17 Best Supplements for Reducing Cortisol & Stress

Medically Reviewed by Felicia Newell, M.S., RDN

September 22, 2023

While some stress can serve as a motivator, too much of it can lead to excess cortisol and physical and mental health concerns. As a registered dietitian, here are the natural stress-relieving supplements I recommend to my clients.

Stress is a natural and often adaptive response that can arise from various challenges or demands in life: work, school, relationships, finances, big life changes, natural disasters…the list goes on.

When stress becomes excessive, it can lead to an increased production of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol is often referred to as the 'stress hormone' because it’s activated during stress, helping the body respond to danger or threats. However, constant high levels of cortisol may negatively affect health, leading to:

Bottom line? Keeping healthy cortisol levels in check is an important goal to focus on.

How to Support Healthy Cortisol

Maintaining healthy cortisol levels is key if you’re trying to support your overall well-being. Some natural ways to support this goal include:

  • Getting enough sleep each night, as sleep deprivation can disrupt your cortisol rhythm.
  • Maintaining a balanced diet that’s rich in whole foods and low in sugar. This prevents cortisol spikes.
  • Staying hydrated. Aim to drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily.
  • Engaging in regular exercise, which helps in cortisol regulation. 
  • Considering stress management techniques such as mindfulness, therapy, or meditation.

Once all of these practices become habits, adding in supplements may help support healthy cortisol levels too. (As long as you have the OK from your healthcare provider.)

The 17 Best Supplements to Help Maintain Healthy Cortisol Levels

There are several supplements that may help manage cortisol levels. Here are 17 worth considering.

1. Phosphatidylserine

Phosphatidylserine is a compound largely found in our brain tissue that’s crucial for cognitive function. Studies suggest that phosphatidylserine can reduce the effects of stress, including excessive cortisol release (1). Because of this, it may be an effective supplement for people looking to balance their cortisol levels.

2. Ashwagandha

Ashwagandha, revered for its stress-relieving effects, is widely recognized as one of the best supplements for combating stress (2). Rooted in Ayurvedic medicine, it works by helping the body adapt to stress, ultimately lowering cortisol levels and promoting a balanced state of mind.

3. Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea is a powerful herb praised for its stress-reducing properties. It works by modulating the body's stress response system (3).

Clinical trials have shown Rhodiola Rosea to be effective in combating fatigue and improving mental performance under periods of chronic stress (3). It's considered a safe supplement, but as with any supplement, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before beginning its use.

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4. Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis) is an herb traditionally used for improving mood and cognitive function. Research suggests that it can help reduce anxiety and promote calmness due to its active compound, Rosmarinic acid, which increases the level of GABA (a calming neurotransmitter) in the brain (4). 

The potential of this herb to improve stress-related symptoms is promising. However, it's important to remember that individual responses to dietary supplements can vary widely, and consulting with a healthcare professional is always the safest approach to any new health regimen.

5. Magnesium

When it comes to managing anxiety, magnesium is often overlooked, but it’s one of the most effective supplements. Magnesium plays a role in regulating the nervous system, and research has shown that it can help reduce symptoms of anxiety (5). It works by suppressing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, the body's central stress response system, promoting a sense of calmness.

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6. Probiotics

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help support a healthy gut microbiome, which is closely linked to mental health and mood regulation via what’s referred to as the gut-brain axis. 

Certain strains of probiotics, such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, have been found to potentially reduce stress levels and improve mental well-being. They may support stress reduction  by reducing inflammation, improving nutrient absorption, and regulating the release of stress hormones.

7. Prebiotics

Prebiotics, not to be confused with probiotics, are types of dietary fiber that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut. This helps the gut bacteria produce nutrients for your body's cells, such as short-chain fatty acids, and may improve the digestion of certain minerals. Emerging research suggests that prebiotics can also positively influence cortisol levels (6).

8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, found primarily in coldwater oily fish, krill oil, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, also play a crucial role in managing stress and maintaining mental well-being. These essential fats have been found to reduce inflammation and lower cortisol levels. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can help manage cortisol levels naturally (7).

9. Chamomile

Known for its calming properties, chamomile has been used as a traditional medicinal herb for centuries. Chamomile may also play a role in regulating cortisol levels. The compounds present in chamomile interact with the same brain receptors as drugs like Valium, potentially offering a natural way to reduce anxiety and stress.

