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Difference Between Adrenaline and Cortisol

Adrenaline Vs Cortisol

Adrenaline and cortisol have been confused with each other most probably because they come from one source ‘“ the adrenal glands. Immersing further deep into these two hormones would yield various differences.

Adrenaline is the common or layman’s term for epinephrine. As mentioned, it is a hormone but at the same time, it is also classified as a neurotransmitter because they function by carrying the nerve impulses between the neurons towards the target cell. This gives adrenaline its electro-chemical nature.

Adrenaline has been known as one of the most popular hormones because of its effect on the body. A sudden surge in the amount of adrenaline would mean that you are undergoing a period of fight-or-flight. One will experience this when under stress. As a result, the sympathetic nervous system with this hormone (neurotransmitter) speeds up the heart rate and increases blood pressure through blood vessel contraction. There’s also the dilation of air passages.

If you come to think of it, these effects are actually a response mechanism by the body to handle stress. Increasing the heart rate ensures that the body is supplied by ample amounts of blood throughout the circulation. The dilation of the air passages gives more room for air to pass and thus the cells receive more oxygen.

With regard to the chemical nature of adrenaline, it is regarded as one of the most important catecholamines of the body. It is a primitive hormone that was discovered early in the 1900s.

Cortisol is another hormone, particularly a corticosteroid, produced by the adrenal gland gradually throughout the day. It is another stress hormone like adrenaline which is generated more in times of stressful situations like the fight-or-flight response. It has many therapeutic effects in the body like its effect on the liver to hasten the removal of unwanted body toxins. It also heightens STM (short term memory). Perhaps the most common and noteworthy role of cortisol is its anti-inflammatory nature that tends to reduce any form of inflammation.

Nevertheless, there are many downsides to cortisol. This hormone is very difficult to regulate. Hence, if there’s a little abnormality on its serum levels like when there’s too much cortisol then it could end up as Cushing’s syndrome which is characterized by diaphoresis (excessive perspiration), sudden gain of weight and even some psychological disturbances. If there’s a decrease in its blood levels then it will lead to Addison’s disease (the direct opposite). Thus, you would expect weight loss and fatigue in patients suffering from such.

Although both adrenaline and cortisol are hormones involved in the stress response, they still differ because:

1. Adrenaline is a neurotransmitter, a catecholamine and a hormone while cortisol is a corticosteroid hormone.

2. Adrenaline was discovered at an earlier date than cortisol.

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  1. just a tip that i learned about adrenal function i seen on oprah a show about women whos husbands hired hit men to do them in and one of the women said that this hit man was beating her and breaking her leg and on and on she did not feel anything THEIR IS A GOD how happy i was to hear that now i had adrenal supression and i could not even handle a dirty look with out feeling shaky and weak i could not handle the stress of say my boss sitting in the dinning room as i was waiting on tables as a waitress before the adrenal supression i had no problem with this adrenal fucntion is everything even confidence
    why because just the nervousness of a room full of people make you feel shaky and theirfore not confident i am sad to say my adrenal function is not going to keep me pain free

  2. Adrenaline is not a neurotransmitter, it is a hormone. Noradrenaline is the neurotransmitter form of adrenaline.

    Berne & Levy – Physiology 6th edition


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