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Cortisol is a hormone with various functions, and if the body does not regulate cortisol levels properly, this can have serious health effects. An at-home cortisol test can help show when a person might need medical attention.
A quick look at the best at-home cortisol tests
- Best for follow-up advice: LetsGetChecked Cortisol Test
- Best urine sample cortisol test: Everlywell Sleep & Stress Test
- Best lower cost cortisol test: HRT Org Cortisol Saliva Test
- Best for tracking cortisol fluctuations: Verisana Diurnal Cortisol Test
- Best for AM and PM testing: Rx HomeTest Cortisol AM-PM Test
- Best for fast results: MyLAB Box Adrenal Stress Test
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.
Medical News Today chooses at-home tests that meet the following criteria:
- Laboratories: Where possible, MNT will choose companies that process test samples in
CLIA certifiedlabs. This means they follow state and federal regulations.
- Budget: MNT chooses at-home tests that suit a wide range of budgets.
- Privacy: MNT includes companies that offer robust and transparent privacy measures, such as data protection and discreet packaging.
- Test result speed: MNT selects companies that inform customers when they will receive their test results and whether they will receive them via email, app, or phone.
- Further support: MNT will indicate whether a company offers further support, such as a follow-up phone consultation with a doctor to discuss test results.
Several online retailers offer home cortisol tests. It is essential for people to follow all test instructions to ensure a valid result.
Please note that the writer of this article has not tried these products. All information presented is purely research-based and correct at the time of publication.
Medical News Today follows a strict product selection and vetting process. Learn more here.
Best for follow-up advice: LetsGetChecked Cortisol Test
- Price: $99
- Sample type: This test requires a finger-prick blood sample.
- Results time: People can receive their results in 2–5 days.
- Pro: Follow-up support is available 24-7.
- Con: Some people may not be comfortable taking their own blood sample.
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:
- A person should collect their sample before 9 am and return it immediately. The company advises a person should not collect or return samples on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.
- A person will fill in their details on the collection box and activate their testing kit online at LetsGetChecked.
- Then, they will wash their hands with warm soapy water before using an alcohol swab to clean the finger they will prick.
- Once their finger is completely dry, they will pierce the skin using the lancet in the test kit. Then, they will wipe away the first drop of blood before squeezing some into the blood collection tube.
- After closing the tube, they will invert it 5–10 times before placing it in the included biohazard bag and then put it in the box.
After completing these steps, a person must send the sample back to LetsGetChecked using the kit’s prepaid envelope. LetsGetChecked claims test results come back within 2–5 days.
According to the company, it tests samples in the same labs that primary care professionals and hospitals use. These labs have Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) and College of American Pathologists (CAP) certifications.
The company also has a team of nurses and doctors available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, to offer ongoing support. Healthcare professionals are available to discuss a person’s results over the phone.
This test is best for people who think they may need follow-up support and for people who do not mind pricking their fingers to provide a sample.
Best urine sample cortisol test: Everlywell Sleep & Stress Test
- Price: $199
- Sample type: This test requires a urine sample.
- Results time: People receive their results in 2–5 days.
- Pro: It tests for three hormones over different periods of the day. Everlywell also accepts flexible savings account and health savings account payments.
- Con: It is expensive.
This Everlywell product uses a urine sample to test the levels of three hormones, cortisol, cortisone, and melatonin, over four points during the day. It also tests for another marker, creatinine, which is a waste product of the muscles.
There are three steps to 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.
People will receive their results digitally via the Everlywell website. Everlywell claims this can be within 2–5 days. Healthcare professionals can also offer insights into a person’s results via Everlywell’s secure platform.
In addition to providing a personalized report of each marker, Everlywell sends detailed information explaining the results.
The company claims that the labs where Everlywell tests samples are CLIA certified. Everlywell also says it ensures that independent, board certified doctors within the person’s state review and approve all results.
This test is best for people who want into their hormone fluctuations and prefer urine sample tests.
Best lower-cost cortisol test: ZRT Laboratory Cortisol Saliva Test
- Price: $86
- Sample type: This test requires a saliva sample.
- Results time: People receive their results in 5–7 business days.
- Pro: The test is more affordable than its competitors.
- Con: A person may have to stop taking hormone medications 2 days before taking the test.
This test involves collecting saliva in the morning. ZRT Laboratory indicates that the morning is the peak time for hormone production and the best time to test cortisol levels.
It 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 after waking up.
People with regular menstruation patterns should take saliva samples on days 19, 20, or 21 of their cycle. If their cycle is irregular, they should take the sample 5 days before their period, if they can anticipate the start date.
After collecting their sample, people then ship it to a CLIA-certified lab. If they cannot send their saliva sample within 24 hours, they should freeze them until they can do so.
ZRT Laboratory returns results within 5–7 business days.
This test may be best for people working with a smaller budget.
Best cortisol test for tracking cortisol fluctuations: Verisana Diurnal Cortisol Test
- Price: $129.95
- Sample type: This test requires a saliva sample.
- Results time: People receive their results in around 3 weeks.
- Pro: A person takes the test four times a day, resulting in more detailed reports.
- Con: The results take a long time to process, and a person must restrict consumption of certain foods before testing.
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 when 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 the final sample between 7 p.m. and bedtime.
Verisana says that customers should stop taking hormonal medications — except for birth control and thyroid medications — 48 hours before collecting the sample.
People with regular menstruation patterns should take samples between days 19 and 21 of their cycle. People with more irregular cycles should take the sample 5 days before their expected cycle.
Verisana also says that people should avoid milk and soy products, chocolate, wine, and meat for 12 hours before taking the test.
