Dr. Oz doesn't know it but he’s responsible for a lot of the emails I get. For example, in a recent segment of the Dr Oz Show, an herb called Coleus forskohlii (also called forskolin) was said to be one of the secrets to weight loss. I first reviewed Coleus forskohlii in my book a few years ago, but in case you missed that chapter, let’s take a look at this herb and see if I can help you make sense of it. Does it help people lose weight? Let's look at the research and see what we can discover.
What is Coleus Forskohlii?
Coleus forskohlii, is a member of the mint family of herbs. Its technical name is Plectranthus barbatus. The roots of the plant contain a compound called forskolin. As such, coleus forskohlii and forskolin are often used interchangeably. Traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat asthma and other ailments, for the last several years, it’s the claims that forskolin helps weight loss that has sparked peoples interest the most. I've even seen Dr. Oz say “it works” when talking about forskoiln
Supplement Tip. If the name of the supplement that contains the prefix “fors” or forsk” (or something similar), it probably contains coleus forskohlii.
Coleus forskohlii has been in some products I've reviewed on this site. Some of those have included
Among others. See those reviews for additional information.
Coleus Forskohlii And Weight Loss
How does Coleus forskohlii help weight loss? Or rather, what is the theory behind how it’s supposed to work? This will get a little technical but bear with me, I promise to bring it home at the end.
Coleus forskohlii stimulates the production of a molecule called cyclic AMP (cAMP). In our body, cyclic AMP helps our cells talk to each other. When an increase or decrease in cAMP is detected, it acts as a signal that causes the body to do something.
One of the things that cAMP does is tell our cells to increase in an enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase—which burns fat. cAMP might also seems to stimulate the release of thyroid hormone which also helps burn fat and calories.
Translation: Coleus forskohlii (Forskolin) stimulates fat-burning enzymes and hormones which, in turn, causes weight loss.
The theory sounds good but is there any proof? It turns out there are a couple of Coleus forskohlii weight loss studies. Let’s take a look at them now.
Coleus Forskohlii Weight Loss Research
One study from 2005, titled Body composition and hormonal adaptations associated with forskolin consumption in overweight and obese men was published in the journal, Obesity Research.
This study looked at 30 overweight and obese men. Half of these men received Coleus forskohlii and half received a placebo. The people in this study took 250 mg of a supplement – called ForsLean that had 10 % Coleus forskohlii. They took the supplement twice a day (so 500 mg total per day). The study lasted 12 weeks.
ForceLean is a patented extract from the Sabinsa Corporation. ForsLean is in many coleus forskohlii products.
Body fat was determined via DEXA, a very accurate body fat measurement technique that uses x rays.
Those people getting Coleus forskohlii showed a reduction in body fat as well as an increase in testosterone.
Lean body mass (I take this to mean muscle) increased as well– but lean body mass also increased in the placebo group too. This could be a
problem with the study.
While lean body mass did increase more in those getting the Coleus forskohlii extract, how did the placebo (which should, in theory, do nothing) also increase lean body mass? This is a problem. The people in this study did not exercise. So if exercise didn’t cause the increase in lean body mass what did?
Another problem is that the people in the Coleus forskohlii group had higher testosterone levels at the start of the study than those in the placebo group. If the people were randomly divided into two groups, one would think that testosterone levels would be pretty much the same between the groups. But they were not.
This doesn't make sense.
As such, I'm not sure if coleus forskohlii raises testosterone or not.
Another observation was that Coleus forskohlii did not increase metabolic rate. This contradicts “experts” on the Dr Oz Show who have said that forskolin raises metabolic rate.
This particular study gets mentioned a lot on bodybuilding websites, however given the problems I just listed, I’d like to see another study to confirm these findings.
Another study, titled Effects of coleus forskohlii supplementation on body composition and hematological profiles in mildly overweight women was published in 2005 in the International Journal of the Society of Sports Nutrition.
