Coleus forskohlii (Willd.) Briq.

Last updated: 10 Feb 2017

Scientific Name

Coleus forskohlii (Willd.) Briq.


Plectranthus forskohlii Wild. [1]

Vernacular Name

English Makandi [2], forskolin [3]
China Mao hou qiau rui hua [4].

Geographical Distributions

C. forskohlii is thought to have originated in the lower Himalayan mountains and is now cultivated in many areas of the world, primarily in South East Asia and India. The plant spreads easily and can thrive in a variety of conditions. [5]

Botanical Description

C. forskohlii is a member of the family Lamiaceae [1]. It is a perennial plant that can grows to heights of one to two feet [5].

The leaves are elliptical with green surrounding the centre of bright purple. The intensity of colour varies depending upon the amount of light. [5]

The plant produces a cluster of flowers, either blue or lavender in colour. The quickly spreading root systems are brown, thick and fibrous. [5]


No documentation.

Chemical Constituent

C. forskohlii has been reported to contain 14-deoxycoleon U, demethylcryptojaponol, α-amyrin, betulic acid, α-cedrol and β-sitosterol [6]. In another study, seven compounds are isolated from C. forskohlii which includes 3 phenols, 2 diterpenoids and a triterpenoid saponin. The compounds were identified as rosmarinic acid, oresbiusin A,(E)-ferulic acid 4-O-β-D-glucoside, 2α, 3β, 19β, 23-tetrahydroxyolean-12-en-28-O-β-D-glucoside, isoforskolin, 1,6-diacetoxy-9-deoxyforskolin and β-sitosterol [7].

Plant Part Used

Root. [5]

Traditional Use

C. forskohlii has been used in the Ayurvedic medical system for many centuries for a variety of medical disorders. C. forskohlii has been used regularly in treatment of eye disorders, including glaucoma and elevated intraocular pressure. Additionally, Ayurvedic medicine dictates that C. forskohlii is useful in treatment of various respiratory disorders, specifically in disorders involving excessive cough or difficulty breathing [5]. C. forskohlii is also used as a general cardiotonic, benefiting the heart in numerous ways [6]. C. forskohlii is also thought to be useful in treating skin disorders. Its rasa (taste) is considered Katu (pungent) and it pacifies all three doshas. The plant has a generally heating effect on the body [5].

Preclinical Data


Enzyme activity

C. forskohlii is reported to have two significant mechanisms of action. First, it is claimed to activate the enzyme, adenylate cyclase [7]. This action would have the effect of increasing cyclic adenosine monophosphate (c-AMP) within the cells. C-AMP is important in the activation of several biochemical pathways. C-AMP is formed when a specific neurotransmitter binds to the cell membrane and stimulates the formation of adenylate cyclase. Specific hormonal messengers bind to receptor sites to create the release of c-AMP. This is called transmembrane activation. C. forskohlii reportedly creates c-AMP activation independent of receptor site specificity [8]. C. forskohlii may also stimulate other enzymatic activity independent of c-AMP activation, but this is not known at this time. The stimulation of c-AMP has an impact on body chemistry in several ways. It stimulates thyroid function, increases insulin secretion, inhibits mast cell release of histamine, and increases the burning of fats as fuels [9].

Antiallergic activity

C. forskohlii is claimed to inhibit platelet activating factor (PAF) by possibly directly binding to PAF receptor sites [10][11]. PAF is a key factor in allergic and inflammatory pathways. By inhibiting it, neutrophil activation may be inhibited, vascular permeability reduced, smooth muscle contraction decreased, and coronary blood flow increased [12].


Animal studies support the use of C. forskohlii for glaucoma. Several animal and human studies have demonstrated the ability of forskolin to lower intraocular pressure (IOP), possibly via cAMP activation and a reduction in aqueous flow [13][14]. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over trial found the use of forskolin 1% ophthalmic suspension in 10 healthy, non-smoking men resulted in decreases in IOP, but the differences between the forskolin treatment and placebo treatment at eight hours post application were statistically insignificant [15].

Thyroid hormone regulation

Laboratory studies have reported that C. forskohlii stimulates thyroid hormone release and increases thyroid hormone production [16][17]. Forskolin has been reported to stimulate digestive secretions, including hydrochloric acid, pepsin, amylase, and pancreatic enzymes [18]. Laboratory animal studies have also found that forskolin has antidepressant activity probably through activation of cAMP [19].

Antiviral activity

C. forskohlii has also been reported in laboratory studies to have antiviral activity against HIV NL4-3 [20].


No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical findings


A clinical study with subjects of 49 hypertensive patients age 50-80 years, they were being divided into 2 groups; Group 1 (500 mg of makandi tablet) and Group 2 (700 mg of makandi tablet). Out of 27 enrolled patients of Group 1, 21 patients completed the treatment. In Group 2, out of 22 registered patients, 20 have completed the treatments. The effect of the therapy was assessed on the basis of changes in the systolic and diastolic blood pressures in both sitting and supine positions, geriatric signs and symptoms and a brief psychiatric rating scale. Analysis on overall results shows that, 76.19% patients in Group 1 and 75.0% patients in Group 2 were mildly improved. [2]


Oral ingestion of forskolin (250 mg of 10% forskolin extract twice a day) for a 12-week period was reported in a clinical trial to favorably alter body composition while concurrently increasing bone mass and serum free testosterone levels in overweight and obese men, indicating that forskolin is a possible therapeutic agent for the management and treatment of obesity. [21]


In asthma, Coleus is reported to help improve cAMP levels in bronchial smooth muscle, as well as inhibit basophil and mast cell degranulation. [22]

Coleus may be beneficial in psoriasis and other skin disorders by increasing c-AMP in epidermal cells, increasing the rate of cell maturation and turnover [23]. Also of interest, is the topical use of forskolin in glaucoma (0.5 mg), which was reported to lower intraocular pressure in laboratory animals and humans by stimulating adenylate cyclase [24].


