8 Herbal Supplements to Lower Cortisol | Botanic Tonics

8 Herbal Supplements to Lower Cortisol | Botanic Tonics

Reviewed by Jamal Bouie

8 Herbal Supplements to Lower Cortisol

Cortisol is aptly nicknamed the “stress hormone”—not because it causes stress, but because it helps you overcome it.

Stress is a normal aspect of life, and your body is well-adapted to handle it… most of the time. 

But if your stress never ends, your stress response doesn’t either, which can increase your cortisol level to an unhealthy degree. After a while, this can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health

When chronic stress causes elevated cortisol levels, natural supplements can help bring them back down to earth. 

Understanding Cortisol and its Effects

If you’ve ever driven through a snowstorm, made a flight with minutes to spare, or simply lifted weights, you’re likely familiar with the effects of elevated cortisol

Cortisol is one of the key hormones that maintains your stress response, also known as the “fight or flight” response.[1] Your heart rate spikes, your breathing quickens, and you generally feel on high alert—all-important evolutionary functions to help you navigate a dangerous or taxing situation. 

This “stress hormone” regulates much more than your response to heart-racing situations, though. It also plays a role in balancing:[1]

  • Metabolism
  • Inflammation
  • Immune responses
  • Blood pressure and blood sugar
  • Circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle)

For the most part, your body does a good job maintaining healthy levels of cortisol through homeostasis. When a stressor appears—like an obstacle in the road or a wasp landing on your arm—your cortisol jumps to high levels. And when the stressor disappears, your cortisol lowers.[1]

These are known as acute stressors. In contrast, when you experience chronic stress due to prolonged anxiety or a traumatic event, your cortisol levels run high—and stay there.[1]

Since cortisol affects most of your internal systems, having elevated cortisol levels over a sustained period can create health issues including:[1]

  • Sleep loss and insomnia
  • Weight changes
  • High blood sugar and blood pressure
  • Weakened muscles and bones

As harmful as high cortisol levels can be, there are proven strategies to lower it, such as sleeping well, exercising, and deep breathing.[1]

One natural and accessible method of cortisol regulation that’s often overlooked, however, is herbal supplements. 

Top Herbal Supplements for Cortisol Reduction

Most herbal supplements to lower cortisol are considered “adaptogens.”

Adaptogens are any herbs, plants, or mushrooms that help to return your body to a natural state of homeostasis, or internal balance.[2] In the case of managing stress, adaptogens allow you to adapt to your fight-or-flight response and return to a stable state more quickly than your body can on its own.[2] 

Therefore, you can effectively use adaptogenic herbs to lower cortisol levels

Which herbs do the best job, though? Here are our top eight natural cortisol managers.

#1 Rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea, also known simply as rhodiola or rose root, is an adaptogenic plant native to Europe and Asia.[3] It typically grows in very cold and elevated regions, which garners it another nickname, “arctic root.”

Rhodiola has historically been used in Russian and Scandinavian cultures to treat common health conditions like headaches and the flu. Still, researchers are just beginning to understand its greater potential as a natural cognitive therapeutic.[3]

Rhodiola helps combat the negative effects of high stress levels by:[4]

  • Reducing fatigue
  • Relieving anxiety and depression symptoms
  • Boosting physical and mental performance in the face of stress

Once your body is no longer fighting to withstand stress symptoms, it can return to normal, healthy cortisol levels. For these reasons, rhodiola is known as one of the best adaptogens for stress.

#2 Lion’s Mane

Lion’s mane mushroom gets its name from its unique appearance: it grows in textured mounds of whiteish tendrils that mimic the look of thick hair or fur. Despite the connection to an imposing lion, lion’s mane tackles stress relief with the gentleness of a lamb.

Like other adaptogenic plants, lion’s mane doesn’t directly halt or minimize your stress response, but it alleviates some of the worst symptoms of chronic stress, such as:[5]

  • Fatigue and mental fog
  • Poor executive function
  • Anxiety and depression

While researchers have only recently grown interested in the cognitive benefits of lion’s mane, it has a long history of use in Chinese and Japanese herbal medicine. Dive deeper into the effects of lion’s mane before you give it a try. 

#3 Reishi

Reishi is a family of reddish, striated, fan-shaped fungi that grow on the sides of trees. These adaptogenic mushrooms are found in the humid regions of Asia, where they’ve historically been used as natural remedies to boost immunity.[7]

Reishi mushrooms’ main stress reduction superpower is promoting better sleep. They’re packed with natural sedative compounds that can soothe your stressed-out nervous system and help you drift off with ease.[5] 

Remember that cortisol also regulates your sleep-wake cycle; high cortisol levels can throw off your natural bedtime. By using a natural supplement like reishi, you can regulate your sleep, thereby allowing for cortisol regulation

#4 Ashwagandha

The adaptogenic shrub Withania somnifera is also commonly known as ashwagandha or Indian ginseng, though it grows in many other regions, including parts of the Middle East and Africa.[8] 

This miraculous herb has a hand in balancing most of the systems that cortisol affects, including your:[4]

  • Immune system
  • Nervous system
  • Endocrine system (responsible for regulating hormones, like cortisol)
  • Cardiovascular system

Ashwagandha also positively influences your mental and emotional responses to high cortisol, allowing you to feel more calm in the face of stress.[4]

#5 Schisandra

Officially known as Schisandra chinensis, schisandra or “five flavor fruit” is a vine plant that grows in Eastern Russia and other East Asian countries. It’s characterized by its bright-red berries with a five-flavor profile: salty, sweet, sour, spicy, and bitter.[9] 