In this study, 19 women were either given a Coleus forskohlii supplement –ForsLean – which contained 250 mg of a 10% Coleus forskohlii extract. The supplement was taken twice a day (so, 500 mg total per day was taken). The other group received a placebo and the study lasted 12 weeks.
Body fat was determined via DEXA scan which is a good indicator of body composition.
This study found that Coleus forskohlii did not promote any significant weight loss but it did seem to reduce the gaining of weight.
The forskolin extract did not seem to change thyroid hormone, liver enzymes, cholesterol, insulin, heart rate, blood pressure or red or white blood cells. This study unfortunately did not measure testosterone levels as the study above did.
So, while the Coleus forskohlii extract didn’t seem to help weight loss, it did appear to help people from gaining weight.
It is interesting supplement used in this study (ForsLean) is the same as that tested in the previous study. So, two studies on the same supplement each finding different outcomes.
These two human studies of Coleus forskohlii and weight loss appear to contradict each other in terms of whether Coleus forskohlii helps weight loss or not.
Based on this, maybe forskolin helps weight loss or maybe it might reduce the rate at which people gain weight. So which is it? I don’t think anyone has the answer at this time. This is a far cry from the proclamation of Dr Oz who said on his TV show “it works”.
In a 2014 study coleus forskholii was shown to curb appetite in rats fed a “cafeteria diet (basically they fed rats a lot of junk food). That's interesting and in theory, by curbing appetite, it might reduce gaining weight, which the previous study mentioned above noted. Still, this should be shown in human studies to know better what's going on.
Which Coleus Forskohlii Supplement Is Best?
There are a LOT of coleus forskohlii supplements out there. As such finding what may be the “best” can be daunting. So let me see if I can make the process a wee bit easier for you.
Some products make vague claims such as “raising metabolism” or boosting testosterone levels. But, from this review, claims like these are on shaky ground. As such, I recommend avoiding products that make claims like these.
Also avoid any ForsLean product that makes reference to Dr Oz. He has said this on his TV show too.
Remember coleus forskohlii and forskolin are the same thing. Different supplement companies call it by both names. Some brands may even call it by its scientific name: Plectranthus barbatus. This is important because this might confuse some people.
Most of the research is on the ForsLean brand.
Forslean is found in various coleus forskolii supplements either alone or in combination with other ingredients.
If it's going to work, ForsLean is the only ingredient that should be needed. There should be no need to combine coleus with
or any other trendy ingredients.
While studies often use 500 mg per day, given the lack of human research, its hard to know if this is the correct amount. As such, start with less to see if that works with you.
Coleus Forskohlii Side Effects
Based on the human studies done so far, Coleus forskohlii (forskolin) seems to be pretty safe in healthy people for at least 3 months.
Here are some things to consider when taking this supplement. This list is not complete.
- Start with less than is recommended for the first week to see how you respond.
- Some research using mice has noted coleus forskholii might alter an enzyme system called P450 which is involved in metabolizing a variety of medications. Because of this, people who take any medications should ask their pharmacist or doctor and specially ask questions relating to the P450 enzyme system. Your doctor /pharmacist will know exactly what you are talking about when you say “P450 enzyme.”
- Little research involves people who are not “healthy” and the herb may interact with medications like blood thinners. People with serious health issues like heart disease etc. should speak to their doctor before taking Coleus forskohlii.
- Stop all supplements at least 2 weeks before surgery.
- Speak to your doctor if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Does Coleus Forskohlii Work?
Despite the hype, I feel more research is needed to know if coleus forskohlii (forskolin) really works or not. As more research is done, we will have a better if it works. The research on forskolin is intriguing but it is far from conclusive. I do think coleus forskohlii is an interesting supplement but I can't yet say either way whether it helps people lose weight or not because I want to see a few more human studies.
If you have tried it and its helped you or not, I hope you will leave a comment below. On my personal website, I've written more about weight loss supplements that have evidence, along with other ideas that can help too.
