4 Adaptogenic Herbs For Balancing High Cortisol Levels Naturally

Cortisol is the main stress hormone in the body, and chronically elevated cortisol for sure is one of the worst thing as man could have, as cortisol can actually destroy your testosterone molecules before they even leave your testicles.

Your gonads actually produce this enzyme called 11ßHSD-1 which normally protects your testosterone molecules from cortisol, but in the times of prolonged stress and elevated cortisol, there simply is too much cortisol for 11ßHSD-1 to handle.

When that happens, you can be sure that your testosterone levels will drop very low and very fast.

To combat chronically high cortisol levels, we can however use certain supplements and herbs. They’re called adaptogens, and even though they’re herbal remedies, there’s still plenty of studies to back up everything they’re claimed to do.

The name “adaptogen” comes from the fact that these herbs literally adapt to the stress that you’re feeling, and help your body return to “homeostasis” (balance).

In human words that means the following: If your cortisol levels are chronically high, adaptogens will press them down. Or if your levels are too low (this is possible too) then adaptogens will “normalize” your cortisol levels back to where they belong.

Even though this may sound like a bunch of shamanic herbal bro-science, there’s still plenty of research to actually back it up.

So here’s the list of 4 powerful adaptogens to balance cortisol:

1. Shizandra Chinensis

best adaptogenic herb, schizandra chinensisSchizandra Chinensis is a woody vine with red berries native to the Far-East Russia and Northern China. It’s most commonly used in East-Asia for its stress reducing properties.

In Chinese medicine, both the leaf and the berries are consumed, usually by brewing them into a tea.

But most of the research is based around the berries and berry powders of schizandra, not on the actual leaf.

The greatest thing about Schizandra is the fact that it has been under some really intense scientific research lately, and the studies can be counted in thousands.

Here’s the one’s you should know about:

a) Few of the first studies about Schizandra were done in Russia. What the researchers found out was that Schizandra counteracted the stress response of intense physical exercise significantly, and had significant effects in balancing overall cortisol levels. [study, study].

b) One more recent study found out that the elite athletes who can’t get that normal training induced cortisol spike anymore, see this natural cortisol spike coming back after supplementing with Schizandra extract. That’s basically how certain adaptogens work. They’ll balance high cortisol by reducing it, but also increase too low cortisol back to normal homeostatic levels when needed.

c) This study also found out that Shizandra increased nitric oxide levels in humans. So the cortisol response is by far not the only benefit of this herb.

d) This interesting study used a combination of some well known adaptogens (Schizandra, Eletuhero, Panax Ginseng, Bryonia alba, and Rhodiola Rosea). They fed the mixture to multiple different animals for a total of 10 days. After the treatment the researcher group noted that the placebo group (which was fed no adaptogens) had 200-300% higher cortisol levels than the group which was fed the mixture of adaptogens.

e) This study found out that the group of athletes who used Schizandra extract prior to their performance, had significantly lower stress hormone levels post-exercise when compared to the placebo group.

When supplementing with Schizandra Chinensis, I would recommend this organic berry powder (affiliate link).

2. Gynostemma

gynostemma, a potent adaptogenic herb with stress hormone lowering benefitsGynostemma has been touted as one of the worlds strongest adaptogens, and quite frankly there’s a good reason for that.

You see the gynostemma herb has the highest amount of saponins known to man (steroidal and other kinds).

For comparision, one strong adaptogen called panax Ginseng has around 30 different saponins, but gynostemma beats that by having a staggering 88 different saponin compounds.

Some of these saponins are steroidal (they could boost testosterone), and some are other types, such as the gypenosides which are known for their cortisol lowering properties.

What’s even better is the fact that the saponins are structurally similar to our androgenic hormones, and they’re both water and fat soluble, so they’re going to absorb really well into the body.

Not only that. gynostemma is also extremely high in antioxidants and it actually helps our body to produce more of its own super antioxidant SOD (superoxidasemutase).

Here’s what science says about this king of adaptogens:

a) This study found out that gynostemma tea strengthened the immune system significantly.

b) According to this study saponins called gypenosides in gynostemma relieved oxidative stress in cells and improved cardiovascular function via improving the condition of endolithium (the superficial layer in blood vessels). Gypenosides also significantly improved liver cell function.

c) This study found out that gynostemma directly increased nitric oxide production in the body and lowered blood pressure levels significantly, they also found out that if you’re having too low blood pressure, gynostemma normalizes it back to homeostatic levels.

d) This research centered book about adaptogens (must have if you’re interested in adaptogenic herbs), found out numerous studies proving how gynostemma is highly adaptogenic, bringing the body back to homestatic balance by altering various hormones in the body, including cortisol.

In my opinion, gynostemma is best when brewed into a tea (affiliate link).

