These questions are always a little silly (as we will never truly know), but it always struck me as odd that corticosterone and cortisol exhibit pronounced anti-inflammatory activity.

Because these compounds are released during fight-or-flight episodes, it seems almost counter-intuitive for an organism to promote "anti-inflammatory activity" during an event that is most likely coincident with injury (i.e. wounds from fighting / escaping).

Anti-inflammatory activity, I believe, is fairly synonymous with anti-coagulation activity. If wounds are most likely to occur during periods of fight-or-flight (which is a reasonable intuition), why would organisms select for a glucocorticoid that has additional effects such as reducing acute clotting capacity?

The only thing that I can think of is there is an energetic cost to initiating the coagulation cascade, which would siphon energy away from skeletal muscle. Any thoughts / hypotheses?



1 Answer 1


Interesting question. It's easy to imagine why you would want to suppress inflammation in a fight-or-flight situation. Inflammation can cause painful swelling, fever, and it can dull mental acuity, all of which might hurt your chances of a win or escape.

After a little PubMed search, it looks like sympathetic adrenal responses (like cortisol) can actually induce a net hypercoagulability of the blood (1). So, even though inflammation does induce coagulation, it looks like the sympathetic anti-inflammatory response is not necessarily synonymous with anti-coagulation. This also makes sense in the context of Cushing's Syndrome, where hypercoagulation is associate with elevate cortisol levels, among other factors (2).


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