Coleus forskohlii is a plant native to subtropical and warm temperate habitats and a member of the mint family. The plant has been used since ancient times as a medicinal herb in India, which is also believed to be the place of its origin.


Coleus forskohlii is considered to be the wild ancestor of all the tuber varieties, known as Kaffir Potatoes. It has several ethnomedicinal uses, which have been transmitted by word of mouth from generation to generation. Interestingly, the roots of the plant have a long history of food use in India in the form of pickle/condiment. According to Ayurveda, it is been used to ease pain, support healthy inflammation response, haemorrhoids, to help manage cough, worms, skin-related problems, ascites (fluid retention), external ulcers, abdominal pain, low appetite, urine retention and constipation.


The herb has received a lot of attention over the past 40 years from medical researchers, as it is the only known plant source of forskolin, a bioactive compound with diverse pharmacological benefits.


The Sami/Sabinsa group pioneered the natural extracts of Coleus forskohlii, for use in nutritional and cosmetic applications, in the early 1990s. And the outcome was ForsLean®, an award winning natural ingredient, forskolin-enriched extracts from the roots.

Though appreciated since the era of Ayurveda for its wider medicinal health claims, it was in 1974 therapeutic potential of forskolin, isolated from the roots of Coleus forskohlii, was unveiled by researchers when it showed blood pressure lowering and antispasmodic effects.


This bioactive ingredient forskolin is a labdane di-terpenoid, which has been named after the Finnish botanist, Forskel.


Although traditionally forskolin has been known for its wide range of health benefits, its unique activity as a non-adrenergic stimulator of enzyme adenylate cyclase attracted the attention of researchers to explore its supportive role in managing body weight and promoting lean body mass.

  • The primary mode of action of forskolin is by increasing the cellular concentrations of cyclic AMP (cAMP) and cAMP-mediated functions, via activation of the enzyme adenylate cyclase.

Adenylate cyclase is an enzyme involved in the production of cAMP, referred to in literature as a “second messenger”. This cAMP facilitates the action of “primary messengers” or various hormones and bioactive substances in the body (such as insulin). By facilitating hormonal action, cAMP may contribute to the increase in the metabolic rate and thermogenesis. These events correspond to the build up of lean body mass.


Alternatively, increase in cAMP leads to subsequent activation of enzyme protein kinase. Protein kinase has been shown to activate the enzyme called hormone sensitive lipase, which is involved in the breakdown of triglycerides, known as building blocks of fatty tissue―leading to fat burn. These events correspond to the decrease in the body fat.


Coleus forskohlii grows in the wild in warm subtropical temperate regions of India, Nepal, Burma, Sri Lanka and Thailand. Apparently, it has been distributed to Egypt, Arabia, Ethiopia, tropical East Africa and Brazil, as well. In India wild Coleus forskohlii is found mostly on the dry and barren hills. Latitudinal and altitudinal range for the occurrence of the species is between 8°- 31°N and 600-800 m, respectively.


Since medicinal plants form the major resource base of our indigenous health care traditions, Sami/Sabinsa group also pioneered cultivation efforts for the plant, based on varieties and techniques, developed through focused research, targeting the promotion of “green” practices and sustainability. Sami/Sabinsa group, a company that is technology-driven as well as environmentally responsible manufacturer of herbal ingredients, adopted tissue culture as an enabling technology to maintain a sustainable source of Coleus forskohlii roots.


This approach has ensured us pathogen-free, disease-indexed and high yielding planting material of Coleus forskohlii, which further helped to increase the yield, productivity, uniformity of produce and reduced harvesting time and wastage. This resulted in the development of premium quality planting material and established protocols for the micropropagation, which further enabled us to transfer the “rooted cuttings” of Coleus, developed through tissue culture technology, to the farmers, who are reaping encouraging results.


Furthermore, the group extensively studied the field performances of rooted cuttings and seedlings and has been found that vegetatively propagated planting stock had higher field growth performance than seedling. Rooted cuttings had good survival rate and grew well in the field.


According to Kavitha et al. (2010), Coleus forskohlii is propagated by seeds as well as vegetatively by terminal stem cuttings. Because seed propagation is difficult and slow, propagation by terminal stem cutting is easy and economical. Cultivation practice involves planting of terminal cuttings of 10–12 cm length with 3–4 pairs of leaves in nursery beds to induce rooting.


When the 1-month-old cuttings have produced sufficient roots, they are transplanted to the main field. The best period of planting in South India is during the month of June and July, and during September to October. Rooted cuttings are planted at an interval of 60 cm. Proper irrigation methods, weeding and plant protection should be adopted. The forskolin content of the roots obtained from natural habitats ranges from 0.04–0.6% of dry cell weight, 0.5% being the most common.

IP Rights

A method of promoting lean body mass in an individual is disclosed, comprising administering to the individual a lean body mass promoting effective amount of forskohlin. A method of treating a mood disorder is also disclosed.


Sabinsa was conferred with The Nutracon Best Product Award 2001 for ForsLean®, its proprietary ingredient, which has been patented for its use in promoting lean body mass at the Nutracon conference held in San Diego, CA, USA. This award was given based upon its scientific merits.