Forskolin: Health Benefits, Uses, & Side Effects

by John Staughton (BASc, BFA) last updated -

Forskolin herbal supplements are trending as controversial weight loss supplements. While research studies show that the impact of forskolin on weight loss is limited, this natural plant compound has been used as a herbal remedy for cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal problems in India for many years.

What is Forskolin?

Forskolin is a herbal supplement made from a compound that is extracted from the root of the Indian Coleus plant (Plectranthus barbatus). This compound is a diterpene and plays a key role in the cyclic AMP cycle in the body, which helps release stored energy during fasting and exercise. It came into the spotlight as a weight-loss supplement in the US after being featured on the Dr. Oz Show, an American show hosted by Dr. Mehmet Oz, in January 2014. Forskolin can also help reduce inflammation and has certain other antioxidant and relaxant properties. Some of the other names for this compound include coleonol, pashanabhedi, coleus forskohlii, colforsin, makandi, and maohouqiaoruihua. [1] [2]

While forskolin or coleus forskohlii has been isolated in traditional medicine and Ayurveda for thousands of years, there is a lack of formal research, particularly when it comes to human health. That being said, it is generally considered safe to take forskolin, and it does show signs of efficacy in many anecdotal reports. Before starting to take a new supplement or herbal extract, it is always wise to speak with your doctor, particularly if you are currently being prescribed any other medications. [3]

A close-up image of Coleus forskohlii

Forskolin helps in managing weight. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Does Forskolin Help You Lose Weight?

One of the main reasons why people use forskolin is because it is believed that it can positively affect weight loss in the body. This is largely due to the active ingredients in forskolin that can stimulate the process of lipolysis, which is the burning of fat, thus making your workouts more effective. However, studies done on the herbal supplement show mixed results.

In a clinical study by the University of Kansas, a team of researchers investigated the effect of forskolin (250 mg of 10% forskolin extract) taken twice a day on 15 obese and overweight men for 12 weeks. The results were compared with 15 men of a similar weight range who were given dummy pills. The forskolin group lost a significant amount of fat and also saw an increase in their bone mass and testosterone levels, as compared to the placebo group. An increase in testosterone hormone levels also aids in weight loss. [4] [5]

But this was not the case in the results of a randomized study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition (December 2005). 23 overweight women were given forskolin (250 mg of 10% forskolin extract) twice a day for 12 weeks. and there was no weight loss effect. However, research showed that the herbal extract prevented further weight gain. More research is needed on the impact of forskolin on weight loss.  [6]

Forskolin vs Garcinia Cambogia For Weight Loss

When it comes to supplements for losing weight, two of the favorites in recent years have been forskolin and garcinia cambogia. However, there are some clear differences between the two.

  • Forskolin: Forskolin, as mentioned earlier, is derived from the Plectranthus barbatus. It works by increasing lipolysis, which is the burning of fat. 
  • Garcinia cambogia: Garcinia cambogia is derived from citrus fruit, called Malabar tamarind, and is very high in hydroxycitric acid (HCA). Garcinia cambogia is known to suppress the appetite and help prevent fat from forming. [7]

Both are effective, but the high concentrations of HCA in garcinia cambogia make it a more effective option. However, no herbal supplement is a substitute for proper diet and exercise for weight loss.

Other Health Benefits of Forskolin

While forskolin is most talked about for weight loss, the herbal extract’s other impressive benefits and uses include its effects on glaucoma, cancer, respiratory health, allergies, hormone levels, and blood pressure.

Blood Pressure

Anecdotal use of this supplement throughout history has included being used for high blood pressure. Due to the relaxant and vasodilatory effects of this supplement, it can reduce the symptoms of hypertension and protect your entire cardiovascular system. [8]


The ability of this supplement to help relieve pressure in the eyes may be excellent news for people who suffer from glaucoma, as excess pressure on the eye is often what causes the damage. [9]


A reduction of the inflammatory response in the body can also help to reduce the severity or frequency of allergic reactions. [10]


One of the most common uses of this extract in traditional medicine is to relieve pressure and inflammation in the respiratory system, which can help those suffering from the symptoms of asthma. [11]

Hormone Levels

When taking this supplement, testosterone levels are seen to increase, one of the other reasons why this is such a popular accompaniment to workouts for athletes and bodybuilders. However, consuming an excess can wreak havoc on the hormonal balance of the body. [12]

Where to Buy Forskolin?

You can purchase premium pure forskolin from the health section at supermarkets or on an online store. However, you must talk to your doctor before including this supplement in your diet.


If you are prescribed this supplement, it is also important to understand the proper dosage. For weight loss or hormonal balancing, most experts recommend two 250 mg doses of 10% forskolin supplement. If you are taking a higher percentage supplement, you will need a smaller amount.

Forskolin Side Effects

Despite the benefits, some serious side effects should be considered, such as the following:

  • Irregular heart rate
  • Higher risk of polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Stinging in the eyes

Again, be sure to speak with your doctor before taking this supplement, as the side effects can be quite serious when taken in excess. Protection Status
About the Author

John Staughton is a traveling writer, editor, publisher and photographer with English and Integrative Biology degrees from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (USA). He co-founded the literary journal, Sheriff Nottingham, and now serves as the Content Director for Stain’d Arts, a non-profit based in Denver, Colorado. On a perpetual journey towards the idea of home, he uses words to educate, inspire, uplift and evolve.

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