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Health Benefits Of Forskolin: Uses And Interactions

Forskolin is an extract derived from the roots of the Indian coleus, a plant scientifically termed as Plectranthus scutellarioides. Coleus is a relative of the mint family and has been used in Indian Ayurvedic medicine for more than 3,000 years. Early writings indicate that the plant extract has been extensively used for promoting heart health[1] . The traditional uses of forskolin vary from treating digestive issues to skin infections. Obtained from the dried roots of the plant, the therapeutic drug entered the common health spectrum from Ayurvedic medicine [2] .

Currently, forskolin is gaining popularity for its applicability in a variety of aspects; including weight loss. Various studies have been conducted on exploring the impact of forskolin on the human body, as it has been used to improve 'general health and wellness', since a very long time [3] . The ongoing hike in the demand for forskolin has resulted in the production of Coleus forskohlii extracts that contain high levels of forskolin. The herbal product is nothing more than the revamped form of traditional medicine.

Forskolin has the ability to activate adenylate cyclase, which produces cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), a molecule crucial for the proper functioning of the cells in your body, such as maintaining energy balance to immune reactions [4] [5] . Read on to know more about the root extract and the health benefits it possesses.

Uses Of Forskolin

The extract from the Indian coleus has a variety of uses, and some of the common ones are mentioned below [6] [7] .

  • Allergies
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)
  • Skin problems
  • Idiopathic congestive cardiomyopathy
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder infections
  • Obesity
  • Period pain
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • Cancer
  • High blood pressure
  • Chest pain
  • Asthma
  • Seizures
  • Blood clots
  • Insomnia
  • Increased pressure in the eyes

Health Benefits Of Forskolin

Increasingly hyped for its ability to aid weight loss, the natural supplement possesses various other benefits too [8]. Studies have revealed that forskolin functions the similar way as that of the usual asthma medications, by boosting the levels of a compound called cyclic AMP. Likewise, it also helps increase testosterone levels in men [9] [10] [11] .

1. Prevents cancer

A 2011 study revealed that forskolin has the ability to activate protein phosphatase 2 (PP2A), an enzyme that causes rapid rates of cell division. This, in turn, has been proven to have anti-tumour effects on rectal cancer tumours. Therefore, it can be asserted that the supplement can help slow down or stop the growth of the tumour.

2. Reduces blood pressure

The natural supplement can help lower high levels of blood pressure. Since ages, forskolin has been used for improving heart health. Along with a regular diet and a healthy lifestyle, forskolin can help manage hypertension. It will be best if you could avoid foods such as alcohol, sugar, high-sodium foods and caffeine that can sky-rocket your blood pressure levels[10] .

3. Lowers blood sugar level

Regular intake of the supplement can be beneficial for diabetic and pre-diabetic patients. The antioxidant property of forskolin is asserted to have a significant impact on managing the blood sugar levels and keeping it balanced.

4. Treats glaucoma

Injection or oral consumption of forskolin helps with fluid pressure within your eyes. It helps maintain stable intraocular pressure, thereby treating the symptoms of glaucoma [12] . It has also been found to be a safe and effective alternative to beta blockers in glaucoma patients (concomitant asthma).

5. Manages asthma

Forskolin is asserted to be beneficial in managing asthma attacks, as it eases the inflamed airways and reduces the swellings. By doing so, the natural supplement allows the individual to breathe easily without any restrictions. It is even found to be more effective than cromoglicic acid, a common cure for asthma attacks [9] .

6. Improves heart health

A study revealed that forskolin is beneficial for people with idiopathic congestive cardiomyopathy. It eases the inflammation and removes the toxins from your valves and thereby resulting in improved heart function [13] .

7. Boosts immunity

Studies have revealed that forskolin induces immune cell production of a number of substances, which are beneficial in protecting your body from chronic inflammation. The cAMP in the extract promotes the development of the immune cells, by blocking other reactions and radical cells. It is also beneficial in suppressing the RAGE protein, which is responsible for the development of inflammation. Basically, forskolin protects your body from external pollutants and toxins [14] .

8. Manages diabetes

Studies have asserted that the application of concentrated levels of forskolin can help control the glucose levels; therefore making it extremely beneficial for diabetic patients. Although there is limited theory to support the assertion, on-going studies are expected to produce favourable outcomes.

9. Aids weight loss

Several studies point out that, forskolin aids in weight loss by aiding in the creation of enzymes called lipase and adenylate cyclase which promotes the freeing of fatty acids from the body's cells. Once the fatty acids are freed, they can be burnt as energy - thereby reducing the excessive amount of fat without harming your lean muscle mass [9] . Some studies have revealed that forskolin may aid in weight loss and muscle building. One of the other studies revealed that as forskolin increases the levels of cAMP, it helps speed up the process of fat burning by fuelling the compounds [15] .

Click here to know more about forskolin for weight loss.

10. Promotes blood flow

Forskolin possesses the ability to relax the blood vessels. That is, forskolin helps muscles in blood vessels relax and thus promote the proper flow of blood in your system. It has been proven beneficial for older patients with high blood pressure [16] .

11. Prevents surgical complications

The analogues present in forskolin, such as colforsin daropate, NKH477 and FSK88 help prevent complications caused by drugs during surgeries [17] . NKH 477, a potent and orally active adenylyl cyclase activator present in forskolin aid in reversing the heart failure caused as a result of narcotic drugs used. Another forskolin derivative, colforsin daropate, prevents complications by improving blood flow; especially in the case of surgeries for blood vessel transplants [18] [19] .


