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7 Supplements to Reduce Cortisol Levels, Say Experts


If you think of your capacity for stress as a cup, everyone has a unique capacity for how full their cup can get before they feel the effects. Managing stress looks different for everyone, though experts agree that we all need good habits around sleep, nutrition, exercise, and mental health care. In addition to lifestyle changes, supplements to reduce cortisol can be a useful tool to help your system to be more resilient to stress.

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What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It plays a crucial role in regulating many of the body’s functions, including metabolism, immune response, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. It also regulates the body’s response to stress. 

Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day, peaking in the morning to help you wake up and declining in the evening to facilitate relaxation and sleep. In terms of stress, the body’s use of cortisol to respond to it is a good thing when it works properly. For example, cortisol can help reduce inflammation temporarily to aid the immune system. But if you’re chronically stressed and cortisol levels remain elevated all the time, instead of fluctuating, that can promote more inflammation and weaken your immune system. 

Chronically elevated cortisol can lead to a range of health problems, including weight gain, high blood pressure, and anxiety.

Symptoms of high cortisol levels

Chronic stress and chronically elevated cortisol can show up in a number of symptoms:

  • Weight gain
  • Elevated blood sugar, which can lead to type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Aches and pains
  • Insomnia
  • Brain fog

Related: 5 Tips to Calm Your Nervous System When You’re Stressed

You asked: What is the best supplement to reduce cortisol?

Along with managing stress through lifestyle habits, there are some supplements to reduce cortisol that are recommended by dietitians and other experts. 

It’s important to note that while these supplements can be effective in managing cortisol levels, they should not be used as a replacement for medical treatment or therapy. Talk to your healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking medication.

1. Ashwagandha

The stress in your life isn’t going to disappear overnight, but there are tools you can use to help your body better manage stress, says Gillean Barkyoumb, MS, RDN. Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that helps improve stress levels specifically related to anxiety. 

“Science supports the stress-reducing abilities of ashwagandha: In one randomized controlled trial, participants showed reduced cortisol levels after taking 250 or 600 mg of ashwagandha extract for 8 weeks. When choosing an ashwagandha supplement, it’s important to make sure it’s from a company with third-party verification to ensure safety, quality, and effective dosage.” She recommends NOW Foods Ashwagandha Stress Relief supplement with 300 mg of ashwagandha extract.

Try it: NOW Foods Ashwagandha Stress Relief, $16.50 for 60 capsules 

2. Relora

Various factors can trigger high cortisol levels, ranging from chronic stress and psychological strain to medical conditions and lifestyle choices, says Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN. 

“Life Extension Cortisol-Stress Balance contains Relora, which is a combination of magnolia and phellodendron bark. Data show that, after four weeks of supplementation of these barks, cortisol levels were reduced to a greater level than those who took a placebo,” Manaker says. “The Relora group also experienced greater perceived stress reduction.” This supplement also contains lychee and green tea, which may help promote lower cortisol levels as well. 

Try it: Life Extension Cortisol-Stress Balance, $27 for 30 capsules 

3. Tulsi 

If oral supplements in pill form aren’t your thing, you might consider a tea instead. Hot tea is well known for its calming effect. “Organic India Tulsi contains an adaptogen that may help the body adapt to stress,” Manaker says. “Some data suggest consistent use of tulsi for eight weeks may result in a reduction in cortisol and perceived stress, among other positive outcomes.”

Try it: Organic India Tulsi, $5.70 for 18 teabags

4, Magnesium + L-theanine + GABA

If a gummy is easier to implement into your routine, you might consider a combination of magnesium, L-theanine, and GABA, as in Herbaland’s Calm Naturally gummy supplement.  “These sugar-free and non-GMO supplements may help support healthy cortisol levels,” Manaker notes. “Past research shows that lower magnesium levels are linked to higher stress levels. In addition, L-theanine is an amino acid that may have positive effects on salivary cortisol levels. Plus, supplemental GABA, or gamma-aminobutyric acid, is a naturally occurring neurotransmitter that helps regulate brain activity, and there is a potential link between supplemental GABA and reduced stress levels.”

Try it: Herbaland Calm Naturally, $24 for 90 gummies 

5. Rhodiola Rosea

A lesser known plant, but still quite powerful for stress relief, is Rhodiola rosea — a medicinal plant with adaptogenic properties. “Research shows that supplementing with Rhodiola rosea reduces morning cortisol levels, which tend to be elevated in people experiencing higher stress levels or burnout,” says Amy Brownstein, MS, RDN. Up to 600 mg daily appears to be safe, but Rhodiola rosea may negatively interact with medications or substances that act as stimulants, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider before adding it into your routine, Brownstein advises.

If you’re interested in trying Rhodiola rosea, she recommends Thorne, which provides 100 mg of Rhodiola extract per serving and is third-party tested. 

Try it: Thorne’s Rhodiola Rosea, $16.15 for 60 capsules

6. Magnesium Glycinate

“Magnesium has been shown to directly regulate cortisol in the body and helps to reduce stress long term by lowering cortisol levels,” says Dr. Christopher Rhodes, PhD. “Magnesium has also been shown to reduce anxiety by balancing neurotransmitter signaling in the brain and promoting the release of GABA, which helps calm our nervous system.” 

Unfortunately, about 70% of Americans are deficient in this important mineral, Rhodes notes. 

There are multiple types of magnesium available, but the most well studied for brain health and anxiety are magnesium glycinate or magnesium threonate.  Both increase magnesium levels within the brain and aid with sleep, stress relief, and cognition, Rhodes adds. Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate offers nearly 30% of the recommended daily value for magnesium. 

Try it: Pure Encapsulations Magnesium Glycinate, $26 for 90 capsules

7. Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is an essential vitamin that plays a core role in cellular metabolism, brain health, and immune function, Rhodes says. Research shows that high-dose B6 supplementation can reduce stress and feelings of depression and anxiety by increasing GABA levels within the brain, he notes. 

You might get a more powerful bang for your buck combining magnesium and vitamin B6, as they both promote GABA production. Since B6 is a water soluble vitamin, you excrete any excess in your urine. NOW Foods’ Vitamin B6 supplies 5882% of your daily value of B6; research supports these levels for stress and anxiety. 

Try it: NOW Foods Vitamin B6

Read next: 8 Ways to Destress So You Can Live a Longer Life

Disclaimer: We only recommend products we seriously love and want to share. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which includes affiliate links.

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