Forskolin is a botanical plant that can trace its origins back to ancient times – with Hindu and Ayurvedic tradition backing it up, there may be more than meets the eye where this herb is concerned.
What is forskolin?
This extract can be found in the herb coleus forskohlii, which is part of the mint family.
It can trace its name back to the Finnish botanist, Forskal, who discovered the herb back in 1974. Prior to that, the herb was known as colenol.
It grows in subtropical temperate climates and thrives in India, Nepal, Thailand and Sri Lanka where it is known as mainmul, makandi and karpuravali.
It is a small plant that grows to around one-two feet tall. It features teardrop shaped, shimmering green leaves that frame a purple centre. However, these leaves may be dark or light green depending on the amount of shade the plant receives. Often these plants also have flowers that branch off from a single stem. These can be pale purple or blue.
The roots are used medicinally and are harvested in the fall as that is when the forskolin content is highest and the roots are their most golden brown.
What has forskolin traditionally used for?
This herb has been around for many years and traditionally was used to treat heart disorders such as angina (chest pain) and high blood pressure as well as respiratory disorders such as asthma.
It is believed to work on the heart's muscles and also in the walls of the blood vessels to create a more powerful heartbeat. It may also widen the blood vessels, which can lower blood pressure.
Not only that, but it has also been used to treat skin conditions, allergies, urinary tract infections, bladder infections, convulsions, blood clots and insomnia when taken orally.
What can forskolin be used for now?
A clinical trial published by the US National Library of Medicine found forskolin may be used as a weight management tool. The researchers discovered it can reduce the body fat percentage in overweight or obese men. At the same time it can increase bone mass, indicating it could be a good tool to help manage and treat obesity.
Another study on women indicates it may also help to preserve lean body mass and decrease body weight, body fat and BMI. However, it is best to balance any supplements with a healthy diet and exercise regime.
Preliminary research indicates it may also provide some relief for asthma sufferers, according to the University of Maryland research centre, although more research may be required. In order to be effective for this condition, it needs to be inhaled. It may be able to treat asthma by stabilising the cells that release histamine and inflammatory compounds, preventing the attack from beginning. Other research suggests it can relax and smooth muscle tissue, preventing spasms.
It is believed to have this effect as it can raise levels of cAMP – cyclic Adenoisine Monophosphate – an enzyme that helps carry signals from cells to hormones. Essentially, it may be able to communicate with the hypothalamus or pituitary gland and control hormones.
It may also be able to help treat psoriasis, a skin condition characterised by decreased levels of cAMP in the skin.
Forskolin eye drops have also been used to treat glaucoma, a condition that can affect sight. This condition is caused by increased intraocular pressure (IOP) and it is believed that increased cAMP activation can help.
As it may interfere with other medications, specifically blood thinners and calcium channel blockers, it is best to speak to your doctor before taking it.
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