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Cortisol is a hormone with various functions throughout the body. However, if a person’s body cannot regulate their cortisol levels, it could lead to a serious health condition. In these situations, home cortisol tests can indicate when someone might need medical attention.
- Best overall at-home cortisol test: LetsGetChecked – Cortisol Test
- Best at-home urine cortisol test: Everlywell At-Home Cortisol Levels Test Kit – Sleep & Stress Test
- Best at-home blood cortisol test: Healthlabs Cortisol, AM & PM Test
- Most affordable at-home cortisol test: ZRT Laboratories Cortisol Saliva Test
- Best at-home saliva cortisol test: Verisana Diurnal Cortisol Test
Cortisol is the stress hormone that
- nervous system
- immune system
- cardiovascular system
- respiratory system
- reproductive system
- musculoskeletal system
- integumentary system, which includes skin, hair, and nails.
- reducing inflammation
- regulating metabolism
- assisting with memory formation
- controlling blood pressure
- developing the fetus during pregnancy
- maintaining salt and water balance in the body
- controlling blood sugar levels
All these functions make cortisol a vital part of maintaining overall health. If the body can no longer regulate cortisol levels, it can lead to several health disorders, such as Cushing’s syndrome and Addison’s disease. Without treatment, these conditions could cause life-threatening complications.
The body requires certain cortisol levels during times of stress, such as:
- in the event of an injury
- during illness
- during a surgical procedure
A cortisol test
There are several home cortisol tests available to purchase over the counter or online. These allow a person to take a blood, urine, or saliva sample before sending it off for analysis.
After taking a home cortisol test, people can sometimes receive their results as early as within 2–5 days online or via a telephone call with a healthcare professional.
However, there are currently no studies investigating the reliability of these home cortisol tests. Therefore, people should follow up on their test results with a healthcare professional.
A person should take a home cortisol test if they feel they may have a cortisol imbalance.
If cortisol levels are too high, a person may notice the following:
- rapid weight gain in the face, chest, and abdomen
- high blood pressure
- bruises and purple stretch marks
- mood swings
- muscle weakness
- an increase in thirst and need to urinate
If cortisol levels are too low, a person may experience the following symptoms:
- loss of appetite
- unintentional weight loss
- muscle weakness
- abdominal pain
Additionally, low cortisol levels may lead to:
A test can help individuals check their cortisol levels. If the test results show these levels are too high or too low, people should seek medical advice.
A cortisol imbalance may be a sign of an underlying condition, which can lead to serious complications without treatment.
If a person cannot carry out a home cortisol test, they should speak to a medical professional who can arrange a cortisol test at a healthcare facility.
Several online retailers offer home cortisol tests. It is essential to follow all test instructions to ensure a valid result.
- $ = under $100
- $$ = $100-$150
- $$$ = over $150
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based.
Best overall at-home cortisol test
This cortisol test uses the finger-prick method to draw blood for the sample.
Here are the steps to take and send off a blood sample:
- Individuals fill in their details on the collection box and activate their testing kit online at the LetsGetChecked website.
- People need to wash their hands with warm soapy water before using an alcohol swab to clean the finger that they will prick.
- Once the finger is completely dry, pierce the skin using the lancet in the test kit. It is important to wipe away the first drop of blood before squeezing some into the blood collection tube.
- After closing the tube, invert it 5–10 times before placing it in the included biohazard bag and place it in the box.
Having completed these steps, send the sample back to LetsGetChecked using the kit’s prepaid envelope. Test results usually come back within 2–5 days.
The company also has a team of nurses and doctors available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to offer ongoing support. These healthcare professionals are on hand to discuss a person’s results with them over the phone.
Best at-home urine cortisol test
There are three steps with this test. First, a person registers the testing kit on Everlywell’s website, follows the instructions to take the urine sample, places it in the prepaid package, and sends it off to Everlywell’s certified labs.
Individuals will receive their results digitally via the Everlywell website within a few days. Medical professionals can also offer helpful insights via their secure platform.
