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Coleus (Coleus forskohlii)


Also listed as: Coleus forskohlii
Related terms

Related Terms
  • Coleon U-quinone coleus, coleonol, Coleus amboinicus Lour (CA), Coleus barbatus Benth, Coleus blumei, Coleus blumei Benth, Coleus carnosifolius, Coleus galeatus, Coleus kilimandschari, Coleus parvifolius, Coleus scutellarioides, coleus solenostemon rotundifolius, Coleus xanthanthus, colforsin, colforsin daropate hydrochloride, forscolin, forskoditerpenoside A, forskoditerpenoside B, forskolin, forskolin G, forskolin H, HL 362, FSK88, Labiatae (family), Lamiaceae (family), L-75-1362B, NKH477, Plectranthus barbatus, Plectranthus forskohlii, rosmarinic acid, rosmarinic acid, xanthanthusin E, xanthanthusins F-K.

  • Coleus species have been used in the Asian traditional medicine to treat angina, asthma, bronchitis, epilepsy, insomnia, skin rashes, and a wide range of digestive problems. Since the 1970s, research was predominantly concentrated on forskolin, a root extract of Coleus forskohlii. Early study suggests that forskolin may have clinical use in treating heart, lung and eye conditions.
  • Although most studies have used the isolated forskolin extract, it is believed that the whole coleus plant may be more effective, due to the presence of multiple compounds that may act synergistically. Generally, coleus appears to be well tolerated with few adverse effects.

Evidence Table

These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. GRADE *

There is a lack of sufficient data for or against the use of coleus in the treatment of bronchial asthma.


Forskolin may improve heart function in patients with cardiomyopathy. However, additional study is needed to confirm these findings.


Some evidence suggests that coleus improves glaucoma. More studies are needed.


There is a lack of sufficient data for or against the use of coleus in patients recovering after cardiopulmonary bypass, for its anti-inflammatory effects.


Coleus has been used as a breast milk stimulant for hundreds of years, however, the traditional use has not been well documented and scientific evidence is limited.


Pretreatment with coleus before intubation may be beneficial, especially for middle-aged smokers. More research is needed.


Limited evidence suggests that coleus may be useful in the management of depression or schizophrenia.


Forskolin may enhance smooth muscle relaxation. More study is needed to assess the use of coleus in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)

Tradition / Theory

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.

  • Abortion, allergies, angina (chest pain), antioxidant, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), autoimmune diseases, bloating, bronchitis, cancer, cataract, cerebral insufficiency, congestive heart failure, convulsions, diabetes, digestion, eczema, epilepsy, gas, heart disease, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid), immunostimulant, inflammatory conditions, insomnia, intestinal worms, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), liver diseases, malabsorption, menstrual cramps, pain (bladder), painful urination, peptic ulcer, psoriasis (chronic skin disease), spastic colon, sperm motility, stomach cramps, stroke, thrombosis (blood clots), tonic (circulatory), urinary tract infection (UTI), weight loss.


Adults (18 years and older)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for coleus. Many natural medicine experts suggest 50 milligrams of coleus extract (18% forskolin), taken 1-3 times daily by mouth, although the safety or efficacy of these doses has not been demonstrated. A dose of 250 milligrams of less-concentrated coleus extract (1% forskolin) taken 1-3 times daily has also been commonly used. As a dried root, 6-12 grams daily has been used, and as a fluid extract, 6-12 milliliters daily has been used.
  • Colforsin daropate 0.5-0.75mcg/kg-1/min-1 has been used for its anti-inflammatory action after cardiopulmonary bypass and to aid in airway resistance after tracheal intubation. Although coleus has been studied for depression, schizophrenia, cardiomyopathy and glaucoma, no commercially available products have been proven safe for these uses.

Children (younger than 18 years)

  • There is no proven safe or effective dose for coleus in children.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.


  • Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to Coleus forskohlii and related species. Rash may occur in sensitive individuals.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Coleus is generally regarded as safe, although long-term safety data are lacking. Inhalation of forskolin may cause sore throat, upper respiratory tract irritation, mild to moderate cough, tremor, or restlessness. Coleus eye drops may produce a milky covering over the eyes.
  • Coleus may lower blood sugar and stimulate the thyroid gland. Use cautiously in patients with thyroid disorders. Also use cautiously in diabetic patients. Colenol, a compound isolated from coleus, stimulates insulin release.
  • Theoretically, coleus may increase the risk of bleeding. Use cautiously in patients with a history of bleeding, hemostatic disorders or drug-related hemostatic problems. Discontinue use in patients at least two weeks prior to surgical or dental procedure, due to risk of bleeding. Avoid use in patients with active bleeding.
  • Use cautiously in patients with low blood pressure or those at risk for hypotension. Also use cautiously in patients with heart disease or asthma.
  • Avoid during pregnancy due to possibility of abortifacient (abortion inducing) effects.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of coleus during pregnancy or lactation.

  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (

The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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