3. Ashwagandha

ashwagandha cortisol adaptogenAshwagandha is without a doubt one of my favorite herbs.

That’s because it’s a very strong adaptogen, while also beinga potent natural testosterone booster proven by human studies.

It’s very dense in nutrients and phytochemicals, along with saponins and various other natural compounds that act in awesome synergy in the body.

Here’s some of the research about the great Ashwagandha:

a) This double-blind randomized cross-over placebo study found out that withania somnifera (ashwagandha) significantly reduced serum cortisol levels in humans and should be seen as a very potent stress reliever.

b) This study found out that Ashwagandha has some potential thyroid hormone stimulating effects. That’s good because if your thyroid is not functioning properly (which is far more common than people know) then your testosterone and cortisol ratio will very quickly shift to the right.

c) This study actually found out that Ashwagandha heals the symptoms of adrenal fatigue replenishing the glands. That’s great because whacky cortisol is often a direct causation of adrenal gland problems.

d) This study found out that Ashwagandha improves sperm production via reducing oxidative stress in testicles. The occurrence also led to a nice 40% increase in serum testosterone.

I used to have plenty of ashwagandha powder around my house, but nowadays I use KSM-66 water extracted ashwagandha (affiliate link), since it’s proven to have the highest number of active withanolides.

4. Rhodiola Rosea

rhodiola rosea, a strong adaptogenic herb with cortisol reducing effectsRhodiola Rosea (Siberian Ginseng) is one of the most famous adaptogens in the world.

It grows in the most coldest parts of the world (Siberia, Northern Finland, and Norhern Asia).

It’s been used to combat stress in the extremely cold conditions for over 1,000 years, and it’s known to been used by the Vikings in their trips.

When the scientists of the Soviet Union found out about its remarkable benefits, they vowed to never let the secret of Siberian Ginseng out to the Americans.

The herb was actually so big deal in the motherland that it was used by cosmonauts and by the olympic team of Soviet Union.

After the Soviet Union fell apart, the knowledge about Rhodiola Rosea and many other adaptogens, finally reached the U.S.

But those are only stories, and this is what modern day science has to offer:

a) The modern day science has found more than 140 nutrients in this herb. Some of which are known for their testosterone boosting benefits (apigening and quercetin) and some of which are known for adaptogenic cortisol lowering effects (alkaloids, terpenoids, and various saponins).

b) This case study featured 82 subjects who started using Rhodiola Rosea. The results of that study state: “R. Rosea was able to significantly reduce stress and fatigue”.

c) This study found out that R. Rosea deepens sleep by a dose dependent manner in healthy men.

d) This study found out that Rhodiola reduces cortisol levels significantly in humans.

My choice for Siberian Ginseng is this Rhodiola Rosea powder (affiliate link).


If you’re having high cortisol levels and you want to reduce them so that you can produce more of that natural testosterone, by all means do get yourself some of these powerful natural adaptogens.

They’re not only good for stress and testosterone. You’ll get plenty of other health benefits from them too. Such as: Improved heart health, better looking skin, improved vascularity and blood flow, mental clarity, enhanced cognitive ability, immune support. and much much more.

4 Adaptogenic Herbs For Balancing High Cortisol Levels Naturally was last modified: February 8th, 2017 by Ali Kuoppala
Ali Kuoppala

Ali Kuoppala

Ali Kuoppala is the founder of Anabolic Men, and an Independent Researcher that has been credited with organizing the findings that have helped thousands of men reach hormonal balance.
Ali Kuoppala
  • Jerry S.

    Great post!

    Given that one can easily be interested in taking several of these adaptogens along with other herbs and supps like Gingko Biloba, SOD, l-dopa, Quercetin, Resveratrol, etc., we can quickly find ourselves with a dozen or more products. What’s your recommendation on dosage and frequency? Any insight on which to take daily and which to cycle and at what interval?


    • I would cycle everything that is a herb, as there’s phytoalexins in all herbal compounds which tend to cause resistance if used constantly without a break.

      I have few cycling patterns that I use with all kinds of herbs. Take it only once a week, or some other rotation such as week on 2 weeks off. etc.

      I don’t really care about the dosages, but usually I take more than they say on the actual bag/bottle, just because I don’t think that anyone really can “set” a dosage for something like herbs 🙂

  • Great information! Thanks for sharing this. These herbs are enormously beneficial and I use them myself. I learned a few things I didn’t know here. Thanks for that!

    One quick correction if I may: Rhodiola Rosea and Siberian Ginseng are not the same herb. Siberian Ginseng is Eleutherococcus Senticosus. Rhodiola is actually a TCM herb grown in China. No harm done but it’s good to know that they are two different herbs and to look for them both to add the benefits. Eleuthero has shown some blood pressure raising properties though, similar to licorice root, so that’s good to keep in mind as well.