Forskolin is extracted from the lovely Indian plant, Coleus forskohlii (also known as Plectranthus barbatus) which belongs to the mint and lavender family. The fleshy roots of the plant are used in pickles and as a condiment, while the leaves are a traditional Ayurvedic medicine, used to support weight loss, heart problems, respiratory disorders, skin diseases and digestive problems such as constipation.
Coleus leaves and roots contain a unique substance called forskolin which has many beneficial effects on mood, increasing energy levels, reducing the perception of fatigue and focussing your motivation when following a diet.
Modern research shows that forskolin is a nootropic (improving the ability to think straight) and an adaptogen (helping the body adapt to physical and emotional stress. Studies show that it works by raising levels of several neurotransmitters, including acetylcholine and serotonin, which are involved in regulating appetite control.
Forskolin and weight loss
Forskolin is a traditional herbal medicine used to support weight loss and is included in several popular diet supplements. Research shows that it activates an enzyme (adenylyl cyclase) that is needed for energy production in cells. This improves the way cells respond to hormones, such as insulin, and boosts fat burning. forskolin
Another way in which forskolin promotes weight loss is through a thyroid stimulating action which improves a slowed metabolic rate and increases the burning of fat to generate heat.
Forskolin may also be involved in regulating insulin secretion to improve glucose tolerance which is often impaired in people who are overweight.
Early studies showed that forskolin significantly reduced weight gain by stimulating fat burning (lipolysis) in obese subjects.
Forskolin for women
In one of the first trials, overweight women took 250mg forskolin extracts twice a day, half an hour before a meal for 8 weeks. They were asked to maintain their usual daily eating and exercise habits, and their body composition was assessed by a bariatric doctor. During the 8 week trial, in which the only difference to their usual regime was the addition of forskolin extracts, they lose a significant amount of week (4.3lb after 4 weeks, 9.17lb after 8 weeks). Their average body fat mass reduces by 9% while their average muscle mass increased by around 6%.
In another study, 23 women took forskolin supplements (250 mg of 10% extract) or a placebo, twice a day for 12 weeks. Those taking forskolin lost an additional 0.7kg in weight than those taking placebo, and reported less fatigue and hunger. The researchers stated that forskolin extracts may help to mitigate weight gain in overweight females with no clinically significant side effects.
A larger study, which involved 60 overweight and obese volunteers, found that those taking forskolin lost an average of 1.73kg over the course of 12 weeks, without changing their usual diet or lifestyle, while those taking placebo gained weight.
Forskolin for men
In a clinical study involving 30 overweight or obese men, half took forskolin extracts (250 mg 10% forskolin extract twice a day) while half took placebo for 12 weeks.
In those taking forskolin, favorable changes in body composition were reported, with significantly reduced body fat percentage and fat mass. Interestingly, the men taking forskolin also showed improvements in bone mass within just 12 weeks, and a trend towards a significant increase in lean muscle mass. Taking forskolin also improved their hormone balance, with an increase in serum free testosterone levels compared with the placebo group. This suggests that forskolin has several beneficial effects, improving the function of many different body systems.
Other studies suggest that forskolin helped to improve learning and memory, and enhances mental stamina.
Forskolin side effects
Coleus forskohlii extracts and forskolin have an excellent safety profile and no serious side effects have been reported at recommended doses.