The Health Benefits of Forskolin

Forskolin may promote weight loss and treat high blood pressure

Flickr Creative Commons https://www.flickr.com/photos/shanfari/6147642027/in/photolist-anfgN4-mgEJVs-8wo72d-ani977-ani5QE-i29qg2-kjyNC8-cAt62b-YGsTa1-3cpHKv-pEeMcV-av5ALZ-gFY8ZM-92B4z5-TgwFCp-6ojgNy-de9hse-hKGs6B-a7XZUb-azBxCz-d6oKrS-atkJQm-8Y4wJ2-ani8ej-8wo553-sEEe4X-cgeZnu-wonaeX-232BRrU-a7XZYy-a7VKqG-cMNWaC-aAV6X2-a7VKws-d3HnFY-jr6Nfg-a7V8eB-51D7s5-d3Hmyu-esXGVG-d8N1Ns-945ff9-rrri8D-qsWp3a-rpXMRc-eqd5CW-d3Hs6d-x5Kxcc-ow332Q-xgvJWm
Indian coleus (Coleus forskohlii).

 Muhammed Al Shanfari

 

A natural substance extracted from the Indian coleus plant (Coleus forskohlii), the supplement forskolin is an herbal remedy related to mint. The plant is found throughout regions of Nepal, Indian, and Southeast Asia.

Forskolin is known to activate adenylate cyclase class III (AC-III), an enzyme involved in the regulation of all human cells. The primary function of AC-III is to facilitate the transfer of chemical messages from the outside of the cell to the inside of a cell.

Although limited, peer-reviewed, scientific evidence is available, forskolin is suggested to offer weight loss benefits as well as treatments for eye and breathing conditions.

Health Benefits   

Limited published, scientific research indicates that forskolin supplements may have some health benefits. Here is a closer look at some of the potential health benefits.

May Lower Blood Pressure

Consuming forskolin can cause cellular changes, which leads to blood vessel dilation. This can cause your blood pressure to lower, although clinical trials do not conclusively prove this. More human studies are needed on forskolin's ability to lower humans' blood pressure.

May Protect Against Glaucoma

Eye drops containing forskolin could help protect your eyesight against glaucoma, a disease caused by high inner eye pressure. A 2013 study from Italy reported that a supplement containing forskolin and the flavonoid called rutin reduced inner eye pressure by 10% in people with glaucoma after 30 days. Higher doses even corresponded to greater decreases in eye pressure.

May Reduce Eye Pressure

A study from India reported that a 1% forskolin eye drop was able to reduce inner eye pressure in adults after 4 weeks of treatment. In this study, 90 adults ages 18 to 60 who experienced open angle glaucoma with an intraocular pressure were enrolled.

Participants used two eye drops three times per day, and researchers took readings at the first visit, and at the end of weeks one through four. Results showed a significant difference in eye pressure across every visit.

May Reduce Asthma Risks

Forskolin works in a similar way to certain asthma drugs by boosting the level of a compound known as cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cyclic AMP). Doing this relaxes the air passages and reduces the risk of respiratory spasms, such as asthma.

Researchers in this 2019 review cite González-Sánchez et al, which reported that administering 10 milligrams of forskolin capsules in 20 patients daily for half a year resulted in a positive control of asthma attacks. Participants' breathing volume also was similar to inhalations of the asthma drug "sodium cromoglycate."

May Aid Weight Loss

Limited studies show that Coleus forskohlii extract could aid in weight management, but the most referenced studies are dated, with 2005 and 2007 human studies showing an effect on weight loss. One more recent clinical study suggests forskolin could promote weight loss in obese men, but more research is needed.

May Lower Insulin Resistance

In a randomized, double blind placebo-controlled clinical study, researchers examined the effects of Coleus forskohlii extract on metabolic parameters of obese and overweight people. In this study, participants were given either 250 milligrams of Coleus forskohlii extract or a placebo twice a day for 12 weeks.

Body weight, body mass index (BMI) waist and hip circumference, and waist-to-hip ratio were measured every 2 weeks. Results showed that the group consuming the extract experienced improvement in insulin concentration and resistance compared to those taking the placebo.

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a dated, biased measure that doesn’t account for several factors, such as body composition, ethnicity, race, gender, and age.

Despite being a flawed measure, BMI is widely used today in the medical community because it is an inexpensive and quick method for analyzing potential health status and outcomes.

Possible Side Effects  

You should speak with a health care professional before taking forskolin supplements. They could cause certain side effects, including slow heart rate, low blood pressure, and diarrhea.