10. Reishi

Reishi, a type of medicinal mushroom, has long been recognized for its potential in stress management and maintaining mental well-being. Reishi may help to regulate cortisol levels, reducing the physiological impacts of stress (8). Reishi is believed to promote balance in the body's systems through its adaptogenic properties, helping the body adapt to stressors and resist emotional and physical fatigue.

11. Lion's Mane

Compounds in lion's mane, like hericenones and erinacines, are believed to stimulate Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), which could potentially improve mental functions and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression (9). Additionally, lion's mane might also have adaptogenic properties, similar to the Reishi mushroom, which could help the body to adapt to stress and regulate cortisol levels.

A bag of NativePath Native Mind adaptogen drink with a lion's man mushroom and a mug next to it

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Each scoop boasts 1,500 mg of Lion’s Mane Mushroom, 300 mg of Rose Hips, 200 mg of Rhodiola, and 100 mg of Peppermint for memory, focus, and nerve health.

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12. American Ginseng

American Ginseng, a plant native to the forests of North America, may have adaptogenic properties similar to those found in reishi and lion's mane mushrooms. 

These properties can help the body better adjust to stressors, thereby regulating the production and effects of cortisol. The ginsenosides, which are active compounds found in American Ginseng, are believed to contribute to these effects.

13. Asian Ginseng

Asian Ginseng, also known as Panax Ginseng, is another potent herb extensively used in traditional medicine for its potential stress-management properties. Studies suggest that the active compounds, called ginsenosides, present in Asian Ginseng may have a calming effect on the nervous system and help combat fatigue associated with stress. Additionally, its adaptogenic properties could aid the body in adapting to stressful situations.

14. Cordyceps

Cordyceps, a type of fungus that grows on insect larvae, may also play a role in stress management and cortisol regulation. 

Natural plant compounds found in Cordyceps, particularly cordycepin and adenosine, are believed to have adaptogenic properties that help the body adapt to stress and balance cortisol levels.

15. Maca

Maca, a plant native to Peru, has been used traditionally to enhance endurance, energy, mood, and sexual health.

These benefits may be linked to maca's potential adaptogenic properties, which could aid the body in adapting to and resisting stress. Some data indicate that maca may help to maintain healthy cortisol levels (10).

16. Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo Biloba, a plant native to China, is widely known for its memory-enhancing and anti-inflammatory properties. Some believe that this compound may help regulate cortisol levels, although the exact reason for this effect is not yet fully understood.

17. L- Theanine

L-Theanine, a naturally occurring amino acid predominantly found in tea leaves and certain fungi, is gaining attention as an effective stress reliever. Studies suggest that L-Theanine may aid in stress management by promoting relaxation without drowsiness, improving focus and cognitive performance, and balancing neurotransmitter levels in the brain. 

Specifically, L-Theanine has been shown to increase levels of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), serotonin, and dopamine, neurotransmitters that play key roles in mood, sleep, and stress levels (11).


The natural management of cortisol levels revolves around maintaining a balanced lifestyle. This involves healthy eating, regular physical activity, sufficient sleep, and effective stress management techniques such as mindfulness and meditation. And in some cases, adding a supplement that helps support balanced cortisol may offer some unique benefits too. 

If you want to include a supplement to help keep elevated cortisol at bay, it’s important to first get the green light from your healthcare provider.

Lauren Manaker
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Lauren Manaker

Lauren Manaker is an award-winning registered dietitian (RDN), certified lactation educator (CLE), author, and speaker with over 20 years of experience. She earned her BS in Food Science and Human Nutrition from the University of Florida (go Gators!) and an MS in Clinical Nutrition from Rush University in Chicago.

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    Medical Disclaimer

    This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not intended to provide medical advice or to take the place of such advice or treatment from a personal physician. All readers/viewers of this content are advised to consult their doctors or qualified health professionals regarding specific health questions. Neither Dr. Chad Walding nor the publisher of this content takes responsibility for possible health consequences of any person or persons reading or following the information in this educational content. All viewers of this content, especially those taking prescription or over-the-counter medications, should consult their physicians before beginning any nutrition, supplement, or lifestyle program.

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