Could this funny sounding supplement really help shed 14 pounds of fat in 20 days? Or is it just another case of “sounds too good to be true”?
Through the power of research and evidence, we can get down to the bottom of this question.
Forskolin, or Coleus forskohlii, is an herb that has traditionally been used in Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years. Forskolin comes from the root of a plant in the mint family, and flourishes in Nepal, India and Thailand.
Like a great many Ayurvedic treatments, forskolin often wasn’t used to treat any specific illness: it instead was used for general health and wellness.
Forskolin was shown to significantly decrease body fat percentage and fat mass in this study.
Having said that, forskolin has been found to assist with many different parts of the body.
It has been attributed with:
- Increased Testosterone and Muscle Mass
- Weight Loss
- Protection Against Cancerous Cells and Inflammation
- Aiding in Gastrointentinal Disorders
- Treating Skin Problems
You may have seen the popular television doctor Dr. Oz heap tons of praise on forskolin, calling it “lightning in a bottle” and a “miracle flower” and that it is the fastest way to lose 14 pounds in 20 days.
I have also personally seen hundreds of claims that forskolin has helped them lose large amounts of weight, including some claims that they lost 10 pounds in one week, solely with the help of forskolin!
While I think crazy claims like this are rare, from what I’ve seen forskolin is a powerful supplement that has many health applications, including burning fat, boosting testosterone and even helping with asthma!
Let’s start by seeing what makes forskolin so powerful.
How Forskolin Works
Forskolin works by activating, controlling and regulating adenylate cyclase (which is an enzyme related to lipid metabolism and glycogen functions) (R). This enzyme is essential in the body and stimulates the production of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (Cyclic AMP, or cAMP).
Cyclic AMP belongs to a class known as “second messengers” and is one of the most important cell regulating compounds. Increased cyclic AMP leads to a number of powerful effects, including (R):
- Relaxation of arteries and other smooth muscles
- Increased thyroid function
- Increased lipolysis (fat burning)
- Prevents platelet aggregation
- Reduced inflammation
Let’s Look At The Research
In vitro studies (meaning the experiments were performed in the lab) have shown that forskolin stimulates lipolysis in fat cells.
Scientists at Penn State University College of Medicine have also found that obese people have lower than average cAMP production (R).
Because forskolin naturally increases the production of cAMP, researchers have theorized that forskolin could be an effective weight loss agent.
A study conducted in 2005 on 30 overweight or obese by the University of Kansas involved one group taking 250 milligrams of a 10% forskolin extract twice daily, or a placebo. The forskolin was shown to significantly decrease body fat percentage and fat mass (R).
Plus, the group receiving forskolin had an increase in bone mass and testosterone levels in the blood. There was also a trend towards a significant increase in lean body mass, meaning the particpants gained muscle mass while also losing fat. This could be a result of the increased testosterone in the blood.
Forskolin has a variety of positive effects, including burning body fat, increasing testosterone and lean body mass, and more
Other studies, such as this one, have found that forskolin was not found to have a significant impact in fat mass, but prevented the group taking forksolin from gaining weight. Subjects in the supplementation group also reported less fatigue, hunger and fullness.
Yet another study on rats concluded that forskolin stimulated lipolysis (fat burning) and inhibited body weight increase by increasing the levels of cAMP within the blood.
This means that forskolin caused the rats not to gain weight, even while being fed a diet that was intended to cause the rats to gain large amounts of weight.
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What Have These Studies Taught Us?
Forskolin has a variety of positive effects, including burning body fat, increasing testosterone and lean body mass, lowering blood pressure, lowering blood sugar levels, managing asthma attacks and reducing inflammation, and even treating symptoms of glaucoma.
Some of these benefits may be overhyped by supplement companies, though. While in the first study, participants did burn body fat and gain muscle, in the second study the researchers did not find any evidence of lost fat. Instead, they seemed more resistant to weight gain than the control group, which is still a positive effect in my eyes.
These studies have shown us that forskolin does seem to have many beneficial properties, but it would be unwise to expect a miracle from this supplement. You will still have to put the work in, exercise and eat right to really experience any effects.
Does Forskolin Cause Side Effects?
Another important conclusion that was drawn from these studies is that forskolin was found to have no significant side effects. Most participants actually reported more energy and less appetite. This contrasts sharply with other weight loss drugs, such as phentermine.
SuppelmentGeek.com does state that forskolin may interact with medications that target the P450 enzyme system. If you are unsure if your medication does this, I would strongly advise you to talk with your doctor first to make sure your prescription does not.
Other than that rare instance, throughout the three studies cited above there were no measurable side effects.
Don’t Be Afraid To Put In The Work!
Let’s back up for a moment and remind ourselves of what we all know to be true – diet and lifestyle are the single largest factor that influences our weight and health. No single supplement is going to be able to match the power of eating whole foods, exercising, and staying away from unhealthy foods and practices.
Having said that, I believe forskolin is a powerful tool that has the ability to help you burn more fat and gain more muscle than you would have without it.
In the University of Kansas study cited above, the dosage used was 250 mg twice a day. Because virtually no side effects were found during the studies, this should be a perfectly safe dose for almost anyone.
When considering a forskolin supplement, something you have to be careful about is ensuring it is 100% pure forskolin, with no fillers or additives.
As soon as Dr. Oz yelled to the heavens that forskolin was the greatest thing since sliced cheese, the forskolin market became overrun with sub-par supplements that skimped by on the forskolin quality.
The supplement is only useful if you get the pure forskolin root extract: anything else really won’t do much for you or your health.
There are several tried and true brands that have been tested and proven to contain pure forksolin. The brand that I have had the most experience with and heard the best feedback about is Forskolin 250. You can be sure you are getting the highest quality forskolin with this supplement.
Another good option is ZenVita’s forskolin supplement, available on Amazon.
Forskolin is a powerful herb that has seen use for hundreds of years in Ayurvedic medicine. Modern science has recently just begun to understand what this herb is capable of, including lower blood pressure, burning fat, building muscle mass and more.
Most everyone can benefit from supplementation with Forskolin, and I would recommend giving it a try and seeing how it works for you!
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Hey! My name is Stephen and I’m the owner of Ultimate Core Health. Since we started, we’ve grown into a trusted resource for unbiased, science-based articles and reviews on fitness, nutrition and supplements. Check me out on social media, feel free to add me if you want to talk health!