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Forskolin is an active ingredient within the Coleus forskohlii plant that is alleged to possess a number of health benefits, particularly with regards to weight management. Its activity takes place via regulation of cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate), a molecule that activates a number of essential biological pathways within the body 1.
In a double blind, placebo controlled preliminary study involving 30 humans that lasted 12 weeks, Forskolin was allegedly found to favorably alter body composition, suggesting its possible use in the therapeutic management of obesity 2. Another study examining the exact biochemical mechanism of Forskolin’s effects was conducted, this time in rats. The study found Forskolin supplementation to result in increased cAMP accumulation via activation of an enzyme called “adenylate cyclase”. Lipolysis (fat breaking) effects were also noted 3.
Forskolin may have other benefits besides weight management however. In a clinical study involving 49 patients suffering from hypertension, the plant form itself – Coleus forskohlii, was allegedly found to favorably alter both systolic and diastolic blood pressure 4. A Forskolin formulation in India has been approved for the treatment of glucoma there, suggesting that this mysterious substance may possess potential anti-glucoma properties 5.
Due to Forskolin’s activation of cAMP pathways which are involved in serotonin (an essential neurotransmitter) modulation, interest has arisen in potential anti-depressive effects that this substance may possess. One preliminary study in rats found Forskolin to potentially possess anti-depressive effects 6. Naturally however, further studies are needed in humans to confirm these findings. Nevertheless, if Forskolin does indeed effect serotonin mediated pathways within the body, caution should be advised with its supplementation if you are taking any form of anti-depressant that alters serotonin levels, such as SSRI’s (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).
Forskolin seems to be generally well tolerated within the studies mentioned. As more research continues to shed light on the possibilities of this substance, its benefits may be expanded. Benefits are more likely to be encountered when Forskolin is combined with a healthy diet and exercise program.
The above statements refer to the supplement/drug used within the cited research. Individual results and effectiveness of this supplement may vary. Always consult your physician before beginning supplementation.
1. Tzounopoulos, T., Janz, R., Südhof, T.C., Nicoll, R.A., and Malenka, R.C. Neuron 21, 4 (1998), 837–845.
2. Godard, M.P., Johnson, B.A., and Richmond, S.R. Obes. Res. 13, 8 (2005), 1335–1343.
3. Litosch, I., Hudson, T.H., Mills, I., Li, S.Y., and Fain, J.N. Mol. Pharmacol. 22, 1 (1982), 109–115.
4. Jagtap, M., Chandola, H.M., and Ravishankar, B. Ayu 32, 1 (2011), 59–65.
5. Wagh, V., Patil, P., Surana, S., and Wagh, K. 58, 3 (2012), 199.
6. Maeda, H., Ozawa, H., Saito, T., Irie, T., and Takahata, N. Life Sci. 61, 25 (1997), 2435–2442