Here is coleus forskohlii on Amazon
Sherry loesch says
I have been taking it for one week. I do feel my appetite has decreased however being a fairly intelligent woman I realize it could just be that I’m wanting it to work. Lol
Sherry, while anything is possible, lets be glad you are feeling something good and hope it continues. Keep us posted.
Mary Sedici says
In the past 15 years evey time I took a dietary suplement I gained weight that I couldn’t get then rid… ALl these pill are just made to take your money, they don’t do a thing
I have been trying to lose weight by going on a low carb diet for over a year now. I had all but stopped and started gaining back until I tired this product. While it didn’t work for my wife it really worked for me. I am now lighter than I have been in over 15 years. Nothing else has changed so I have to say it worked for me. We are talking about 30 pounds in just over a year. I have been relentlessly exercising as well.
John, were you exercising as much BEFORE you took Forksolin?
terry king says
Doesn’t do ANYTHING
Terry, thanks for sharing. How long did you use Coleus forskohlii for? Just curious in case anyone else is wondering too.
Is this an item you’d have to keep taking when you get to your weight goal?
Hi Shannon, I dont recommend staying on any wt loss supplement forever. If you try it and it works, I recommend you dont use it long term. Remember that you will gain weight again if your calories go up after you stop taking it.
I used the NOW Dietary Supplement and it worked pretty good. I took one pill three times a day I half hour before each meal. Initially I saw no results, but after 10 days I began to notice appetite suppression and weight loss. I lost about 12 pounds in 30 days. I experienced no side effects. I took it to my doctor for her approval and she said it was safe although I take prescription meds for high blood pressure and slightly elevated cholesterol levels. I will use it again.
Michelle, thanks for sharing. Did your cholesterol levels come down after you lost the 12 pounds?
What is 7Keto? Does one have to take the two together (Forskalin and 7Keto)?
Great blog Joe!!! This has been really helpful.
Hi Meredith, 7 Keto is a reference to DHEA or rather a metabolite of DHEA. There is some research on 7 keto DHEA on weight loss but there are not many studies. As such I could not say for sure whether it would work or not. As for whether it works better with coleus or not I also could not say. I have not seen any study that combined them both. Honestly, I’m a bit leary of hormones as supplements because they can have many effects. If you try it, let me know what happens. Glad you are enjoying my website 🙂
ive been on a “supplement” for almost three weeks. the dosage says once a day 30 min before lunch w/ 8 oz water. I’ve taken it twice a day 30 min before lunch and dinner with more than 8 oz of water and have gained 4 pounds. i will stick it out for 30 days but so far am not impressed. At all… it is “Forskolin belly buster. and they want $104.00 for three bottles…. “Buy two get one free”….. We shall see.
J. Since you’ve gained 4 lbs, why dont you cut back to 1x day as they recommend.
Hi Joe, how much 7 – keto were people taking with forskolin?
Nozgul, I don’t know. The people in the comments didn’t say how much 7 keto they were using. Hopefully they will chime in and let you know.
joe a says
HI,joe,I have read some of replies and one i saw was about loose stools that maybe because as i was researching FORSKOLIN i ran across several articles that said if you take too high of dosage it give loose stools,also this probably is one of those things that if you gave 3 people 1 pill out of the same bottle you would get 3 different results.
Joe a, maybe I could not find anything concrete on that but that doesn’t mean its not possible if one takes enough of it.
Yolanda Bishop says
Hello! I just wanted to say that I ordered a bottle of this “miracle pill” and it is 250mg with 20%. I’d say I r taken it for a while and actually lost 20 pounds. I found it hard to lose weight because I have PCOS. What I did find though is that, my testosterone levels actually went higher, and in the beginning I gained weight. I actually did not start losing weight until a little after a month. And now I’m going on my third bottle. I exercise daily (water polo player) and I feel like it has helped me a lot. I eat better as well. But, it doesn’t shed pounds right away which I was hoping for.