As well as sending a personalized report of each marker, Everlywell also sends detailed information explaining the results.
The CLIA has certified all the labs where Everlywell tests samples. The company also ensures that independent board-certified doctors within the person’s specific state review and approve all results.
Best at-home blood cortisol test
Healthlabs offers a cortisol test that requires people to test their levels twice — once in the morning and once in the evening.
The company says they do this because a person’s cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day. Therefore, by testing twice, they can gather information on this fluctuation.
This test requires a blood sample. Individuals must follow the instructions clearly to ensure they take suitable samples.
The manufacturer says that people should collect a morning sample between 7–9 a.m. and an evening sample between 3–5 p.m.
They then need to send off their sample for analysis. After testing is complete at a CLIA-certified lab, a person will receive their results in about 1–3 days.
Most affordable at-home cortisol test
ZRT Laboratories offers a test that involves collecting saliva in the morning. ZRT indicates that the morning is the peak time of hormone production and the best time to test cortisol levels.
The company adds that saliva tests may suit some people because they are noninvasive, and a person can do them in the comfort of their home or in an office or lab.
The company recommends taking the saliva sample on waking up. People who are menstruating should take saliva samples on days 19, 20, or 21 of their cycle if it is regular. If it is irregular, they should take the sample 5 days before their period if they can anticipate the start date.
People should stop taking hormone medications except for birth control and thyroid medication 48 hours before collecting the sample.
Customers then ship their samples off to CLIA-certified ZRT labs. If a customer cannot send their saliva samples within 24 hours, they should freeze them until they can do so.
ZRT Laboratories send the results back to customers within 5-7 business days.
Best at-home saliva cortisol test
Verisana Diurnal Cortisol Test uses saliva to measure cortisol throughout the day: once upon waking, after 4 hours of being awake, after 8 hours, and after 10 hours.
The company says that since cortisol levels fluctuate throughout the day, this test keeps track of the changing levels and determines a person’s daily levels.
When taking a sample, a person should collect their first sample between the time they wake up and 11 a.m., the next between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., the next between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., and take the final sample between 7 p.m. and bedtime.
Customers should stop taking hormonal medications except for birth control and thyroid medications 48 hours before collecting the sample. People who have regular menstruation patterns should take samples between days 19 and 21 of their cycle. And people who have more irregular cycles should take the sample 5 days before their expected cycle.
A CLIA-certified lab tests the samples, and a customer will receive their results after about 3 weeks.
At a clinic or hospital setting, a medical professional will
Home cortisol tests involve a person taking a sample of blood, urine, or saliva. There are currently no studies investigating the accuracy of these results.
However, home cortisol tests may be faster and more convenient than making an appointment with a doctor to take a sample.
People may consider several factors when deciding to purchase a home cortisol test, including:
- Sample type: Some tests require a blood sample, while others need urine or saliva. With this in mind, a person may wish to buy a product that uses a testing method they are comfortable providing.
- Test analysis: A person may wish to purchase a product from a company that sends tests to
Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA)-certifiedlabs for analysis. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Medicaid Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regulate these labs to help ensure safety and accuracy.
- Accuracy: Individuals may wish to speak to a pharmacist or other healthcare professional before purchasing to ensure the test is reliable and accurate.
A person should undergo a cortisol test if they believe they may have high or low cortisol levels.
They can do this at home or speak with a medical professional who can carry out the test for them.
People may also wish to seek medical help if they show signs of too much or too little cortisol. This could indicate a potentially serious underlying health issue.
Cortisol is an important hormone that affects almost all parts of the body. It has many functions, including reducing inflammation, regulating metabolism, and controlling blood pressure.
If a person believes they have high or low cortisol levels, they may wish to take a cortisol test. Usually, these tests take place at a medical practice. However, several home cortisol tests are available to purchase.
A person can take these tests at home by providing a urine, blood, or saliva sample. Once a lab analyzes the test, people usually receive their results within a few days. Individuals should follow up on any test results with a healthcare professional.