Coleus Summary:

Coleus is a member of the mint family, and as such shares some similar characteristics. Despite any similarities, coleus can easily be differentiated from the other mints by their vibrant colour schemes, which come in a seemingly infinite array of combinations. 

Medicinally, coleus doesn't have as colourful a history when it comes to medicinal uses. The most common use was as a condiment, coming mainly in pickled form. 

In more recent years however, some of the obscure medicinal uses for the plant are being heavily investigated, and the effectiveness of this plant is showing a lot of promise. 

Coleus has a constituent named forskolin, which has grabbed the attention of scientists for its ability to increase the activity of cyclic AMP (cAMP). This makes it a useful agent for treating heart disease, and as a nootropic substance. Already in the market you will find this constituent common in many nootropic and other brain enhancing formulas. 

In terms of the heart, this herb is used mainly to treat angina, prevent thrombosis, and lower blood pressure. Due to the need for highly concentrated doses of forskolin to produce these results, it is recommended to look for concentrations no less than 1:1. 

Botanical Name

Coleus forskohlii


Former: Labiatae

Part Used


Herbal Actions:


  • Hypotensive
  • Antiplatelet
  • Bronchospasmolytic
  • Spasmolytic
  • Cardiotonic
  • Digestive stimulant
  • Aromatic digestive
  • Thyroid enhancer
  • Weight loss supportive (SEE increases cAMP to stimulate lipolysis)

Specific Actions

  • Increases cAMP activity
  • Platelet aggregation inhibitor
coleus plant


Liquid Extract (1:1)

6-13 mL/day

Recommended Source



  • Congestive heart disease
  • Asthma
  • Psoriasis
  • Hypertention
  • Ischemic heart disease
  • Thrombosis
  • Weight loss support

Common Names:

  • Coleus

Traditional Uses:

Similar species are reportedly used in India as medicine, however Coleus forskkohlii is generally only eaten as a condiment. Its roots can be found in pickled form. [1]. 

Other traditional uses includes hypertension, congestive heart failure, eczema, colic, respiratory disorders, painful urination, insomnia, and convulsions. [2]. 

    Botanical Description:

    The species name, forskohlii is named after the Finnish botanist, Forskal. [2]. 

    Coleus forskkohlii is a member of the Lamiaceae (mint) family. It is a perennial herb that can be found growing in the subtropical climates of India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. [2]. 

    Coleus grows to about 60 cm (2 feet) in height, and sports characteristically colorful, teardrop shaped leaves. This colour can vary greatly and is dependant on the amount of light it recieves. [2]. 

    The root is a golden brown color, with thick, fibrous, and radially spreading tendencies. [2]. 

    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Still compiling research. 

    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    The roots should be collected in the fall when the forskolin content is at its peak. this wil result in a brighter colored root. [2]. 


    Coleus forskohlii contains the diterpene; forskolin (increases cAMP), volatile oils, other diterpenoids, coleonols [1, 2].

    Forskolin is considered by many to be the main active constituent in coleus. It was originally called coleonol when it was first discovered in 1974. It is now referred to as forskolin since the discovery of other coleonols inside the coleus plant [2, 3].  Forskolin, as well as

    Although forskolin is considered the main active ingredient, and the vast majority of research on this herb have been on this constituent, early studys have unsurprisingly suggested other components of the coleus plant such as the volatile oil, diterpenes, and coleonols also play a part in the medicinal action of the coleus plant [4]. 

    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

    cAMP Inhibition

    Forskolins primary action has been shown to be through antagonism of cAMP. and cAMP mediated functions. It does this mainly through activation of the enzyme adenylate cyclase [5]. This action on cAMP then results in an inhibition of basophil and mast cell degranulation and histamine release [6], lower blood pressure [9], reduces intraocular pressure [7], inhibits platelet aggregation [8, 10], promotes vasodilation [9, 11], promotes bronchodilation [12], promotes thyroid hormone secretion [13, 14], stimulates lipolysis [15], and produces a positive inotropic action on the cardiac muscle cells of the heart [16].  



    Contraindicated with hypotension 



    • Forskolin may potentiate other medications, especially those for hypertension and antiplatelet [1]. 

    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    Still compiling research. 


    Still compiling research. 


    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: May 2017


    Recent Blog Posts


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    2. Coleus forskohlii. Monograph. (2006). Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal Of Clinical Therapeutic, 11(1), 47-51.
    3. Sakscna AK. Green MJ. Shue HJ. et al. Identity of coleonol with forskolin: structure revision of a base-catalysed rearrangement product. Tetrahedron Leu 1985:26:551-554.
    4. Ammon HP. Muller AB. Forskolin: from an Ayurvedic remedy to a modern agent. Planta Med 1985:6:473-477.
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    7. Caprioli J. Sears M. Bausher L. et al. Forskolin lowers intraocular pressure by reducing aqueous inflow. Invest Ophthamol Vis Sci 1984, 25:268-277.
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    9. Dubey MP. Srimal RC. Nityanand S. Dhawan BN. Pharmacological studies on coleonol, a hypotensive diterpene from Coteus forskohlii. J Ethnopharmacol 1981:3:1-13. 
    10. Wong S. Mok W. Phaneuf S. et al. Forskolin inhibits platelet-activating factor binding to platelet receptors independently of adenylyl cyclase activation. Eur J Pharmacol 1993:245:55-61.
    11. Wysham DG. Brotherton AF. Heistad DD. Effects of forskolin on cerebral blood flow: implications for a role of adenylate cyclase. Stroke 1986:17:1299- 1303.
    12. Lichey I. Friedrich T. Priesnitz M. et al. Effect of forskolin on methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction in extrinsic asthmatics. Lancet. 1984:2:167.
    13. Haye B, Aublin JL. Champion S. et al. Chronic and acute effects of forskolin on isolated thyroid cell metabolism. Mol Cell Endocrinol 1985:43:41-50.
    14. Roger PP. Servais P. Dumont JE. Regulation of dog thyroid epithelial cell cycle by forskolin. and adenylate cyclase activator. Exp Cell Res 1987:172:282-292.
    15. Okuda H. Morimoto C. Tsujita T. Relationship between cyclic AMP production and lipolysis induced by forskolin in rat fat cells. J Lipid Res 1992;33:225-231.
    16. Lindner E. Dohadwalla AN. Bhattacharya BK. Positive inotropic and blood pressure lowering activity of a diterpene derivative isolated from Coleus forskohlii: forskolin. Arzneimitielforscung 1978:28:284-289.