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine consumption
  • Building community
  • Improving sleep hygiene
  • Exercising regularly
  • Having a purpose

Those are the foundations of a healthy life. But you can’t manage what you don’t measure, so we also recommend tools that monitor your HRV (heart rate variability). Knowing your HRV can help you manage your stress.

As always, we’re here to help you reach peak health. Contact us any time.