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- Best overall: LetsGetChecked
- Best for sleep and stress management: Everlywell
- Best for budget: Verisana
Stressed? You’re not alone. A 2021 report from the American Psychological Association found that 84 percent of U.S. adults reported feeling emotions associated with prolonged stress since the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stress can be attributed, in part, to cortisol, which is known as the stress hormone. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys, and is one of the hormones responsible for the fight-or-flight response.
Your body releases cortisol when it’s stressed. High stress levels over long periods of time can result in high cortisol levels, which can have a negative impact on your health, according to a
One way to manage stress is to test your cortisol production levels through an at-home cortisol test. While you shouldn’t self-diagnose a medical or mental health condition, taking these types of tests may provide key information you can discuss further with your doctor.
Cortisol is also known as the stress hormone. It plays a vital role in the body: Cortisol helps maintain blood pressure and blood sugar. It breaks down carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. Cortisol can even help fight infections.
Your adrenal glands — the two small glands that sit above your kidneys — make cortisol.
If your cortisol levels are too high or too low, you may notice some symptoms and a decline in your health. You may also have a disorder in your adrenal glands, which can be serious if left untreated.
At-home cortisol tests are used to check if your cortisol production levels are too high or too low.
Too much or too little cortisol can be a sign of an adrenal gland disorder. These disorders include:
- Cushing syndrome, when your body makes too much cortisol
- Addison disease, when your body doesn’t make enough cortisol
At-home cortisol tests can be a good way to check your cortisol levels and gain insight into what may be causing the symptoms you’re experiencing before visiting your doctor.
Cortisol levels vary throughout the day. They’re typically highest when you wake up in the morning, and they gradually decrease as the day goes on.
Because of this, most at-home cortisol tests require you to collect a sample first thing in the morning. Others may ask that you collect a sample at several points during the day.
Your doctor may also instruct you to take the test at a certain point of the day, depending on if they think you’re making too much or too little cortisol.
The collection methods for at-home cortisol tests vary. Some require a blood sample, while others use saliva or urine. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when taking the test.
After sending back your sample, expect to get the results from an at-home cortisol test in anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks.
You may want to take an at-home cortisol test depending on the symptoms you’re experiencing. If you have too much cortisol you may experience symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome, and if you have too little cortisol you may experience symptoms of Addison’s disease.
Low or high cortisol?
Symptoms that may indicate low or high cortisol levels include:
- severe fatigue
- difficulty concentrating
- weight gain or weight loss
- muscle weakness
- high blood pressure
- low blood sugar
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, consider testing your cortisol levels.
An at-home cortisol test can also be an insightful way to understand how your body responds to stress.
If you’ve been diagnosed with either Cushing syndrome or Addison disease, your doctor may also recommend testing your cortisol levels regularly.
Common symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome include:
- high blood pressure
- high blood sugar
- muscle weakness
Common symptoms of Addison disease include:
- weight loss
- low blood pressure
When choosing an at-home cortisol test, you’ll want to keep in mind:
- the method you’ll be using
- the ease of the collection process
- how informative the results are
These are all considerations we made when determining the best at-home cortisol tests.
To select the best, we read various research studies and read dozens of reviews.
Some insurance plans may cover the cost of at-home cortisol tests. Unless otherwise noted, the prices listed reflect out-of-pocket costs:
- $ = under $100
- $$ = $100–$150
- $$$ = over $150
- Price: $
- Collection method: blood
- Results: 5 days
LetsGetChecked provides a thorough way to test your cortisol levels in the comfort of your own home. The company’s at-home cortisol test requires collecting a blood sample using a finger prick.
After ordering and receiving your test, you’ll need to activate it so that it’s linked to you when it goes through the testing process.
The sample must be collected between 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. Monday through Thursday and returned on the same day. This test measures your cortisol level in the morning, so it’s essential to follow instructions to ensure accuracy.
LetsGetChecked also notes that participating in intense physical activity the day before collecting your sample can result in increased cortisol levels.
A team of nurses is available to assist with the collection process and go over your results, which are reviewed by a team of physicians. Customer reviews cite the clinical support as a reason why the process went smoothly.
Learn more about LetsGetChecked.
- support available to understand results
- targeted screening only tests for cortisol hormone
- requires a finger prick, so it isn’t suitable if you’re uncomfortable with blood
Use code “HEALTHLINE25” for 25% off
Best for sleep and stress management
- Price: $$$
- Collection method: urine
- Results: within days
Everlywell’s at-home cortisol test is good for those who may be experiencing difficulties with their sleep cycle and stress management.
The test is a comprehensive panel that measures cortisol, cortisone, melatonin, and creatinine. The combination of these hormones contributes to your sleep cycle and stress response.
The urine sample measures these hormones at four points in your day: morning, afternoon, evening, and night. This is meant to give you more insight into how your body may be functioning throughout the day. For instance, if your cortisol shows an elevation in the afternoon, then that could signal a stressor in your day.