Like most other adaptogens, schisandra is rooted in traditional Eastern medicine.[9] It can be used to counteract the physical and mental effects of stress, such as:[3]

  • Fatigue
  • High blood sugar
  • Poor cognition and mental performance

Another upside of schisandra is that it’s harder to build a tolerance for it, unlike other energy-boosters like caffeine.[3]

#6 Ginseng

Both American and Asian varieties of ginseng have been shown to reduce cortisol and stress levels significantly.[4]

American ginseng can:[4]

  • Bolster your immune system
  • Improve your fight-or-flight response
  • Stabilize your mood by regulating dopamine levels

Asian ginseng also helps you respond better to stressful situations as it can energize you and boost your brain power.[4] 

#7 Eleuthero

Eleutherococcus senticosus, or eleuthero, is more commonly referred to as Siberian ginseng—not to be confused with true ginseng like the American and Asian varieties.[3]

The roots and stem of the eleuthero plant have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for about 2,000 years to treat common infections, colds, and the flu.[10]

In addition to combating these physical illnesses, eleuthero can be used for managing occasional stress, fatigue, and immune deficiencies.[10]

#8 Holy Basil

Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is a medicinally- and culturally significant plant that grows in tropical Eastern regions.[11] 

Holy basil’s adaptogenic properties were first discovered and utilized in Ayurvedic practices, but more people are taking advantage of the plant and the many physical and mental health benefits its use may offer, including:[11]

  • Improvements in memory and cognition
  • Blood pressure and blood sugar stabilization
  • Protection against metabolic stress
  • Anxiety, depression, and mental stress reduction

Those who practice Ayurveda call holy basil “the queen of herbs,”[11] and for good reason.

Discover even more natural remedies for brain fog and cortisol in our guide.

How to Use Herbal Supplements Safely

Cortisol is heavily involved in your body’s stress response, but it’s also an important component of your circadian rhythm—the “internal clock” that regulates your sleep-wake cycle. 

Cortisol typically hits high levels in the early morning and steadily drops throughout the day until they reach their lowest point in the evening.[1]

Because of this relationship, you need to take the timing of your supplement doses into account. For example, adaptogens that lower cortisol levels and promote sleep, like reishi mushrooms, are best used in the evening.[5] Dose sizes will also vary between supplements, so it’s important to read the labels and use proper judgment when taking them.

Additionally, adaptogens are most effective when you use them on a regular yet temporary basis. You can develop an adaptogen tolerance if you take them for more than six months, which diminishes their cortisol-lowering effects.[4]

It’s rare to experience negative side effects when taking adaptogen supplements, but certain factors can impact your results. Before taking any supplements, be sure to consider if:[4]

  • You have any known allergies to certain plants or chemical compounds
  • You’re taking any medications that might negatively interact with supplements

If you’re ever unsure about how a supplement will affect your health, speak with a doctor first. You can work together to create a safe supplement regimen that lowers your stress and enriches your life.

Experience the Natural Bliss of Botanic Tonics

Don’t let stress get the best of you: relieve your worries naturally with feel free® from Botanic Tonics.

Our feel free® kava tonics and kava capsules are expertly formulated and lab-tested to provide you with the best stress relief nature has to offer. We combine key cortisol supplements like rhodiola and lion’s mane with kava and kola nut to both relax and sharpen your mind. 

Learn more about the natural wonders of feel free and how it can transform your life.  


  1. Cleveland Clinic. Cortisol. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22187-cortisol 
  2. UCLA Health. What are adaptogens and should you be taking them? https://www.uclahealth.org/news/what-are-adaptogens-and-should-you-be-taking-them 
  3. Healthline. Adaptogenic Herbs: List, Effectiveness, and Health Benefits. https://www.healthline.com/health/adaptogenic-herbs 
  4. Cleveland Clinic. Adaptogens. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/drugs/22361-adaptogens 
  5. Rupa Health. Mushrooms And Stress Management: Adaptogenic Properties For A Balanced Lifestyle. https://www.rupahealth.com/post/mushrooms-and-stress-management-adaptogenic-properties-for-a-balanced-lifestyle 
  6. National Library of Medicine. The Acute and Chronic Effects of Lion’s Mane Mushroom Supplementation on Cognitive Function, Stress and Mood in Young Adults: A Double-Blind, Parallel Groups, Pilot Study. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10675414/ 
  7. Healthline. 6 Benefits of Reishi Mushroom (Plus Side Effects and Dosage). https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/reishi-mushroom-benefits 
  8. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. Ashwagandha. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/ashwagandha 
  9. University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Schisandra chinensis Magnolia Vine. https://unlgardens.unl.edu/schisandra-chinensis-magnolia-vine 
  10. PeaceHealth. Eleuthero. https://www.peacehealth.org/medical-topics/id/hn-2084007 
  11. National Library of Medicine. Tulsi - Ocimum sanctum: A herb for all reasons. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4296439/ 

About The Author

Jamal Bouie Botanic Tonic

Jamal Bouie

Jamal Bouie is an accomplished professional with a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Lemoyne-Owen College in Memphis. Currently, he is pursuing his PhD in Biomedicine at Salus University. Jamal has worked in several industries; he began his career in pharmaceutical manufacturing and transitioned to the cannabis industry, where he specialized in analytical testing and manufacturing, playing a vital role in ensuring product safety and compliance. Now, Jamal has turned his attention to the dietary supplement field, combining his scientific acumen with his passion for health and wellness.

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