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Herbs That Reduce Cortisol, The Stress Hormone

In today’s fast-paced world, stress has become an almost unavoidable part of our lives. Prolonged exposure to stress can lead to increased levels of cortisol which can have detrimental effects on our physical and mental well-being. Thankfully, nature has provided us with a treasure trove of herbs that can help reduce cortisol levels and promote a sense of calm and balance.

In this blog post, we will explore a selection of these herbs. By incorporating them into your daily routine, you can take proactive steps towards nurturing your overall well-being.

What is Cortisol?

High levels of cortisol can be detrimental to health because cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress, and it plays a crucial role in the body’s stress response system. While cortisol is essential for various bodily functions, such as regulating metabolism, reducing inflammation, and maintaining blood pressure, chronically elevated levels of cortisol can have several negative effects on health:

Weakened Immune System: Prolonged exposure to high cortisol levels can suppress the immune system’s ability to respond effectively to infections and diseases, making individuals more susceptible to illnesses.

Weight Gain: Cortisol can lead to increased appetite, particularly for high-calorie and sugary foods. This can result in overeating and weight gain, particularly in the abdominal area, which is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular problems and type 2 diabetes.

Muscle and Bone Loss: Excessive cortisol can lead to muscle breakdown (catabolism) and inhibit the formation of new bone, potentially increasing the risk of osteoporosis and muscle weakness.

Blood Pressure: Cortisol can increase blood pressure, which, if consistently elevated, can contribute to hypertension and its associated health risks.

Mood and Mental Health: High cortisol levels are associated with mood disturbances, anxiety, and depression. Chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels can also impair cognitive function and memory.

Sleep Disruption: Cortisol follows a diurnal rhythm, with levels typically highest in the morning and lowest at night. Elevated evening cortisol levels can disrupt the normal sleep-wake cycle, leading to insomnia and sleep disturbances.

Digestive Issues: Cortisol can affect the gastrointestinal system, leading to problems like irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and gastrointestinal discomfort.

Herbs for Managing Cortisol Levels

Herbs That Reduce Cortisol The Stress Hormone - Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, also known as Withania somnifera, is an adaptogenic herb renowned for its stress-reducing properties. It helps regulate cortisol levels by modulating the body’s stress response. Ashwagandha can be consumed as tea, tincture, or in powdered form.

Here’s a simple recipe for an ashwagandha tea: add 1 teaspoon of dried ashwagandha root powder to a cup of hot water. Let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy the tea. You can add a touch of honey or lemon for taste if desired.

Holy Basil
Herbs That Reduce Cortisol, The Stress Hormone - holy basil

Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi, is a sacred herb in Ayurvedic medicine. It is revered for its ability to reduce stress and anxiety while supporting the adrenal glands. Holy basil contains compounds like flavonoids and polyphenols with antioxidant properties. These antioxidants help protect the body from the harmful effects of oxidative stress, which can be exacerbated by chronic stress. Holy Basil can be consumed as tea or taken as a tincture.

Herbs That Reduce Cortisol, The Stress Hormone - rhodiola

Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic herb that helps the body adapt to stress and reduce cortisol levels. It also supports mental clarity and energy levels. Rhodiola can be consumed as a tincture or in capsule form.

Here’s a simple recipe for a Rhodiola tincture: Fill a glass jar halfway with dried Rhodiola root. Pour vodka or another high-proof alcohol over the herb, filling the jar to the top. Seal the jar tightly and store it in a cool, dark place for 4-6 weeks, shaking it daily. After the steeping period, strain the liquid into a dark glass dropper bottle. Take 20-30 drops of the tincture daily, as needed, to support stress reduction.

Lemon Balm
Herbs That Reduce Cortisol The Stress Hormone - Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm, also known as Melissa officinalis, is a calming herb that helps reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. It can be consumed as tea or taken as a tincture.

Add 1 tablespoon of dried Lemon Balm leaves to a cup of hot water. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes. Strain and enjoy the tea. You can add a touch of raw honey for sweetness, if desired.

Herbs That Reduce Cortisol The Stress Hormone - Passionflower

Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) is a gentle yet effective herb for reducing cortisol levels and promoting relaxation. It soothes nervous tension and aids in achieving restful sleep. Passionflower is commonly consumed as tea or taken as a tincture, offering a natural approach to stress management.

