Eastern medicine, and most traditional cultures, are notorious for their use of plant materials prepared in any number of ways to treat common illnesses and ailments.
But for many of us using and familiar with only Western medicine, we're not aware of these herbs and their medicinal properties and health benefits—forskolin being one.
Never heard of it before? You're not alone; most people haven't.
But if you fall into that group, it's about time you learn what it is, what it does, and why you should definitely be using it.
What Is Forskolin?
Coleus forskohlii is a plant native to India that's traditionally used to treat various disorders of the cardiovascular, respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.
It's rich in certain chemicals called alkaloids, which have potent effects on certain biological systems. Because of these inherent compounds, Coleus forskohlii may play an essential role in influencing body weight and body composition (fat mass).
Forskolin, the component newly common to many workout supplements, is an isolated compound from the root of the Coleus forskohlii plant.
It has been used in the treatment of eczema, asthma, psoriasis, cardiovascular disorders, and hypertension—all conditions where decreased intracellular cAMP levels are believed to be a major factor in the development and progression of the disease 1.
You'll learn more about cAMP and its involvement in body composition shortly.
The Role Of Forskolin In Fat Loss
If you've looked at any natural fat burner bottle, you may see forskolin on the label—and there's a good reason for it.
That's because forskolin is a compound (a diterpene) that acts directly on adenylate cyclase, an enzyme that activates cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) in the cell.
cAMP has a major role in stimulating the breakdown of stored fat cells 2. It's able to regulate the body's thermogenic response to food intake, boost metabolic rate, and increase fat breakdown and utilization.
By increasing cAMP accumulation, forskolin thus increases stimulation of lipolysis, which translates directly into fat breakdown and subsequent energy production. All of this is done without compromising current muscle mass.
How It Works
The main mechanism behind how forskolin works is to stimulate the activity of adenylate cyclase, which results in increased accumulation of cAMP, its second messenger 1.
And if you've never heard of cAMP before, it has quite the list of fat-burning responsibilities 3:
- Regulates the body's thermogenic response to food (DIT–diet-induced thermogenesis)
- Increases basal metabolic rate
- Increases utilization of body fat
- Releases fatty acids from adipose tissue
The beauty of forskolin is that because cAMP stimulates lipolysis (fat cell breakdown) and fat provides one of the cleanest and densest sources of energy, it doesn't compromise any of your existing muscle mass.
That's not it though—there are more benefits than just muscle mass retention and fat loss.
Stimulation of adenylate cyclase is thought to be the reason behind why forskolin can relax smooth muscles, which explains its use to treat diseases like hypertension, thrombosis, and asthma.
By increasing levels of cAMP, forskolin inhibits basophil and mast cell degranulation and histamine release, which can have several positive effects on the body, including reducing blood pressure, increasing vasodilation, inducing bronchodilation, and of course, stimulating lipolysis in fat cells 4-6.
One study looked at the effects of forskolin on body composition in a group of six overweight (BMI > 25) but otherwise healthy women.
They were given 25mg forskolin twice daily for eight weeks without changing their physical activity and eating habits.
Results showed a substantial decrease in mean body weight and body fat, as well as an increase in lean body mass compared to baseline values 7—all of this with no reported side effects.
And there's more.
Another study looked at the effects of 250mg of a 10% coleus forskohlii (CF) extract taken twice daily for 12 weeks in 30 overweight men (BMI > 26).
They measured the effects on body composition, testosterone, metabolic rate, and blood pressure.
Compared to the placebo group, the group taking the coleus forskohlii extract saw a significant decrease in body fat percentage and fat mass, as well as an increase in free testosterone levels and bone mass 8.
If you're looking for something entirely natural for aiding your weight and fat loss efforts, according to studies, forskolin appears to have some pretty positive potential.
More Benefits: It May Boost Testosterone Levels In Men
Taking a fat loss supplement pre-workout is probably one of the best times to take it, but as it turns out, forskolin may provide more benefits than just increasing fat burn.
Testosterone is a major anabolic hormone, and if you're looking to maximize hypertrophy, you'll want to incorporate forskolin pre-workout. That's because testosterone production relies on a cascade of other hormones, of which forskolin influences.
Here's a short run-down of how it all works:
The hypothalamus is responsible for the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GRH), which controls secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) by the anterior pituitary gland.