Pregnant and nursing women, children, anyone immunocompromised, and those taking medications should avoid taking forskolin supplements. Forskolin can also interact with anti-platelet drugs, anticoagulants and blood thinners, blood pressure medications, beta-blockers, and calcium channel blockers.

Dosage and Preparation

There are no published guidelines on the appropriate use of forskolin supplements. Speak with a healthcare provider to determine what is best for you based on your health history. The appropriate dose depends on your health, age, and tolerance to supplements.

Forskolin supplements are manufactured with dosage ranging from 385 to 500 milligrams. You should not consume beyond the maximum recommended dose.

What to Look For

To ensure a quality product, only choose forskolin supplements that are tested and certified by an independent certifying body, such as the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP) or ConsumerLab. The label also should not list any treatment, cure, or relief of symptoms for a disease, as this is illegal per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Can you get forskolin from coleus plants?

    You can get forskolin from Indian coleus plants while the root contains the forskolin chemical. (Indian coleus and coleus are separate plants.) Forskolin comes from coleus plants, which are not considered toxic, but you should not eat them. The plant’s sap can cause skin, throat and mouth irritations. Taking it can also increase your risk of bleeding, especially if you take blood thinners.

  • When should I take forskolin?

    You can take forskolin at any time. You might want to take the supplement with food and earlier in the day because it could give you energy and interrupt your nightly sleep. Forskolin does not use stimulants, but the supplement works in the way caffeine does.

  • How long does it take forskolin to work?

    No evidence shows a specific timeline for forskolin results. According to a study on forskolin for glaucoma patients, researchers found measurable results after 4 weeks.

    You should follow the directions on the product label for dosage and time for expected results. If you consume a healthy diet, you will likely not need to take any supplements, including forskolin. Supplements are not regulated and their efficacy and safety are not supported by scientific evidence, so always speak with a healthcare practitioner prior to adding a product to your routine.

  • How does forskolin help you lose weight?

    You often find forskolin on weight loss products’ ingredient labels. Manufacturers often label forskolin as a fat burner or appetite suppressant. However, these health claims are not backed by solid evidence, and you should not count on this supplement to help you lose weight. Instead, a combination of a balanced diet and exercise are the best way to lose weight.

11 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Rodriguez G, Ross JA, Nagy ZS, Kirken RA. Forskolin-inducible camp pathway negatively regulates t-cell proliferation by uncoupling the interleukin-2 receptor complexJ Biol Chem. 2013;288(10):7137-7146. doi:10.1074/jbc.M112.408765

  2. Salehi B, Staniak M, Czopek K, et al. The therapeutic potential of the labdane diterpenoid forskolinApplied Sciences. 2019;9(19):4089. doi:10.3390/app9194089

  3. Jonas JB, Wang N. Cerebrospinal Fluid Pressure and GlaucomaJ Ophthalmic Vis Res. 2013;8(3):257-263. PMID:24349669

  4. Majeed M, Nagabhushanam K, Natarajan S, Vaidyanathan P, Karri SK, Jose JA. Efficacy and safety of 1% forskolin eye drops in open angle glaucoma - An open label studySaudi J Ophthalmol. 2015;29(3):197‐200. doi:10.1016/j.sjopt.2015.02.003

  5. Gonzalez-Sanchez, R.; Trujillo, X.; Trujillo-Hernandez, B.; Vásquez, C.; Huerta, M.; Elizalde, A. Forskolin versus sodium cromoglycate for prevention of asthma attacks: A single-blinded clinical trialJ. Int. Med. Res. 2006, 34, 200–207.

  6. Loftus HL, Astell KJ, Mathai ML, Su XQ. Coleus forskohlii extract supplementation in conjunction with a hypocaloric diet reduces the risk factors of metabolic syndrome in overweight and obese subjects: a randomized controlled trialNutrients. 2015;7(11):9508-9522. doi:10.3390/nu7115483

  7. Dwyer JT,Coates PM, Smith MJ. Dietary supplements: Regulatory challenges and research resourcesNutrients. 2018;10(1):41. doi:10.3390/nu10010041

  8. Food and Drug Administration. Dietary supplements.

  9. National Library of Medicine, PubChem. Forskolin.

  10. Mount Sinai Health System. Psoriasis information.

  11. Stohs SJ, Badmaev V. A review of natural stimulant and non‐stimulant thermogenic agentsPhytother Res. 2016;30(5):732-740. doi:10.1002/ptr.5583

By Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed
Jennifer Purdie, M.Ed, is a certified personal trainer, freelance writer, and author of "Growth Mindset for Athletes, Coaches and Trainers."