Cortisol is a powerful hormone that performs many functions in the body including your ‘flight or fight’ response. Although it is a necessary part of our metabolism it is not always in balance.
So which herbal supplements effectively lower cortisol levels?
We take a look at what cortisol is, how it works and which herbal supplements you can take to reduce your levels of cortisol if necessary.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a stress hormone, and it is made and released by the adrenal glands. These glands are situated on the top of your kidneys.
Cortisol is a response to stress in the body, and helps regulate certain bodily functions.
Hormones are chemical messengers that transmit instructions to different parts of your body. Cortisol is a particular type of hormone known as a glucocorticoid which is a steroid hormone.
These control the metabolism in your fat, muscles, bones, and liver. Steroid hormones also affect your sleep-wake cycle and suppress inflammation.
So cortisol is an essential hormone that affects almost every organ and tissue in your body.
How Does It Work In The Body?
Your brain determines how much cortisol you need in your body at any given time.
Cortisol affects the nervous system, as well as the cardiovascular, immune, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and reproductive systems.
It regulates your body’s response to stress, and your metabolism. Cortisol also suppresses inflammation, regulates blood pressure and blood sugar and helps to control your sleep-wake cycle.
Your hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands are all involved in the production of cortisol. For optimal levels of cortisol all of these should be working properly.
The levels of cortisol in the body varies from person to person and from one part of the day to the other. Normal levels are typically between 10 and 20 micrograms per deciliter first thing in the morning.
Later in the day they may be between 3 and 10 micrograms.
Herbal Supplements To Lower Cortisol
If your cortisol level is high there are herbal supplements that you can take to try and lower it. Adaptogens are those plants which help the body to resist stressors whether they are biological, chemical or physical.
This is an Indian herb which is used as a tonic to calm the nerves. For this reason it is sometimes called Indian ginseng.
Ashwagandha brings hormones such as cortisol into balance, and it has long been used to treat anxiety.
In one study, those who were taking ashwagandha had their cortisol levels reduced by 30% when taken regularly for 30-60 days.
It can be taken as a capsule or as a powdered supplement added to food or beverages.
Ashwagandha can be taken as 300 mg capsules twice a day.
Holy basil is also known by the name of tulsi, but it is actually part of the basil family. As such it is an aromatic shrub.
It has been used for centuries to treat many different kinds of stressors, such as psychological, chemical or physical.
Two phytochemical compounds, ocimumosides A and B are found in holy basil, and it is these compounds which reduce cortisol in your body. It can be taken as a supplement or alternatively as a tea.
This herb is particularly helpful in combating stress associated with prolonged exertion. A suggested dose is 600 mg as and when it is needed.
Cordyceps sinensis is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb that has been used for centuries to promote various physical benefits such as stamina.
It has also been linked to protecting against adverse health conditions such as asthma and upper respiratory infections.
For treating high cortisol it can help to regulate the hormone as well as protecting the body against the damage caused by high cortisol levels.
This supplement is not a herb but a parasitic fungus that inhabits caterpillars.
While cordyceps reduces cortisol it also increases two other stress hormones, epinephrine and norepinephrine which are less damaging to the body and shorter lived.
Dosage of cordyceps is dependent on the individual.
Rhodiola rosea is also known as arctic root as it grows in the cold, mountainous regions of Asia and Europe.
This contains a phytochemical called salisdroside which reduces cortisol levels and is derived from the root of the plant.
Unlike some other herbal supplements for high cortisol, rhodiola has an energizing effect which is particularly helpful for those experiencing spiked cortisol from stress or fatigue.
As an anti-anxiety supplement, rhodiola helps to protect against general stressors and suppresses cortisol.
In recent studies, it has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-aging properties. Rhodiola can be taken in capsule, powder or liquid form at a dosage of 200-300 mg.
Bacopa monnieri is a traditional Ayurvedic herb which is both an adaptogen and a nootropic plant.
Nootropics are any naturally occurring or synthetic substance that enhance cognitive function. For example, caffeine is nootropic.
Traditionally bacopa has been used to treat insomnia, anxiety, and fatigue. It reduces stress levels, lowers cortisol and improves mood.
In healthy people who were given a standardized dose of bacopa extract, it reduced cortisol levels and improved both their mood and their ability to carry out mental tasks.
This amino acid is found in black and green tea as well as in some types of dark chocolate. Following research, it was found to blunt cortisol responses and induce a state of calm by lowering cortisol levels.
It may also enhance the effects of caffeine which can allow people to multitask better while also reducing caffeine induced jitteriness.
Most tea will only have 25 mg of L-theanine per cup, but a supplement will contain around 200 mg.
While cortisol is an important hormone and affects most parts of the body an excess can cause health problems.
Herbal supplements can help to lower cortisol levels, but some may work better than others as everyone’s response will be different.
Trying each one individually will help you see which works best for you.
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