As the body’s primary stress hormone, cortisol is a literal lifesaver in the case of emergencies. But overproduction of cortisol can lead to chronic stress and put the body at higher risk for mental health conditions, loss of cognitive function, and even weight gain. As such, it’s no surprise that manufacturers have worked tirelessly to find ways to create products that prevent this risk. Here are five of the best naturally occurring supplements to reduce cortisol.
Phosphatidylserine is at the top of our list of supplements to reduce cortisol, and for a good reason! Primarily, it is used for brain and nervous system supplementation, but its ability to control and maintain healthy cortisol levels is highly reliable. Studies have found that it can reduce high levels of cortisol by a whopping 20%, and this is backed up by numerous other studies on both humans and animals.
This ingredient is a kind of fat that occurs naturally in the brain and other cell membranes, where it is specifically produced to lower cortisol, thus relieving stress levels. As such, higher concentrations of this fat-soluble nutrient are guaranteed to have a positive effect on cortisol levels. In cases of high cortisol, supplementation is necessary to improve hormonal health.
In addition to being one of the best kinds of supplements to reduce cortisol, phosphatidylserine also improves physical performance, boosts post-workout recovery time, and relieves soreness in the muscles after exercise. It can also help to reduce symptoms of ADHD and prevent fatigue. Phosphatidylserine is also the only kind of supplement for conditions like dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases that have the official approval of the Food and Drug Administration of the United States, thus proving that its effects in lowering mental health stress are effective.
Ashwagandha, known scientifically as Withania somnifera, is an Ayurvedic herb that has been used in traditional medicine for a long time. Known in modern circles by the names winter cherry, Indian ginseng, and poison gooseberry, this member of the nightshade family has been used as an anxiety aid that promotes healing and relaxation for generations.
As an adaptogen, ashwagandha reduces stress and anxiety by promoting homeostasis in the body - or, in other words, encouraging hormonal balance. This includes the balancing of cortisol, and studies have found that even those with chronic stress can benefit from the ingredient, which helps the body better adapt to stress. Research has proven that ashwagandha can lower cortisol levels by 30%, and once again, there are plenty of other studies that back these findings up.
This nightshade is not only known for its cortisol busting abilities, though, as it has also been proven to increase testosterone production, making it a common choice for those looking to gain muscle mass. It is also known for being able to improve sperm quality.
When using ashwagandha for supplements to reduce cortisol, it’s important to remember that there are different strains of this plant, and their potency levels differ. Most manufacturers prefer to use KSM-66, which is one of the most potent of the ashwagandha strains.
Rhodiola Rosea is a part of traditional Chinese medicine, and this herb has been used for generations to promote stronger stamina, better vigor, and higher energy levels. This is likely what makes it such a popular ingredient in fitness and bodybuilding products, but it has its merits in supplements to reduce cortisol as well.
The plant is an adaptogen, like ashwagandha, so it helps the body to deal with stress-related stimuli under longer, more intense periods of stress. The body may begin to overproduce cortisol to manage and maintain all physical and mental functions at a normal level during periods of high stress, but the presence of Rhodiola prevents the need for excess cortisol production, leading to well-balanced hormone levels.
Like most supplements to reduce cortisol, Rhodiola also boosts memory and improves focus and concentration as well as overall cognitive function. It can also prevent fatigue and is a cortisol-fighting herb that focuses on invigorating and energizing as opposed to sedating and calming. In addition, Rhodiola has been found to reduce symptoms of depression in a faster manner than antidepressants, and it prevents mental burnout while increasing healthy production of chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin in the brain, which is all essential for better moods.
Countless studies have served as a testament to rhodiola’s cortisol reducing powers, especially in those with chronic stress. With all its mental health uses, it’s no surprise that the reason behind its success is its ability to lower cortisol levels and keep them in check.
4. Ginkgo Biloba Leaf Extract
Ginkgo biloba is often falsely promoted as a good ingredient for memory enhancing supplements, where it usually fails to meet expectations and has been disproved by studies. However, it is not an ingredient to be ruled out entirely, as in supplements to reduce cortisol; it is highly effective. This plant extract also originated from centuries-old Chinese medicine, much like Rhodiola. Although it is not clear what it was used for, it is typically very convenient to use in supplements.
During moments of extreme stress, ginkgo biloba leaf extract acts by reducing its symptoms, resulting in less cortisol being produced overall. In other words, it does not lower cortisol levels that are already there necessarily, but it prevents overproduction of that hormone in the case of acute stress. Tests on both humans and animals have indicated that, while it may not succeed as a memory enhancer, the extract from this plant does, in fact, improve cortisol balance.
Unfortunately, ginkgo biloba leaf extract is a bit of a one-trick pony: it reduces acute stress symptoms through the lowering of cortisol, but it does not have a long list of other benefits, unlike other supplements to reduce cortisol. Still, its ability to lower and regulate the hormone means a decline in stress levels and also lower blood pressure overall, which makes it a decent addition to any manufacturer.
Theanine is a form of amino acid, and it is an excellent component to calm down the body in a way similar to the relaxation that drinking tea provides - and that’s because it’s found solely in certain teas, and nowhere else. It offers numerous benefits that reduce stress symptoms and even protect the brain, so it’s a great ingredient in supplements to reduce cortisol.
But how does l-theanine work? Simply put, it increases alpha brain waves, which in turn help the brain to focus better and calm itself, providing a stress-relieving experience to the rest of the body. A lot of research has been done on this amino acid, providing that it reduces chronic stress, but instead of producing an overly sedative effect, it can improve attentiveness and focus.
L-theanine has also been proven to have brain protection capabilities. Excess production of cortisol on a regular basis can be damaging to the brain and result in worse cognitive performance, mental health issues, and even memory loss. Consumption of l-theanine can prevent this kind of damage from occurring in the brain, due in part to its restriction of cortisol production, but also due to its extra properties.
According to studies, a 200mg dose of l-theanine can lead to lower cortisol production for three hours after consumption. Most teas only contain approximately 25mg of the ingredient in one cup, which is why using l-theanine in supplements to reduce cortisol can provide that necessary amount for its full effects.