What Are Cortisol Cocktails? And Can They Really Beat Stress?

By Martha Davies

5 months ago

This health trend is taking over TikTok

From apple cider vinegar to the sleepy girl mocktail, you can always count on TikTok to dish up some surprising wellness trends. Cortisol cocktails are the latest craze, but what are they? And do they actually work? Read on for the rundown.

Everything You Need To Know About Cortisol Cocktails

Partial to a breakfast smoothie? Trying out the ginger shot trend? Or simply devoted to coffee? Most of us count on a beverage (or three) to kick start our mornings and get our brains in gear. Recently, however, TikTok has been taken over by a different kind of drink: the cortisol cocktail. This intriguing brew isn’t, in fact, alcoholic; it’s also known as the adrenal cocktail, and it promises to lower cortisol levels and reduce stress. 

Orange and cherry cocktails in glass tumblers


What Are Cortisol Cocktails?

Cortisol cocktails were borne out of the idea that chronic stress can begin to reduce the efficiency of our adrenal glands (the organs responsible for producing hormones including cortisol and adrenaline – and helping to regulate metabolism, immune system function and stress responses). Using a combination of sodium, potassium and vitamin C, the drinks are designed to help balance our cortisol levels and keep us energised.

What Is Cortisol?

‘Cortisol is a hormone that plays a key role in the body’s stress response as well as various other physiological processes,’ says nutritionist Kim Pearson. ‘It’s often referred to as the “stress hormone” because levels typically increase in response to stress – be it physical, emotional, or psychological. It’s produced by the adrenal glands which are situated on top of each kidney.

‘In addition to regulating the body’s stress response, cortisol also plays important roles in regulating the metabolism and energy production. It helps to regulate blood pressure, our circadian rhythm (body clock) and it plays a key role in immune system health. 

‘Cortisol is often spoken about in a negative context due to elevated output as a result of stressful lifestyles. However, cortisol is essential and it plays many important roles in the body. The key is to ensure it’s regulated with optimal amounts secreted at the right times of the day and under certain conditions.’

Cortisol Cocktail Recipe

The main ingredients in cortisol cocktails are coconut water, sea salt and citrus like lemon or orange juice. Other common additions are ginger, coconut cream and collagen powder. The beverages are particularly high in electrolytes, meaning that they can help balance the water levels in our blood.

Do Cortisol Cocktails Really Work? A Nutritionist Weighs In

While it may contain healthy ingredients, the cortisol cocktail isn’t proven to boost the function of the adrenal glands (and adrenal fatigue itself isn’t a scientifically proven concept). Kim comments: ‘Adrenal fatigue/exhaustion is hotly debated, but burnout is real and chronic stress is strongly associated with a number of chronic health conditions.’ 

However, the cortisol cocktail itself might not be the cure-all that the internet claims it is. ‘You’re going to achieve very little through taking vitamin C, potassium and sodium without addressing other health and lifestyle issues,’ Kim clarifies. ‘What’s more, if you have someone with high blood pressure, which is a common consequence of stress, increasing salt in the diet is not a good idea. High salt intake causes the body to draw more water into the blood. This increases the blood volume and thus increases blood pressure.’ So, while these trendy beverages aren’t unhealthy, it looks like there are better ways to reduce chronic stress.

How To Lower Cortisol Levels

If you’re looking for a more effective way to manage your cortisol levels, Kim explains: ‘We advise our clients to find a daily stress reduction practice that suits them. It may be a 15-20 minute meditation or yoga practice. It could be a breathing practice like alternate nostril breathing which helps to regulate the nervous system. Taking a walk in nature has also been shown to help reduce stress.’ She adds, ‘getting an optimal amount of good quality sleep and not over-training are also key.’

Kim Pearson qualified as a nutritionist at London’s Institute for Optimum Nutrition in 2008 and has worked in the field of nutrition and health for 20 years. Find out more at kim-pearson.com