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Does Forskolin Increase Testosterone? (Explained by Science)

Tyler Sellers
Published by Tyler Sellers
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED

I have many male and female fitness clients who struggle with low testosterone and are looking for ways to increase their levels naturally. Some of them asked me recently if Coleus forskohlii supplementation would do the trick.

To better determine if forskolin would genuinely benefit them or be a waste of time, I pored over many medical studies, and I took my notes to our in-house dietician for a candid conversation.

Let’s take a look at what I found.

Quick Summary

  • One well-cited study shows improved hormonal adaptations associated with forskolin consumption, specifically the release of testosterone.
  • Forskolin supplements may stimulate the production of hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL), which helps the body use fat for energy.
  • Forskolin may increase cAMP levels, promoting the effects of other fat-burning compounds and improving body composition.

Can Forskolin Increase Testosterone?

A branch of Coleus barbatus

Forskolin may increase testosterone by improving hormonal adaptations, primarily the release of anabolic hormones.

One particularly well-cited study that kept coming up during my research found that forskolin directly impacted body composition and hormonal adaptations, specifically the release of testosterone.

Let’s look at the specifics.

The study took place in 2005 for 12 weeks and involved overweight and obese men who took 250 mg of 10% forskolin extract orally twice daily.

After the study, the men not only experienced fat loss, increased lean body mass and bone mineral density, but significantly higher free testosterone levels [1].

It is important to note that the research has shown forskolin to only boost testosterone naturally in obese men and appears to have minimal impact in those who have a healthy weight.

Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate

Cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) acts as a messenger in the body that sends signals between the cells and hormones. These messages directly impact the amount and activity of hormones all over the body [2].

Studies show forskolin can increase cAMP levels [3].

One study in rats showed that forskolin was able to raise testosterone production by 200% in the Leydig cells [4].

These studies show promise and warrant additional research to determine whether Coleus forskohlii is a legit testosterone booster.

Let’s take a closer look at what forskolin actually is.

What is Forskolin?

Forskolin is a compound that comes from the root of the Coleus barbatus (also known as Coleus forskohlii), a mint family plant native to Nepal, India, and Thailand [5].

The most common use for forskolin is to promote fat loss as a weight loss supplement.

Does Forskolin Actually Help You Lose Weight?

Man zipping up his pants

Forskolin may help you lose weight, as its most significant impact may be on body composition.

It does this by stimulating the production of hormone-sensitive lipase (HSL), which allows the body to move triglycerides and release fatty acids for energy [6].

When used for energy, the human fat cells decrease in size, decreasing body fat and improving body composition.

Additional Research

Besides the significant increase in free testosterone levels, this fat breakdown happened in the 2005 study of overweight and obese men discussed earlier. The participants experienced significantly improved body composition after 12 weeks of forskolin consumption.

“Forskolin is purported to aid weight loss by reducing appetite, enhancing metabolism and increasing the breakdown of fat in your body.”

- Jillian Kubala, MS, RD

It is important to note that as essential as the breakdown of fat in the body is, it won’t work solo; a healthy diet and maintaining a calorie deficit are the key to weight loss.

A study using forskolin supplementation in which the overweight participants followed a hypocaloric diet shows precisely this: for weight loss to happen, energy expenditure must be greater than energy (caloric) intake [7].

Another 12-week study involved mildly overweight women split into two groups, with one supplementing their diets with 250 mg of 10% forskolin extract and the other taking a placebo [8].

The results showed no significant weight loss difference between the forskolin and placebo groups.

So, Coleus forskohlii does show some promise in building lean muscle mass and increasing weight loss, but I am still trying to come across something conclusive.

Let’s look at some other potential health effects of Coleus forskohlii.

Other Health Benefits

Men helping each other during workout

There are some other health benefits associated with forskolin consumption [9].

It may help with the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Dry-eye symptoms
  • Angina
  • Allergies
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
  • Urinary tract infections (UTI)
  • Insomnia
  • Certain heart conditions
  • Certain eye disorders
  • HDL (good cholesterol) and excess LDL (bad cholesterol)

This is, however, a list of the numerous purported benefits of Coleus forskohlii that continue to be studied.

Dosage and Side Effects

Man with irritated eye and a man with a headache

The typical dosage of Coleus forskohlii is 100-300 mg daily of 10% forskolin. Many of the studies I referenced here had participants supplementing at 250 mg.

As with any supplement, there are side effects and drug interactions to consider [10].

Side effects include:

  • Flushing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Headache
  • Eye irritation
  • Gastrointestinal issues

Drug interactions include:

  • Beta-blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Clonidine
  • Hydralazine

Additionally, the safety of forskolin for pregnant or breastfeeding women has not been verified, so it is best to avoid taking it.

FAQs

Do I Need to Cycle Forskolin?

There doesn’t seem to be a need to cycle forskolin because no data suggests the body builds tolerance and that cycling will improve its efficacy.

What Are the Dangers of Taking Forskolin?

It is unknown if there are dangers with taking forskolin as there are limited complete studies on the plant. At the surface, it generally appears safe, but as with any supplement, there is a risk of adverse side effects or drug interactions.

Does Forskolin Raise Blood Pressure?

Forskolin does not raise blood pressure, with research suggesting it may lower blood pressure and have other heart benefits [11].

Final Thoughts on Forskolin and Testosterone

My research brought about a bunch of maybes on whether forskolin increases testosterone levels or not.

Hopefully, future studies will draw more conclusive results. Until then, I won’t advise forskolin as a standalone supplement to my clients.

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References:

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16129715/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/cyclic-adenosine-monophosphate#:
  3. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/biot.202000264
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6180891/
  5. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/forskolin-uses-and-risks
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8000574/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4663611/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2129145/
  9. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1044/coleus
  10. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/forskolin-uses-and-risks
  11. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/336177821_The_Therapeutic_Potential_of_the_Labdane_Diterpenoid_Forskolin
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