A CLIA-certified lab will test the samples, and a person will receive their results after 3 weeks.
This test may be best suited to people who do not need results quickly and would like a more detailed report that monitors cortisol fluctuations.
Best cortisol test for AM and PM testing: Rx HomeTest Cortisol AM-PM Test
- Price: $119.99
- Sample type: This test requires two saliva samples.
- Results time: People receive their results in 5 business days.
- Pro: A person takes two samples throughout the day to allow for fluctuations.
- Con: People must remember to take the sample within the appropriate time window.
This Rx HomeTest Cortisol AM/PM Test requires a person to take two saliva samples: one 30–60 minutes after waking in the morning, before eating breakfast or brushing teeth, and the other before bed.
The company states that collecting two samples can help provide insight into a person’s 24-hour cortisol cycle.
Once a person collects the sample, they can ship it to the Rx HomeTest CLIA lab for free. The company claims it sends test results within 5 business days and that they are easy to understand.
This test may be best suited to people who to understand their 24-hour cortisol cycle, but do not want to take an invasive sample.
The RxHomeTest Cortisol AM/PM Test is available across the United States, except in the following states:
- New York
- New Jersey
- Rhode Island
Best for fast results: MyLAB Box Adrenal Stress Test
- Price: $149
- Sample type: This test requires a saliva sample.
- Results time: People receive their results in 2–5 days.
- Pro: People receive free physician consultations with their tests.
- Con: Not available in all states.
This adrenal gland test assesses a person’s cortisol and DHEA levels.
MyLAB Box recommends people lie down and take the time to de-stress prior to taking the test. If a person takes medication, the company recommends speaking to their physician before taking the test.
The company states that people can take their saliva sample in as little as 5 minutes. Each test comes with the tools to take the sample and a prepaid return envelope.
MyLAB Box states that it uses laboratories that are CAP and CLIA-certified.
People will receive their results online within 5 days of sending the sample off. The company also offers access to a free follow-up physician consult.
This test is available in every state except New York.
The table below compares each of the cortisol tests for sample type, price, and more.
In a clinic or hospital setting, a healthcare professional will
With home cortisol tests, a person takes a sample of their 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 undergoing testing in a clinic or hospital setting.
People may consider several factors when deciding to purchase a home cortisol test, including:
- Sample type: Some tests require a blood sample, while others use urine or saliva. A person may wish to buy a product that uses a testing method they are comfortable with.
- Test analysis: A person should purchase a product from a company that sends tests to
CLIA certifiedlabs for analysis. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)regulate these labs to help ensure safety and accuracy.
- Accuracy: The
FDAsays at-home tests are cost effective and quick to use, but it states they should not replace regular contact with a doctor. The FDAalso states that all tests can give false results, and a person should follow instructions carefully and check expiration dates to have the best chance of getting accurate results.
- Price: Some cortisol tests can be expensive. A person can talk with a doctor to determine whether at-home cortisol tests will be useful for them before making a purchase.
Note that a person should not adjust medication based on at-home test results before speaking with a doctor.
The FDA does not approve every at-home test for use, and it recommends that a person check with a pharmacist or vendor to see if their chosen test is FDA approved. Unapproved tests have not been deemed safe or effective, according to the FDA.
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
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 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.
Stress can affect a person’s cortisol levels, so people should try to rest and have a calm state of mind before performing a test.
Fasting is not typically necessary for a cortisol test. However, healthcare professionals may ask people to stop taking certain medications, so it is important to tell a doctor about all the medications a person is taking.
People should never stop taking medication unless a doctor asks them to.
Typically, results will show whether a person’s cortisol levels are high, low, or in a typical range.
High levels of cortisol may indicate Cushing’s syndrome or a tumor that is increasing cortisol levels.
It is important that people contact a healthcare professional when they receive the results of an at-home test. People should not try to interpret the results of a test without the aid of a healthcare professional.
Doctors can also recommend further testing or discuss treatment options if necessary.
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.
Below are answers to common questions about at-home cortisol tests.
Are at-home cortisol tests accurate?
No studies have investigated the reliability and accuracy of at-home cortisol tests. It is important to follow up on all test results with a healthcare professional.
Can I measure cortisol at home?
People can buy at-home cortisol tests online. These require a blood, urine, or saliva sample that a person collects at home, then sends to the company’s labs.
The company returns the test results to the person after a few days or weeks.
However, no studies have investigated the accuracy of at-home cortisol tests. A person should contact a healthcare professional once they have received their results.
How do I know if my cortisol levels are high?
A person may notice several symptoms of high cortisol levels, such as:
- rapid weight gain in the face, abdomen, and chest
- an increase in thirst and the need to urinate
- easy bruising
- purple stretch marks
- mood changes
Contact a healthcare professional as soon as possible for advice if any of these symptoms are present.
What does a cortisol test show?
A cortisol test measures the levels of cortisol in the blood. These tests screen for cortisol levels through blood, saliva, or urine samples.
The test results will show whether a person has high, low, or typical levels of cortisol in the blood.
How is a cortisol test done?
A cortisol test involves a blood, urine, or saliva sample. At-home test kits will ask people to self-collect these samples.
Laboratories will process the samples to check a person’s cortisol levels. People will receive their test results from a healthcare professional or from the company that they purchased the test from.
When should a cortisol test be done?
A person should perform a cortisol test when a healthcare professional recommends doing so, or if they notice any symptoms of high or low levels of cortisol.
Symptoms of high cortisol levels include rapid weight gain, high blood pressure, mood swings, and muscle weakness.
Symptoms of low cortisol levels include fatigue, unintentional weight loss, and loss of appetite.
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 at-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.