Coleus Forskohlii

Nutritional Compound

OVERVIEW

Summary

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.

Other names for Coleus Forskohlii

coleus

Where to find Coleus Forskohlii

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.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Coleus Forskohlii

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.

Ways that Coleus Forskohlii can enhance Muscle Gain & Recovery:
  • Lower blood pressure and decrease muscle spasms
Ways that Coleus Forskohlii can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Promote fat loss by theoretically influencing an enzyme that regulates fat burning
  • Increase thyroid hormone production and release, thereby increasing metabolism

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Coleus Forskohlii deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Coleus Forskohlii

Research indicates that Coleus Forskohlii may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Asthma
  • Glaucoma
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Obesity
  • Skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis
  • Insomnia/sleep disorders
  • Muscle spasms and tension

DISCUSSION

More about Coleus Forskohlii

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.

Fat-burning claims

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.

Coleus vs. ephedrine

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!

What the research reveals

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.

Breaking news on coleus research

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.

Asthma and “other” ailment relief

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.

In conclusion

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.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount and Timing

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.

Synergists of Coleus Forskohlii

Coleus forskohlii is often used with ephedra or Citrus aurantium in weight-loss formulas.

Safety of Coleus Forskohlii

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.

Drugs that interact with Coleus Forskohlii

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).

Toxicity of Coleus Forskohlii

No known toxicity.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Ammon, H.P., and Muller, A.B., “Forskolin: From an Ayurvedic Remedy to a Modern Agent,” Planta Med Dec.6 (1985) : 473-7.
  • Astrup, A., “The Effect and Safety of an Ephedrine/Caffeine Compound Compared to Ephedrine, Caffeine and Placebo in Obese Subjects on an Energy Restricted Diet. A Double Blind Trial,” Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 16.4 (1992) : 269-77.
  • Badmaev, V., et al., “Diterpene Forskolin (Coleus forskohlii, Benth.): A Possible New Compound for Reduction of Body Weight by Increasing Lean Body Mass,” Sabinsa report, January 2000.
  • Bauer, K., et al., “Pharmacodynamic Effects of Inhaled Dry Powder Formulations of Fenoterol and Colforsin in Asthma,” Clin Pharmacol Ther 53.1 (1993) : 76-83.
  • Bone, K., Clinical Applications of Ayurvedic and Chinese Herbs (Queensland, Australia: Phytotherapy Press, 1996).
  • Caprioli, J., and Sears, M., “Forskolin Lowers Intraocular Pressure in Rabbits, Monkeys, and Man,” Lancet 1.8331 (1983) : 958-60.
  • De Souza, N.J., et al., “Forskolin: a Labdane Diterpenoid with Antihypertensive, Positive Inotropic, Platelet Aggregation Inhibitory, and Adenylate Cyclase Activating Properties,” Med Res Rev 3.2 (1983) : 201-19.
  • De Souza, N.J., “Industrial Development of Traditional Drugs: the Forskolin Example. A Mini-Review,” J Ethnopharmacol 38.2-3 (1993) : 177-80.
  • Dubey, M.P., et al., “Pharmacological Studies on Coleonol, a Hypotensive Diterpene from Coleus forskohlii,” J Ethnopharmacol 3.1 (1981) : 1-13.
  • Imbeault, P., et al., “Beta-Adrenoceptor-Stimulated Lipolysis of Subcutaneous Abdominal Adipocytes as a Determinant of Fat Oxidation in Obese Men,” Eur J Clin Invest 30.4 (2000) : 290-6.
  • Kreutner, W., et al., “Bronchodilator and Antiallergy Activity of Forskolin,” Eur J Pharmacol 111.1 (1985) : 1-8.
  • Leamon, K.B., et al., “Forskolin: Unique Diterpene Activator of Adenylate Cyclase in Membrane and Intact Cells,” Proc Natl Acad Sci 78 (1981) : 3363.
  • Lichey, I., et al., “Effect of Forskolin on Methacholine-Induced Bronchoconstriction in Extrinsic Asthmatics,” Lancet 2.8395 (1984) : 167.
  • Lindner, E., et al., “Positive Inotropic and Blood Pressure Lowering Activity of a Diterpene Derivative Isolated from Coleus forskohli: Forskolin,” Arzneimittelforschung 28.2 (1978) : 284-9.
  • Lu, K.T., et al., “Promotion of Forskolin-Induced Long-Term Potentiation of Synaptic Transmission by Caffeine in Area CA1 of the Rat Hippocampus,” Chin J Physiol 42.4 (1999) : 249-53.
  • Majeed, M., et al., “Method of Preparing a Forskohlin Composition from Forskohlin Extract and Use of Forskohlin for Promoting Lean Body Mass and Treating Mood Disorders,” US Patent No. 5,804,596, Sept. 8, 1998.
  • MB Research Laboratories and BioReliance Laboratories, “Oral Toxicity in Rats LD50 and AMES Test of 10% Standardized Extract of Coleus forskohlii Roots (ForsLean),” November 2000.
  • Molnar, D., et al., “Safety and Efficacy of Treatment with an Ephedrine/Caffeine Mixture, The First Double-Blind Placebo-Controlled Pilot Study in Adolescents,” Int J Obes 24 (2000) : 1573-8.
  • Mulhall, J.P., et al., “Intracavernosal Forskolin: Role in Management of Vasculogenic Impotence Resistant to Standard 3-Agent Pharmacotherapy,” J Urol 158.5 (1997) : 1752-58.
  • Physicians’ Desk Reference, 1997.
  • Rupp, R.H., et al., eds. “Proceedings of the International Symposium on Forskolin: Its Chemical, Biological and Medical Potential” (Hoechst India Limited, Bombay, January 28-29, 1985) 192.
  • Schlepper, M., et al., “Cardiovascular Effects of Forskolin and Phosphodiesterase-III Inhibitors,” In: Inotropic Stimulation and Myocardial Energetics. Supplement to Basic Research in Cardiology 84.1 (1989) : 197-212.
  • Toubro, S., et al., “The Acute and Chronic Effects of Ephedrine Mixtures on Energy Expenditure and Glucose Metabolism in Humans,” Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 17.S3 (1993) : S73-7.