Maca Root
Herbs That Reduce Cortisol, The Stress Hormone - maca

Stress often takes a toll on mental well-being and can lead to anxiety and mood imbalances. Maca root has been reported to have mood-enhancing properties, helping to alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. It acts as a natural antidepressant and may increase the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which play a crucial role in mood regulation.

St. John’s Wort
Herbs That Reduce Cortisol The Stress Hormone - St John's Wort

Anxiety often accompanies chronic stress and can significantly impact daily functioning. St. John’s Wort has been studied for its anxiolytic properties, which means it helps reduce anxiety. It may help calm anxious thoughts, reduce feelings of worry, and promote a sense of relaxation. By addressing anxiety symptoms, St. John’s Wort aids in stress management.

Licorice Root

Licorice root contains compounds that have a calming effect on the nervous system. It can help soothe frazzled nerves, promote relaxation, and reduce the physical and emotional symptoms associated with stress. Licorice root may have mood-enhancing effects. It can help boost feelings of well-being, promote a positive mood, and reduce symptoms of mild to moderate depression. By supporting emotional balance, licorice root assists in managing the psychological impact of stress.

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Herbs That Reduce Cortisol, The Stress Hormone - skullcap

Stress often disrupts sleep patterns, resulting in difficulties falling asleep or maintaining restful sleep. Skullcap has been traditionally used to support healthy sleep. It may help calm a racing mind, promote relaxation, and improve sleep quality. By enhancing sleep, Skullcap assists in restoring the body’s natural rhythm and reducing stress levels.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi mushroom has been shown to have mood-enhancing properties, helping to improve overall mental well-being. It may promote feelings of relaxation, reduce anxiety, and support a more positive mood. By addressing emotional symptoms of stress, Reishi contributes to stress reduction.


Valerian root is widely recognized for its ability to induce relaxation and calmness. It contains compounds that interact with receptors in the brain, promoting a sense of tranquility and reducing feelings of restlessness or anxiety. Valerian has been used for centuries as a sleep aid due to its sedative properties. It can help relax the mind and body, making it easier to fall asleep and improving the quality of sleep. By supporting restorative sleep, valerian contributes to overall stress reduction and enhanced well-being.

The Bottom Line

Incorporating herbs that reduce cortisol levels into your daily routine can be a wonderful way to support your body’s natural stress response and promote a sense of calm and balance. From the adaptogenic properties of Ashwagandha and Rhodiola to the calming effects of Holy Basil and Lemon Balm, these herbs offer a natural approach to maintain normal cortisol levels. 

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I had slightly high blood sugar and due to coming in contact with toothed spurge plant allergic reaction had to take prednisone
Will these help bring down levels
2 weeks later my levels are still high
Thank you

Thank you Lady’s so much for the information 🙂

Have fatty tumor on adrenal gland. Being monitored. Slight increase in cortisol.. this info is great..will try. Do lemon balm tea most nights.

Your articles are interesting and informative. It’s a shame that in some of the plants, you offer the part of the plant that should be used (leaves, roots…) and also specify how to use it (infusion tincture…), there are plants you write which part to use but not how to use it, and in some plants You don’t write anything about them, neither the part that should be used nor the way that it should be used.
Thank you


Good article, but I wanted to point out that licorice root actually helps people with low cortisol. Licorice slows the breakdown of cortisol so it’s helpful for people with adrenal fatigue and low cortisol issues. Licorice root can also raise blood pressure which is usually low in those with adrenal fatigue.

I’m not an expert, but have been known for having a detail oriented focus on instructions or descriptions, so I have to ask (mainly because of my own personal studies for personal and family health)… Can a person have low cortisol production levels and that have that become a problem?
I haven’t heard of adrenal fatigue. Thanks for sharing, ’cause I wonder if that’s what I’m struggling with besides hypothyroidism.
Oh … If licorice slows the breakdown of cortisol, does that mean licorice would actually be a plant to avoid when experiencing higher levels of stress? AND do we all need to have some level of cortisol? Or else why would anyone want to slow the process of breaking down cortisol?
🙂 Thanks!

Last edited 6 months ago by Amanda
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