  • Forskolin interacts with medications for high blood pressure and might cause your blood pressure levels to go too low [20] .
  • It interacts with medications that increase blood flow to the heart and increase the chance of dizziness and lightheadedness.
  • The therapeutic drug interacts with medications that slow blood clotting and increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.
View Article References
  1. [1] Seamon, K. B., & Daly, J. W. (1981). Forskolin: a unique diterpene activator of cyclic AMP-generating systems.Journal of cyclic nucleotide research,7(4), 201-224.
  2. [2] Seamon, K. B., Padgett, W., & Daly, J. W. (1981). Forskolin: unique diterpene activator of adenylate cyclase in membranes and in intact cells.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,78(6), 3363-3367.
  3. [3] Hamberger, B., Møller, B. L., Pateraki, E., Andersen-Ranberg, J., & JENSEN, N. B. (2019).U.S. Patent Application No. 10/240,173.
  4. [4] Boj, S. F., Vonk, A. M., Statia, M., Su, J., Dekkers, J. F., Vries, R. R., ... & Clevers, H. (2017). Forskolin-induced swelling in intestinal organoids: an in vitro assay for assessing drug response in cystic fibrosis patients.JoVE (Journal of Visualized Experiments), (120), e55159.
  5. [5] Pateraki, I., Andersen-Ranberg, J., Jensen, N. B., Wubshet, S. G., Heskes, A. M., Forman, V., ... & Staerk, D. (2017). Total biosynthesis of the cyclic AMP booster forskolin from Coleus forskohlii.Elife,6, e23001.
  6. [6] Thompson, R., Casali, C., & Chan, C. (2019). Forskolin and IBMX Induce Neural Transdifferentiation of MSCs Through Downregulation of the NRSF.Scientific reports,9.
  7. [7] Lukhoba, C. W., Simmonds, M. S., & Paton, A. J. (2006). Plectranthus: a review of ethnobotanical uses.Journal of Ethnopharmacology,103(1), 1-24.
  8. [8] Ammon, H. P., & Müller, A. B. (1985). Forskolin: from an ayurvedic remedy to a modern agent.Planta medica,51(06), 473-477.
  9. [9] Alasbahi, R. H., & Melzig, M. F. (2010). Plectranthus barbatus: a review of phytochemistry, ethnobotanical uses and pharmacology–part 1.Planta medica,76(07), 653-661.
  10. [10] Seamon, K. B. (1984). . Forskolin and Adenylate Cyclase: New Opportunities in Drug Design. InAnnual reports in medicinal chemistry(Vol. 19, pp. 293-302). Academic Press.
  11. [11] Pugazhenthi, U., Velmurugan, K., Tran, A., Mahaffey, G., & Pugazhenthi, S. (2010). Anti-inflammatory action of exendin-4 in human islets is enhanced by phosphodiesterase inhibitors: potential therapeutic benefits in diabetic patients.Diabetologia,53(11), 2357-2368.
  12. [12] De Vadder, F., Kovatcheva-Datchary, P., Goncalves, D., Vinera, J., Zitoun, C., Duchampt, A., ... & Mithieux, G. (2014). Microbiota-generated metabolites promote metabolic benefits via gut-brain neural circuits.Cell,156(1-2), 84-96.
  13. [13] Shetty, K. (1997). Biotechnology to harness the benefits of dietary phenolics; focus on Lamiaceae.Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition,6, 162-171.
  14. [14] Yool, A. J., Stamer, W. D., & Regan, J. W. (1996). Forskolin stimulation of water and cation permeability in aquaporin1 water channels.Science,273(5279), 1216-1218.
  15. [15] Dean, W. (2012). Forskolin and cAMP.NaturoDoc. com. Available from: http://www. naturodoc. com/forskolin. Htm.
  16. [16] Sapio, L., Gallo, M., Illiano, M., Chiosi, E., Naviglio, D., Spina, A., & Naviglio, S. (2017). The Natural cAMP elevating compound forskolin in cancer therapy: Is it time?.Journal of cellular physiology,232(5), 922-927.
  17. [17] SAETTONE, M. F., Burgalassi, S., & GIANNACCINI, B. (1989). Preparation and evaluation in rabbits of topical solutions containing forskolin.Journal of Ocular Pharmacology and Therapeutics,5(2), 111-118.
  18. [18] Serebruany, V. L., Gurbel, P. A., & O’Connor, C. M. (2001). Platelet inhibition by sertraline and N-desmethylsertraline: a possible missing link between depression, coronary events, and mortality benefits of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors.Pharmacological Research,43(5), 453-461.
  19. [19] Watanabe, K., & Gola, M. (1987). Forskolin interaction with voltage-dependent K channels in Helix is not mediated by cyclic nucleotides.Neuroscience letters,78(2), 211-216.
  20. [20] Morris, D. I., Speicher, L. A., Ruoho, A. E., Tew, K. D., & Seamon, K. B. (1991). Interaction of forskolin with the P-glycoprotein multidrug transporter.Biochemistry,30(34), 8371-8379.
Story first published: Monday, April 22, 2019, 12:33 [IST]
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