Coleus forskolin is a perennial member of the mint, or Lamiaceae, family that was first discovered in the lower elevations of India. It is now grown around the world as an ornamental plant. The root is used for a myriad of medicinal purposes. As recorded in ancient Sanskrit texts, coleus has been used as a medical herb to treat heart and lung diseases, intestinal spasms, insomnia, and convulsions.
Forskolin is a chemical found in the coleus herb that activates the enzyme adenylate cyclase. Andenylate cyclase compound initiates a myriad of critical events and processes within all the cells of the human body. Adenylate cyclase and the chemicals it activates are responsible for executing a number of important hormonal processes. Stimulation that is caused by forskolin supposedly leads to blood vessel dilation, inhibition of allergic reactions, and possibly an increased secretion of thyroid hormone. Forskolin has other reported uses as well, including inhibition of the pro-inflammatory substance known as platelet-activating factor (PAF) 6 and inhibition of the spread of cancer cells. It has been reported that forskolin may also assist in dilating blood vessels and improving the forcefulness with which the heart pumps blood. Some studies have indicated that forskolin may help to reduce blood pressure and improved heart function in people with cardiomyopathy. One study did find evidence that inhaling forskolin could decrease lung spasms for people with asthma.