What is Forskolin?
Forskolin is an extract from the root of the Indian Coleus plant (Plectranthus barbatus/Coleus forskohlii). Indian Coleus, a member of the mint family, is a perennial herb with fleshy and fibrous roots. It is commonly found in India, Burma and Thailand. The medicinal value of forskolin produced by Indian Coleus was first researched in the early to mid-1980s.
Forskolin activates adenylate cyclase by direct stimulation of the enzyme and modulating the enzyme activity. This leads to an increase in the intracellular levels of cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate), a second messenger in the signal transduction pathway. cAMP has been associated with several cellular functions. Some of the effects of cAMP include the breakdown of fats, dilatation of blood vessels and airways, inhibition of blood clotting and improvement of heart function.
Owing to the results gathered from animal studies forskolin has a number of potential applications, including:
- To lose weight
- As an anti-hypertensive
- In cardiology: for improving cardiac function
- As an inotropic (an agent that modifies the force or energy of muscle contraction)
- Forskolin for treatment of glaucoma: reduces intraocular pressure
The use of forskolin for weight loss drug development has gained a lot of popularity. As a cAMP stimulator, forskolin leads to the production of an active form of Hormone Sensitive Lipase (HSL). This enzyme is directly involved in mobilizing triglyceride stores that release free fatty acids that are used as fuel within the body, eventually leading to weight loss.
Apart from its anti-obesity effect, forskolin has an emerging potential application as a natural tanning agent. A pre-clinical study conducted on mice by researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital has shown that forskolin increases melanin pigmentation, and indirectly reduces the risk of skin cancer. But similar results were not achieved when used on human skin sample giving rise to skepticism regarding forskolin's efficacy in humans.
Although forskolin has various potential applications, its effects have not been completely established through large scale clinical trials to support its uses, including it's ability to help lose weight.
- Godard, Michael P., Brad A. Johnson, and Scott R. Richmond. "Body composition and hormonal adaptations associated with forskolin consumption in overweight and obese men." Obesity research 13.8 (2005): 1335-1343.
- D'orazio, John A., et al. "Topical drug rescue strategy and skin protection based on the role of Mc1r in UV-induced tanning." Nature 443.7109 (2006): 340.