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Kratom and Cortisol: What’s the Connection?

Cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone,” is often at the top of the news. Many people want to know how to reduce their cortisol levels due to its negative association with increasing blood pressure, heart rate, weight gain, and more. With all the negativity surrounding cortisol, it has been demonized, but it’s not all bad; in fact, it is an essential hormone with many positive effects when the cortisol system is balanced and functioning healthily. The negative effects surrounding cortisol are related to when its levels are excessive and are not properly balanced.

Now, that brings us to kratom; with the growing popularity of this botanical, many are wondering just how kratom interacts with cortisol. Does it lower or raise it, and what are the impacts on the cortisol system when taking kratom? Although there has been a limited amount of scientific study on this, some data is available, and this article intends to shed light on the relationship between kratom and cortisol levels in the body.

image of what exactly is cortisol

What Exactly is Cortisol?

Cortisol is a type of steroid hormone in the glucocorticoid family produced in the adrenal glands, which is part of the endocrine system. Cortisol is known to suppress or decrease inflammation in body tissues and control the metabolism of bones, liver, muscles, and fats. Moreover, it may also regulate sleep-wake cycles.

As a hormone, cortisol is a signaler that coordinates your body’s functions. It does this by carrying and sending messages through your bloodstream to reach certain organs and tells your body what actions to perform and specifically when to do them.

How Cortisol Helps with Managing Stress

More commonly known as the stress hormone, cortisol regulates how your body copes during times of stress. Stressful situations elevate your body’s cortisol levels, allowing you to stay focused and alert during fight-or-flight circumstances. Subsequently, cortisol may also trigger your system to release more glucose or sugar for fast energy.

When the stressful situation passes, your hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline, should return to their normal levels. This also lets your blood pressure, sugar, and heart rate return to normal, along with multiple other systems in the body.

Other Effects of Cortisol

Besides managing stress, cortisol has other effects that may improve your body’s overall function.

  • Metabolism Regulation: Cortisol may help regulate how your body utilizes proteins, carbohydrates, and even fats to increase energy.
  • Suppress Inflammation: Short episodes of high cortisol levels may help your immunity by suppressing or limiting inflammation. However, consistently experiencing high-stress hormone levels may also be disadvantageous, as too much cortisol in your bloodstream may cause a weakened immune system, ironically leading to inflammation.
  • Regulating and Increasing Blood Sugar: Cortisol may also counterbalance your body’s insulin released from your pancreas, which regulates your blood sugar. The stress hormone releases stored glucose to elevate your blood sugar. But, be cautious, as consistently high cortisol levels may also lead to high blood sugar or diabetes.
  • May Affect Your Sleep-Wake Cycle:  Healthy individuals typically have depressed cortisol levels at night when they are about to sleep and increased amounts in the morning before waking up.

The key to proper cortisol regulation is to keep its level at an optimum, maintaining proper bodily functions. Keep in mind that consistently low or high cortisol levels may negatively impact overall health. Things like not getting enough sleep and being under prolonged periods of mental or physical stress without resting from these states can keep your cortisol levels elevated, and that’s where the problems come in.

image of kratom and cortisol

Kratom and Cortisol: Understanding The Correlation

With a brief background of cortisol, you may start questioning its correlation with kratom. While it is generally known that kratom has the potential to lead to calming and relaxing effects, there is limited research regarding the connection between kratom and cortisol.

One such study presented data that mitragynine, one of the primary alkaloids in kratom, may enhance cortisol secretion through the upregulation of the stress hormone’s synthesis. In layman’s terms, kratom’s main alkaloid has been shown to increase the activity of cortisol. However, with over 45 other potential alkaloids in the plant, more studies certainly need to be conducted as this is just one isolated alkaloid and may not be representative of the whole picture.

While testimonies from users reveal kratom’s potential to ease mental tension and promote relaxation, there is still a need for more extensive evidence-based research to explain its direct connection with cortisol and other hormones.

Kratom’s Interaction With Other Hormones

Besides cortisol, our bodies consist of several other hormones that work together in a complex web of interactions to achieve a state of homeostasis. These chemicals are one of the various reasons our bodies function as such. Now that we know that the connection between kratom and cortisol requires more evidence-based research, other users might also wonder how kratom might interact with other important hormones. Unfortunately, like cortisol, there is little evidence supporting kratom’s effect on other hormones.

Testosterone Levels

Testosterone is an essential sex hormone in males and also plays an important role in females, aiding their sexual and reproductive development. This hormone is mainly responsible for the development and maturation of a male’s secondary sexual characteristics upon hitting puberty, around 9 to 14 years old. In adult men, testosterone is important for regulating their sexual drive or libido, fat distribution, and bone and muscle mass.

Even though there were anecdotes and testimonies from users about kratom lowering their testosterone amounts, one study found that kratom consumption does not negatively impair or decrease testosterone levels predominantly found in men.

image of dopamine levels

Dopamine Levels

Testosterone and Cortisol are hormones, while dopamine is a neurotransmitter that allows us to feel motivated and satisfied with an increase in pleasure and reward.

One study looked at mitragynine and the dopamine release in kratom users and found that over time, dopamine release increased in the prefrontal cortex upon repeated administration, possibly indicating its rewarding and habitual effects. Another study compared habitual kratom users, not non-users, and found that kratom users had less dopamine reuptake than non-users, indicating increased and prolonged dopaminergic activity.

Serotonin Levels

Like dopamine, serotonin is another important neurotransmitter our bodies produce to regulate functions like mood, sleep, digestion, and a plethora of other important functions.

A case report in 2022 revealed that higher doses of kratom consumption may increase the risk of serotonin syndrome, especially when mixed with medications that increase your body’s serotonin levels. Taking kratom may inhibit a specific liver enzyme from metabolizing such substances, leading to an excessive amount of serotonin in your body, which could lead to a dangerous condition called Serotonin Syndrome. This is one of the many reasons kratom should not be mixed with medications or drugs.


CONTENT DISCLAIMER: The content on this page is strictly for entertainment purposes only. The content below has not been medically reviewed and is not intended to offer advice for use or intended use. For more information about kratom and its potential dangers, please visit the fda.gov site.

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