Herb Feature

The Magical Herb

pressure, help your skin to be healthy, help you to get rid of excess body fat, help to normalise the pressure in your eyes, and help to reduce allergies like eczema and asthma. If this sounds like a fairy-tale to you, let me introduce you to our remarkable herb of the day: Coleus Forskohlii!

Our medicinal Coleus (Forskohlii) is one of 43 varieties of Coleus, and is a member of the mint family. It originally grew wild in Shri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and India and is one of the foremost herbs used in the Ayurvedic medicine tradition. Unlike many plants used in herbal medicine, the therapeutic benefits of Coleus appear to come from one major constituent: known unsurprisingly as Forskolin. This plant molecule has a unique effect on human and other cells which have enormous beneficial consequences in our bodies. Inside our cells we have signalling molecules which can either massively amplify particular activities of the cell, or switch them off altogether. In our cells, Forskolin increases a little substance called cAMP (cyclic adenosine monophosphate). This is how it mainly influences our cells so profoundly.

cAMP is known as a “second messenger” which amplifies signals from outside our cells, causing our bodies to burn excess fat, in a process known as lipolysis. It also helps to lower elevated blood pressure by relaxing the walls of our blood vessels and helping the heart to beat strongly. Forskolin relaxes the bronchial smooth muscle in the lungs, reducing asthma symptoms.  It prevents the release of histamine from the specialised cells known as mast cells which are involved with allergic reactions. In people with a condition called glaucoma, the fluid builds up inside the eyeball which can ultimately lead to blindness: Coleus has been shown to lower this abnormal pressure.1 This remarkable herb also increases the release of thyroid hormones in people who have low thyroid function. Finally, Coleus reduces the excess platelet activity that can occur in some people, helping to prevent abnormal clots from forming.2

Clinical studies-

95 patients with open-angle glaucoma used Forskolin drops 3 x a day for 4 weeks and reduced their intra-ocular pressure by 4-5mmHg in the right eye, and 5.4 mmHg on average after the 4 week treatment.1

In a study of 49 patients aged between 50 and 80 years with high blood pressure, 75% had a significant improvement in both diastolic (around 12%) and systolic (around 10%) blood pressure.

16 asthma sufferers experienced significant relief of bronchoconstriction (spasms in the walls of their air passages) after a single inhaled dose of forskolin.2   Another study showed an improvement of forced expiratory volume (the amount of air exhaled from the lungs in 1 second) and relief from shortness of breath.

A small study of 6 obese women given 250 mg of Coleus for 8 weeks experienced an average 8% reduction in body fat, with a corresponding drop in blood pressure in those with hypertension.2

Coleus is one of my favourite herbs for psoriasis, an autoimmune skin condition where the skin cells multiply at a very high rate, resulting in raised red patches of skin (sometimes with silvery scales). Psoriasis may be unsightly and the skin can crack and bleed, increasing the risk of infection. By increasing cAMP and reducing another second messenger called cGMP, the reproduction of the skin cells is normalised and the psoriatic lesions or “plaques” can resolve. Of course, psoriasis has many contributing factors, including diet, lifestyle and stress, so Coleus is only part of the solution. I also use Coleus for helping people burn excess body fat, and to reduce elevated blood pressure. Caution should be used with Coleus for people taking blood-thinning medication, and in those on anti-hypertensive drugs (high blood pressure medications). Coleus has also not been tested in pregnant or lactating women, so it should be avoided.

Overall, this is one of the most interesting medicinal herbs in our dispensary: the effects of Coleus are unparalleled in any other herb that we know about so far. Magic! J

David is a practicing Naturopath/ Herbalist. Contact: 07 4032 0038

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4487936/
  2. http://www.altmedrev.com/archive/publications/11/1/47.pdf