No documentation

Side effects

A compound similar to forskolin was found to be located in renal cysts in patients suffering from autosomal dominant PKD. It is indicated that compound, adenosine camp, may be partially responsible for the growth of renal cysts. It has been recommended that patients suffering from autosomal dominant PKD should avoid formulations containing Makandi. [25]

Pregnancy/Breast Feeding

C. forskohlii is not recommended in pregnancy or breastfeeding. Laboratory animal studies have reported that Coleus may delay fetal development, affect implantation of the embryo in the uterus, and may increase the risk of miscarriage. [26]


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. The Plant List. Ver 1.1. Coleus forskohlii (Willd.) Briq. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013. [updated 2012 Apr 18; cited 2016 Feb 6]. Available from:
  2. Jagtap M, Chandola HM, Ravishankar B. Clinical efficacy of Coleus forskohlii (Willd.) Briq in hypetension of geriatric population. Ayu. 2011;32(1):59-65.
  3. Henderson S, Magu B, Rasmussen C, et al. Effects of Coleus forskohlii supplementation on body composition and haematological profiles in mildly overweight women. J Int Soc Sports Nut. 2005;2(2):54-62.
  4. Tropicos. Misoui Botanical Garden. Coleus forskohlii (Willd.) Briq. [homepage on the Internet]. c2017. [cited 2017 Feb 8]. Available from:
  5. Rahayu M. Plectranthus L'Hér In: de Padua LS, Bunyapraphatsara N, Lemmens RHMJ (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No. 12(1): Medicinal and poisonous plants 1. Leiden, Netherlands: Backhuys Publisher, 1999; p. 403-409.
  6. Xu LL, Lu J, Li WJ, Kong LY. Studies on the chemical constituents in root of Coleus forskohlii. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi.2005;30(22):1753-1755. Chinese.
  7. Seamon KB, Daly JW. Forskolin: Its biological and chemical properties. Adv Cyclic Nucleotide Protein in Phosphorylation Res. 1986;20:1-150.
  8. Doi K, Mori N, Matsunagal T. The effect of adenylate cyclase stimulation on endocochlear potential in the guinea pig. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol. 1990;247(1):16-19.
  9. Kreutner RW. Bronchodilator and antiallergy activity of forskolin. Eu J Pharmacol.1985;111:1-8.
  10. Christenson JT, Thulesius O, Nazzal MM. The effect of forskolin on blood flow, platelet metabolism, aggregation and ATP release. Vasa. 1995;24(1):56-61.
  11. Agarwal KC, Zielinski BA, Maitra RS. Significance of plasma adenosine in the antiplatelet activity of forskolin: Potentiation by dipyridamole and dilazep. Thromb Haemost. 1989;61(1):106-110.
  12. Marone G, Columbo M, Triggiani M, et al. Inhibition of IgE-mediated release of histamine and peptide leukotriene from human basophils and mast cells by forskolin. Biochem Pharmacol. 1987;36(1):13-20.
  13. Caprioli J, Sears M. Forskolin lowers intraocular pressure in rabbits, monkeys, and man. Lancet. 1983;1:958-960.
  14. Caprioli J, Sears M, Bausher L, et al. Forskolin lowers intraocular pressure by reducing aqueous inflow. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci.1984;25:268-277.
  15. Meyer BH, Stulting AA, Muller FO, et al. The effects of forskolin eye drops on intra-ocular pressure. S Afr Med J. 1987;71:570-571.
  16. 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.
  17. Féliers D, Dang PM, Haye B, Pavlovic-Hournac M. Forskolin mimics TSH action on the expression of protein kinase C isozymes in pig thyroid cell cultures. Cell Signal. 1994;6(5):513-522.
  18. Seamon KB, Padgett W, Daly JW. Forskolin: unique diterpene activator of adenylate cyclase in membranes and intact cells. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA .1981;78:3363-3367.
  19. Wachtel H, Loschmann PA. Effects of forskolin and cyclic nucleotides in animal models predictive of antidepressant activity: Interactions with rolipram. Psychopharmacology. (Berl) 1986;90:430-435.
  20. Bodiwala HS, Sabde S, Mitra D, Bhutani KK, Singh IP. Anti-HIV diterpenes from Coleus forskohlii. Nat Prod Commun. 2009;4(9):1173-1175.
  21. Godard MP, Johnson BA, Richmond SR. Body composition and hormonal adaptations associated with forskolin consumption in overweight and obese men. Obes Res. 2005;13(8):1335-1343.
  22. Lichey I, Friedrich T, Priesnitz M, et al. Effect of forskolin on methacholine-induced bronchoconstriction in extrinsic asthmatics. Lancet. 1984;2:167.
  23. De Vries GW, Amdahl LD, Lowe N, Wheeler LA. Effect of forskolin on beta-adrenergic hyporesponsiveness in Skin. Skin Pharmacol. 1998;1(2):106-114.
  24. Caprioli J, Sears M, Mead A, et al. Adenylate cyclase stimulation and intraocular pressure reduction by forskolin analogs. J Ocul Pharmacol. 1989;5(3):181-187.
  25. Putnam WC, Swenson SM, Reif GA, et al. Identification of a forskolin-like molecule in human renal cysts. J Am Soc Nephrol. 2007;18(3):934-943.
  26. Almeida FC, Lemonica IP. The toxic effects of Coleus barbatus B. on the different periods of pregnancy in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;73(1-2):53-60.