- decrease appetite
- boost metabolism
- reduce digestion efficiency
Forskolin does none of these things; at least that’s what researchers and medical professionals say. But it’s a wildly popular supplement for weight loss and weight management nonetheless. Why? First introduced to the dieting world by TV celebrity Dr. Mehmet Oz (or “Forskolin Dr. Oz” as he’s called colloquially by some.) In 2014, Oz was called to testify before the Senate Subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Insurance about his myriad weight loss product claims. Oz as much as admitted many of the claims he’s made about weight loss products are just not true: “…oftentimes they don’t have the scientific muster to present as fact.” Doesn’t stop him from touting them as if they do have that scientific muster, though. And during this Congressional hearing, Forskolin came up. Oz had referred to it as “lightning in a bottle” and “a miracle flower” on his show, but backed away from those remarks when someone held his feet to the fire about it.   Forskolin is made from the roots of the subtropical plant Plectranthusbarbatus; one of several hundred in the mint family of plants, it’s found in east Africa and India. Used in traditional eastern medicines for a variety of ailments (often combined with other herbs) starting with digestive issues like stomach aches and nausea, but also as a topical for bites, burns and bruises, arthritis and even as an oral contraceptive. Beginning in the 1970s, researchers began studying its “cardiovascular activity.”  So that’s what it is, but does it work as a weight loss aid?
Though lacking in extensive scientific study to unequivocally support claims by celebrity diet doctors—and Forskolin makers and marketers—that it has weight loss properties, it is a popular and widely used weight loss product. There are many brands from a number of manufacturers; take your pick. But they all essentially claim the same thing, like this blurb from Vitality Max Labs: 100% Pure Forskolin is the industry leading fat burning formula boosts your metabolism, while also breaking away stubborn fat cells—giving you the lean and healthy body you want and deserve. Pure Forskolin raises the metabolic level in your body while also burning fat at a more rapid rate, which is why it is such an effective fat burner. Pure Forskolin (derived from Coleus Forskohlii) activates an enzyme called adenylate cyclase which increases your levels of cAMP. This causes the thyroid hormones to raise your metabolic level to burn fat cells rapidly, targeting stored fat in your stomach, hips and buttocks. 100% Pure Forskolin has been scientifically proven to support weight loss by its ability to stimulate the activities of enzyme adenylate cyclase. This enzyme is important for the generation of cAMP compounds that helps in the quick release and burning of stubbornly stored fats in the body cells. back to menu ↑
Also known as Coleus or Indian coleus, Forskolin is produced from the roots of the Plectranthusbarbatus plant. Some brands will throw other alleged weight loss ingredients in their products, like Garcinia cambogia.back to menu ↑
The Science (or Lack Thereof) Behind Forskolin
First, looking at claims of weight loss. Forskolin increased free testosterone in men and may help prevent weight gain in women. But it does not help you lose weight. You lose weight with this simple formula: calories in versus calories out. Forskolin may help disperse fat cells—basically release stored fat from fat cells just like when you burn fat through exercise. There are just a couple of clinical studies of Forskolin in humans; others use rats or in vitro (in test tubes). The first randomized clinical human trial studied two groups of overweight or obese men; one group took Forskolin and the other a placebo. Ultimately, the Forskolin group had fat loss but not weight loss, likely through the increase of the hormone testosterone, which may have promoted and preserved muscle mass, the researchers concluded. The study was paid for by Sabinsa, the New Jersey-based manufacturer of forskolin and other “phytonutrients and standardized herbal extracts, specialty fine chemicals, and organic intermediates used in the nutritional, pharmaceutical and food industries.”   That doesn’t mean the study was biased; manufacturers often hire independent researchers to study and evaluate their products. But in this study, Sabinsa didn’t quite get the result they may have hoped for. The men didn’t lose weight but rather had better body composition. What about women, though? In a separate study conducted in 2005, in a “double blind and randomized manner, 23 females supplemented their diet with ForsLean”—a particular brand of the diet supplement—over the course of 12 weeks. And while the group taking the Coleus forskohlii supplement “tended to mitigate gains in body mass …(there were) no significant differences in fat mass, fat free mass, or body fat.” In other words, the women did not lose any weight—but they also didn’t gain. The so-called Henderson study found Forskolin “does not appear to promote weight loss but may help mitigate weight gain in overweight females with apparently no clinically significant side effects.”  One non-human study has often been cited as proving the effectiveness of Forskolin for weight loss. In this study, “antiobesity effects” were examined when rats who had their ovaries removed were given C. forskohlii extracts and showed “reduced body weight, food intake and fat accumulation,” which may show it to be “useful in the treatment of obesity.” That’s pretty compelling. You can find the summary at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) journal archive, but the actual full text of that study is very hard to find online unless you’re willing to pay for it.  Regardless of its efficacy, many people looking to lose weight are quite likely overweight or obese and, in a lot of cases, may have co-occurring conditions related to excess weight—high blood pressure being one. Here’s the thing: Forskolin is dangerous for people taking any type of blood pressure medication. The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) says if you’re taking medication for high blood pressure—such as beta-blockers, vasodilators, ACE inhibitors, or calcium channel blockers—Forskolin may lower your blood pressure even more. It also cautions that for people taking warfarin or other blood thinners, Forskolin “may have additive effects, increasing the risk of bleeding or bruising.” Other adverse side effects, MSKCC says, include slow heart rate. And adds “acute poisoning after consumption of Coleus forskohlii products, possibly from contaminants, has been reported in Europe.”  Forskolin also increases stomach acid, which is something people with digestive issues—or worse, ulcers—need to be aware of.  And WebMD says “negative reactions” include flushing, fast heartbeats, low blood pressure. The drug is also used to treat other conditions in traditional medicine, and in those cases other reactions might include upper respiratory tract irritation, coughing, tremor, restlessness, headache, and enlarging of the blood vessels in the eyes. Again, the latter effects are when it is used to treat conditions like asthma and eye maladies. back to menu ↑
Word on the Street About Forskolin
How are the Forskolin reviews? Do people think it works? The couple of people who ordered from GNC weren’t singing praises.
The Bottom Line: Is Forskolin Worth a Try?
Risky. As a diet pill, if you’re an overweight guy this may help increase free testosterone and basically just improve your body composition, but it’s not going to make the scale go down. Otherwise, no. The science doesn’t support the claims. It’s not a thermogenic, it doesn’t curb appetite, and it does nothing to affect digestion. Save your money.