Coleus forskohlii is an ancient Ayurvedic plant and member of the mint and lavender family, which grows in the mountains of Asia. Recent research has shown that the active ingredient in coleus is forskolin, which plays a major role in a variety of important cellular functions, including inhibiting histamine release, relaxing muscles, increasing thyroid function, and increasing fat-burning activity. Though scientists are only just confirming the many benefits of coleus, there’s a definite “buzz” circulating about its potential for aiding in fat loss.
Coleus forskohlii grows wild on the mountain slopes of Nepal, India, and Thailand and is a member of the mint (Lamiaceae) family. It is an attractive perennial grown around the world as an ornamental plant. The root is used medicinally.
The raw ingredient for many Coleus forskohlii containing products comes from companies like Sabinsa, which maintain a patent on their products.
Important Note: Watch out! Raw root powders may have only 0.2 to 0.3% forskolin. Look for extracts that are at least 10 to 20% forskolin.
It’s not hard to see why athletes would be attracted to Coleus forskohlii initially: the lure of easy fat burning plus control of muscle cramping all make it an interesting herb. It’s certainly gaining popularity in the scientific arena as well as on the street for its potential fat-burning effects. And, if allergies and heart health are a concern, you’re in luck: science suggests this herb may help.
No deficiency conditions are known to exist.
Research indicates that Coleus Forskohlii may be useful in the treatment of:
Though scientists are only just confirming the many benefits of Coleus forskohlii, there’s a definite “buzz” circulating about its potential for supporting fat loss. And while not everybody may be familiar with coleus yet, based on some pretty impressive preliminary research, we believe this is a significant leap in the search for an effective aid for fat loss that doesn’t cause adverse effects.
Here’s a brief review of the facts so far… The main argument for using coleus to drop fat is that the active chemical forskolin initiates a cascade of chemical reactions that cause fat cells to basically release their energy and melt away. In more technical terms, what happens is forskolin increases an enzyme called adenylate cyclase, which increases levels of another enzyme called cAMP (cyclic AMP), which is found in fat. cAMP then stimulates another enzyme, hormone sensitive lipase, to burn fat. Additionally, by a similar mechanism using cAMP, coleus increases thyroid hormone production and release, thereby increasing the body’s metabolism to burn more calories.
Forskolin does initiate a similar cascade of chemical reactions as ephedrine. Now, where coleus differs from ephedrine is that ephedrine stimulates adrenergic receptors (which is the primary mechanism for ephedrine, even though this process is not totally accountable for its fat-burning effects) before it reaches cAMP. Unfortunately, many negative side effects can be experienced when some of these adrenergic receptors are stimulated, such as increased blood pressure, anxiety, etc. (This is basically why users of ephedrine-based supplements oftentimes experience unwanted and sometimes dangerous side effects.)
To the coleus user’s advantage, however, coleus bypasses the adrenergic receptors and goes straight into the cAMP cycle, which is the next step in the ephedrine fat-burning process and subsequently also bypasses all of the potential unwanted, adverse effects associated with ephedrine. Simply stated, this is like having the option of two journeys driving to work: both will get you to the identical spot, and both will take the same amount of time, but one route (coleus) is a calm country drive with no traffic, whereas the other route (ephedrine) is a busy high-speed motorway with perils and hazards with every lane change… I know which route I prefer!
Scientists have, in fact, studied the effects of coleus for over 15 years and have found an abundance of benefits, including bodyfat reduction and lean body mass enhancement. However, scientists are only now beginning to show how these effects occur in the real world. While more research is indeed needed (as is the case for many supplements), these theories and initial clinical studies adequately support its claimed benefits. Still, there is apparently some even more exciting research on the horizon.
Speaking of exciting research, this just in…
One of the most respected individuals in the field of sports nutrition research, Dr. Richard Kreider recently conducted an interesting presentation called “Ephedra Alternatives” at Nutracon, held in March in Anaheim. Here he touched on a range of speculative but promising nutrients, one of them being coleus. Dr. Kreider stated that initial pilot studies suggest Coleus forskholii may promote weight and fat loss and/or mitigate (or moderate) weight gain in overweight subjects.
He also recently presented data at the 2002 Experimental Biology meeting of his own recently conducted study on coleus. In a double-blind, randomized study, 23 overweight females supplemented their diets with ForsLean (a patented form of coleus) extracted for 25 mg of forskolin 2 times per day for 12 weeks. The participants’ body composition and bodyweight were examined every 4 weeks for the 12-week study period, and any side effects were recorded on a weekly basis. The study results found that although no significant differences were observed in caloric or macronutrient intake, ForsLean helped mitigate gains in body mass — that is, subjects taking ForsLean observed a slight decrease in bodyweight while subjects taking the placebo continued to gain weight. Additionally, the study showed users felt less fatigue, so they had more energy. And their appetites were reduced, so they felt fuller for longer. Also on the upside, there were no reported negative side effects.
The drug company Hoechst began studying this herb in 1974 with the Indian Central Drug Research Institute and found the root helped relieve asthma by increasing cyclic AMP, which is a chemical that is key in many cellular functions. Cyclic AMP (cAMP) is the reason asthma drugs relax the muscles around the bronchial tubes.
Forskolin also controls the release of histamine and other inflammatory compounds like platelet-activating factor (PAF)7, which may make coleus useful for the relief of asthma, eczema, and other allergic reactions.
Plus, forskolin relaxes smooth (think heart and lung) muscle tissues, which is another reason it may help with asthma, as well as possibly control menstrual cramps, angina, irritable bowel syndrome, bladder infections, and high blood pressure. It may even help relieve psoriasis, a painful skin condition, because that seems to be related to cyclic AMP in skin cells. Forskolin-elevated cAMP levels in cells dilate blood vessels and increase thyroid hormone secretion as well.
There is also evidence to support the use of coleus to promote heart health and relieve related ailments such as high blood pressure and muscle spasms, though research is still limited.
The information on its potential to help increase fat loss is exciting and is becoming fully supported by the scientific community. So while coleus may not have achieved “prime-time” just yet, based on the preliminary research, it’s is turning out be an effective agent in the fight against fat loss and for supporting weight maintenance.
A common dosage range is 50 to 100 mg, 2 or 3 times a day. An extract standardized to 10 to 20% forskolin is preferred.
Fluid extracts of two to four milliliters taken three times per day are used as well.
Coleus forskohlii is often used with ephedra or Citrus aurantium in weight-loss formulas.
There isn’t much research on Coleus forskohlii’s safety, but so far it hasn’t caused any adverse reactions in people.
If you are pregnant or nursing, though, forskolin is not recommended.
Those with severe liver or kidney disease should probably avoid it until more research has demonstrated its safety.
If you have ulcers, it is not recommended since it can increase stomach acid levels.
Don’t put it directly in your eyes since it can cause tearing, burning, and itching.
Be cautious if you are taking blood-pressure medications such as beta-blockers, clonidine, or hydralazine, or blood-thinning drugs such as Coumadin (warfarin), heparin, or Trental (pentoxifylline).
No known toxicity.