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Forskolin is derived from the root of a plant in the mint family. The plant grows in Nepal, India, and Thailand. It has long been used in traditional Asian medicine.

Why do people take forskolin?

There are many reasons that people take forskolin supplements. But very little substantial evidence exists to back its use for any health condition.

Some research suggests that forskolin may aid in weight loss and muscle building. In one very small study, overweight and obese men took 250 milligrams of a 10% forskolin extract twice a day. They showed a decrease in body fat and an increase in testosterone levels after 12 weeks, compared to similar men taking a placebo. But more research must be done to confirm these results and establish its safety.

Forskolin has a long history as a folk remedy for asthma. Some research supports such a use. Forskolin appears to work in a way similar to certain types of conventional asthma drugs, by boosting the levels of a compound called cyclic AMP. This helps relax the muscles around the bronchial tubes to make breathing easier.

Forskolin has also been used to try to treat glaucoma. But there is no proof that it works. A small study indicates that forskolin may help relieve pressure in the eyes. That's often seen in glaucoma. But the study was done on healthy people. Forskolin has not been tested on people with glaucoma.

Another potential use of forskolin is for people with idiopathic congestive cardiomyopathy, which can cause heart failure. In a small study, people who took forskolin through an IV showed improved heart function.

Optimal doses for forskolin have not been set for any condition. Also, as with supplements generally, the quality of the active ingredients and the level of concentration in products that contain forskolin varies from maker to maker. Some experts recommend that forskolin only be taken under the supervision of a health care provider.

Can you get forskolin naturally from foods?

While forskolin does come from an herb, it has only been studied as an extract. There is no evidence available regarding any potential benefits from the whole herb.

What are the risks of taking forskolin?

It is not known whether taking forskolin is safe, because it has not been thoroughly studied. Some negative reactions to forskolin have been reported. These include:

  • Flushing and low blood pressure when taken through an IV.
  • Upper respiratory tract irritation, cough, tremor, and restlessness when inhaled.
  • Stinging of the eyes and an enlarging of the blood vessels in the eyes.
  • Headache and increased heart rate.

People taking blood thinners or anti-platelet drugs should not take forskolin. Also, certain high blood pressure drugs may interact with forskolin, including:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Clonidine
  • Hydralazine

Avoid taking forskolin if you take such medications.

Forskolin should also be avoided if you have polycystic kidney disease. The safety of forskolin in women who are pregnant or breastfeeding is not known, so it should be avoided.

The FDA does not regulate supplements such as forskolin. Talk to your doctor about potential risks before you take forskolin or any other dietary supplement.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on January 20, 2013

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