Yolanda, I wonder if your higher testosterone levels could be due to the PCOS rather than coleus forskohlii? I’m not sure. Here’s the PCOS foundation for those who want to know more: http://www.pcosfoundation.org/what-is-pcos
I tried forskolin for 10 days and gained weight
I am on my second bottle of Purists Choice Forskolin Extract 250 mg. My stomach carries on like a washing machine and I spend my time running to the toilet!!! As for losing weight. Hasn’t happened, even with running to the toilet!! Consequently I have stopped, as it is a very uncomfortable feeling.
Jenni, given those side effects, I think its probably best you stopped. Sorry it didn’t work for you. For what its worth here are my thoughts on things that I feel have evidence, along with other stuff that can help too: http://www.joe-cannon.com/what-weight-loss-supplements-work/ this link goes to my personal site.
Christine M says
I have been taking Forskolin 250mg (20%) for going on 3 weeks now. I have found that I am GAINING WEIGHT. In fact 6 pounds now. I have decided to stop taking because the objective was to loose, not gain. I am a 43 year old woman. After reading many articles I am finding that it is showing that for woman that is can cause weight gain and in men it is showing weight loss.
In my opinion that is something that should have been mentioned on the Dr. Oz show. I am highly disappointed and am hoping that all involved are enjoying the benefits of my money and everyone elses. I am going to stop taking product because it is hurting me more.
Christine M says
The brand I used was Rightway nutrition from GNC double strength 250mg 20% Forskolin
Christine, Ive never heard that forskolin can cause weight gain in women but regardless of that, Im sorry to hear that is happening to you. Hopefully after you stop taking it, your weight goes back down. Do let me know what happens.
somebody mentioned bleeding stomach from c. forskolin? anymore on this anyone?
Jan, While I have not seen any studies on this when I searched online I saw some websites mentioning this might occur. This may be related to something released from the University of Michigan although I was not able to find a study on this. This may be where the controversy stems from: http://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/hn-2071003
Here’s what I suggest; ask your pharmacist if she/he knows anything about this. They are usually pretty up to speed on supplement-drug interactions. If you do this, let me know what they say. I’m curious too.
Dr Oz can kiss my ozz! Took it for a while and still take one a day for months now and im still a fat boy. I mean honestly I first posted here at 216lbs and to this day im at 219lbs I guess you can say im not gaining much weight considering I do eat whatever I want and probably drink about 7 coca colas a day. What? I could be really doing coke! I quit drinking booze and smoking a year ago I am not giving up my Coke! So anyways I think anybody doing a good routine could do better without any pills just a proper diet and no coke!
Sarah Parks says
Yeah well, “Dr. Ounce” is a joke but this supplement is actually legit. You can tell it’s good if bodybuilders have used it for ages, lol 🙂
Sarah, a wee bit of sarcasm? 🙂
I’ve used it off and on for over a year now. I like the results and feel it does assist in keeping and maintaining weight loss. I also take it with Vit C and keep a healthy balanced diet. It might not work for everyone but I like what I noticed so far so I continued taking it. I did learn from this article that I should stop after three months to give my body a break. I will try that once I stop using my supply.
Mmmhm,okay, and this is my first week on it, Ii got 90 of the pills in each bottle,so i have enough for a couple of months and will see if anything changes. yes it convinced me alooot by the reviews and rated number 1. i hope this works, but i won’t lie, i am skeptical to,i don’t have any side effects so that’s a plus,but they say veggie capsules. I wonder if it’s just like veggie vitamins,like i said I’m I’m skeptical but going 2Try it.i really wanna lose 35 lbs
Angel, the veggie capsules means that the stuff that the actual capsules are made of is made of is not from animals. That is for vegetarians. The forskolin doesn’t contain any veggie vitamins. Because you were having trouble deciding on which product might be best, I updated my review to try to make it easier for others who were wondering the same thing as you. I do hope it helps you.