Cortisol is made in the adrenal glands, which are located on the top of each kidney. Cortisol is released via a pathway called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA axis. When the body needs cortisol, the hypothalamus, which is located in the brain, triggers the pituitary gland to release a hormone called ACTH (AdrenoCorticoTropic Hormone).
Next, ACTH signals the adrenal glands on the kidneys to release cortisol. Normally, the hypothalamus and pituitary gland can sense when there is enough cortisol in your blood. They send a signal to the adrenal glands to turn off until more cortisol is needed.