Now, LH and FSH are probably something you're familiar with in female reproductive health.
Still, in men, LH regulates the production and secretion of testosterone from the Leydig cells of the testes, while FSH stimulates spermatogenesis.
If you're deficient in either LH or FSH, your testosterone levels are likely going to suffer.
But why forskolin is important is because it may influence serum testosterone levels through its influence on cAMP.
Because LH elicits its effects on Leydig cells through cAMP, it's thought that supplementing forskolin may also increase production and release of testosterone 8, thus providing your body with a potent anabolic hormone needed to build muscle and shed fat.
The Best Time To Take Forskolin
If you're looking to maximize the effects of forskolin on fat loss, the ideal time to take it is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach when absorption is at its highest, and there's minimal competition.
And if you're a morning workout kind of person, taking it 30 minutes before exercise is ideal.
You'll notice that some supplements advise taking them with food to prevent unwanted side effects like nausea or gastric discomfort, but that's not something you need to worry about with forskolin.
It has good bioavailability, with absorption rates being measured potentially around 100% 9, meaning that taken pre-workout, you're going to get maximum results.
Forskolin has also been shown to have no adverse effects when taken orally 10.
Where Can I Find It?
You can buy forskolin in many OTC fat loss or weight loss products in both capsule and powdered form, but the problem is that lack of dietary supplement regulation means you never quite know what you're getting.
There are claims of forskolin extract in products that don't really contain it, but rather have other ingredients that may not be effective or may harm your health in the process.
So, if you're going to buy forskolin, you have one of two options: a pure forskolin extract or forskolin as a component of a reputable fat burner like Burn Lab Pro.
We, of course, are biased to the latter because it's proven to be one of the cleanest, most effective fat burners on the market.
Burn Lab Pro uses ForsLean, the only Coleus forskohlii supplement shown in human research to help shed fat and build muscle.
When used in conjunction with diet and regular physical activity, ForsLean bioactivities unleash your maximum fat loss and muscle growth potential.
Burn Lab Pro is specifically designed to be taken first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to mobilize fat and stimulate lipolysis, increase metabolic rate, and maximize muscle strength, growth, and performance potential while leaving existing muscle mass intact and enhancing proper recovery.
It's an all-in formula to deliver the results you want.
- C Kavitha, K Rajamani, E Vadivel. Coleus forskohlii: A comprehensive review on morphology, phytochemistry and pharmacological aspects. J. Med. Plant Res. 2010 Feb; 4(4): 278-285.
- I Litosch, TH Hudson, I Mills, SY Li, JN Fain. Forskolin as an activator of cyclic AMP accumulation and lipolysis in rat adipocytes. Mol Pharmacol. 1982; 22(1): 109-115.
- S Henderson, B Magu, C Rasmussen, et al. Effects of coleus forskohlii supplementation on body composition and hematological profiles in mildly overweight women. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2005; 2(2): 54-62.
- PP Roger, P Servais, JE Dumont JE. Regulation of dog thyroid epithelial cell cycle by forskolin and adenylate cyclase activator. Exp. Cell. Res. 1987; 172: 282-292.
- B Haye, JL Aublin, S Champion. Chronic and acute effects of forskolin on isolated thyroid cell metabolism. Mol. Cell. Endocrinol. 1985; 43: 41-50.
- MP Dubey, RC Srimal, S Nityanand, BN Dhawan. Pharmacological studies on coleonol, a hypotensive diterpene from Coleus forskohlii. J. Ethnopharmacol. 1981; 3: 1-13.
- V Badmaev, M Majeed, AA Conte, JE Parker. Diterpene forskolin (Coleus forskohlii, Benth.): A possible new compound for reduction of body weight by increasing lean body mass. Neutraceuticals. 2002 Mar/Apr.
- MP Godard, BA Johnson, SR Richmond. Body composition and hormonal adaptations associated with forskolin consumption in overweight and obese men. Obes Res. 2005; 13(8): 1335-1343.
- B Salehi, M Staniak, K Czopek, A Stepien, K Dua, R Wadhwa, DK Chellappan, O Sytar, et al. The therapeutic potential of the labdane diterpenoid forskolin. Applied Sciences. 2019 Oct; 9(19).
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Forskolin. Updated April 14, 2020.