Reviews of the at-home cortisol test on Everlywell’s website say that the process was quick and easy. Some customers also appreciate that they could use the results to relay health information to their doctor without going into an office.
- tests for multiple hormones, so it may be helpful if you’re unsure which hormone is causing your symptoms
- uses saliva, which may be preferable to some users
- quick turnaround for results
- requires several samples to get results
Best for budget
- Price: $
- Collection method: saliva
- Results: 3 weeks
Verisana makes it easy to check your cortisol levels at home. Priced at under $50, this at-home cortisol test is great for people who don’t want to spend a ton of money.
Once ordered, expect to receive your test in 5 to 7 days. Verisana’s test analyzes the morning values of cortisol through a saliva sample. Once you send it back, you’ll receive results to your email in around 3 weeks.
All the tests listed in this article, save for Verisana, use Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certified labs, which means they’re held to a certain degree of quality standards and regulations.
Verisana doesn’t work with insurance companies. However, the company claims that their prices are typically lower than the out-of-pocket costs if you’re tested in person.
- tests saliva, which may be easier than a blood sample for some users
- one of the most affordable picks on our list
- longer turnaround time than other top picks
- doesn’t use CLIA certified labs
|At-home test||Price||Collection method||Results|
|LetsGetChecked||under $100||blood||5 days|
|Everlywell||over $150||urine||within days|
|Verisana||under $100||saliva||3 weeks|
A typical cortisol value in a blood sample taken at 8 a.m. is 5 to 25 mcg/dL or 140 to 690 nmol/L.
Results may depend on a variety of factors, including the time of the test and the clinical context.
A healthcare professional can best explain your unique results and what they mean for your health.
When choosing an at-home cortisol test, it’s important to consider the following factors:
- your preferred collection method (saliva, urine, or blood)
- the estimated timeline to get results and whether you want them quickly
- your budget
- health savings account (HSA) or flexible savings account (FSA) purchasing options
- the legitimacy and reputation of the company
- whether the company use CLIA certified labs
- customer reviews and feedback
While home testing is a convenient method for checking your cortisol, it may be best to see a doctor first if you’re experiencing severe symptoms of possible low or high cortisol. These may include sudden, unexplained weight changes, darkened areas of your skin, or significant changes in mood.
You should also see a doctor if you decide to take an at-home cortisol test and you receive abnormal results. They may order follow-up tests and determine an appropriate treatment plan. It’s also important to communicate any at-home test results with a doctor if you’re currently being treated for Cushing syndrome or Addison disease.
Finally, if you receive normal at-home cortisol results but still don’t feel right, make an appointment with your doctor to help determine what could be the underlying cause of your symptoms.
Are the tests accurate?
The results of your at-home cortisol test are processed in the same labs that a doctor’s office uses, so they’re generally accurate.
However, the accuracy can depend on the type of test and collection method. If you receive your results and are unsure if they’re accurate, most test providers offer to review your results with you.
It’s also a good idea to talk with a doctor after taking the test if you need more insight or guidance for next steps.
Are at-home cortisol tests better or worse than in-person tests?
When your cortisol is tested at a doctor’s office, it’s typically done using a blood sample. Most at-home cortisol tests are collected through a saliva sample, though a few may use urine or blood samples.
Getting tested at a doctor’s office or hospital is generally more accurate than a self-collected test. However, an at-home cortisol test is efficient and can be used to gather insight before visiting a doctor.
Are the tests covered by insurance?
Most at-home test providers don’t work with insurance companies and aren’t covered by insurance. However, some providers, like Everlywell, accept HSA and FSA payments.
To find out if your health insurance will cover an at-home cortisol test, it’s best to reach out to them directly.
Are there any risks to taking an at-home cortisol test?
At-home cortisol testing generally comes with few risks. If the test uses a blood sample, there is the possibility of bruising or bleeding. These tests are generally very accurate, but there is the chance that you may receive inaccurate results due to the sample collection process or shipping.
Remember, this type of testing isn’t a substitute for a visit with your primary care doctor.
How often should you test your cortisol?
Unless you have a diagnosis of either Cushing syndrome or Addison disease, you don’t need to test your cortisol levels regularly.
A doctor will give you specific instructions on the type of test you should take, what time to take it, and how regularly you need to get tested.
They may recommend testing twice in 1 day or multiple times over several days since cortisol levels vary.
How do you prepare for a cortisol test?
It depends on the type of test you’re taking and what your doctor tells you to do.
If you’re getting a salivary test, don’t eat, drink, or brush your teeth beforehand. If you’re getting a blood test, it’s important to be well hydrated.
Try to relax and get some rest, as stress may affect your cortisol levels. Your doctor may ask you to avoid any strenuous physical activity the day before a cortisol test too.
Occasionally checking your cortisol levels can be helpful, especially if you’re experiencing stress.
At-home cortisol tests are a convenient and efficient way to monitor your stress and adjust accordingly. However, if you’re experiencing several symptoms, it’s best to talk with a doctor.
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