Forskolin, also known as labdane diterpene, is an anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory compound that comes from the Indian Coleus plant. As with many natural remedies, it has been popular in traditional medicine for thousands of years, but has now been appropriated by modern science.
Seeing as these herbal remedies tend to be something of a mixed bag when it comes to effectiveness, let’s take a look at how this one is purported to work and whether it’s worth parting with your hard earned cash for.
Forskolin for Enhancing Your Smarts
A member of the mint family, forskolin extract is known to increase production of an enzyme called ‘adenylate cyclase’. This enzyme is involved in a number of cellular functions and plays a role in signal transduction.
One of the most interesting possible benefits of forskolin is its proposed impact on ‘long term potentiation’ – or the strengthening of connections between neurons. It does this by increasing the amount of adenylate cyclase, which in turn is converted into something called ‘cAMP’ (cyclic adenosine monophosphate) which is used in ‘downstream gene transcription’. This has been shown to be supportive for neural plasticity and the creation of new neural pathways, potentially improving long term memory (1). Low amounts of cAMP have been linked to a number of neurological disorders, suggesting it to be generally important for cognitive health. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that studies supporting the role of forskolin in cAMP production did not use human trials (2). It may be that impractical doses are needed for the same effects to be seen in humans.
As it happens though, there are those who claim forksolin to have other interesting benefits. For instance, at one study suggests forskolin to have beneficial effects on weight loss compared with placebo (3) through increased testosterone production. It was also seen to increase bone mass.
Forskolin may also be effective for improved tanning when applied topically (4), and has been suggested for treating asthma. These effects are thought to be the result of increased adenylate cyclase, which could aid in a number of cellular functions. Forskolin is also a vasodilator (5), meaning it dilates the blood vessels thus reducing blood pressure.
It’s important to remember that these are only a few studies and that wider testing is definitely needed before we can make any concrete claims regarding the health benefits of forskolin. It is not recommended that you rush out now and spend your cash on forskolin, because you will likely not see any noticeable benefits. That said, it’s certainly one to watch, and if you see it listed in the ingredients of any health supplements you’ll know there’s at least some effort for a few different effects.