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IUPAC name
(3R,​4aR,​5S,​6S,​6aS,​10S,​10aR,​10bS)-​6,​10,​10b-​trihydroxy-​3,​4a,​7,​7,​10a-​pentamethyl-​1-​oxo-​3-​vinyldodecahydro-​1H-​benzo[f]​chromen-​5-​yl acetate
66428-89-5 YesY
ChEBI CHEBI:42471 YesY
ChemSpider 43607 YesY
DrugBank DB02587 YesY
Jmol interactive 3D Image
PubChem 47936
Molar mass 410.50116
Solubility soluble in organic solvents such as ethanol, chloroform and DMSO[1]
Except where otherwise noted, data are given for materials in their standard state (at 25 °C [77 °F], 100 kPa).
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Infobox references
Further information: function of protein kinase A

Forskolin (also called Coleonol) is a labdane diterpene that is produced by the Indian Coleus plant (Coleus forskohlii). Forskolin is commonly used to raise levels of cyclic AMP (cAMP) in the study and research of cell physiology. Forskolin activates the enzyme adenylyl cyclase and increases intracellular levels of cAMP. cAMP is an important second messenger necessary for the proper biological response of cells to hormones and other extracellular signals. It is required for cell communication in the hypothalamus/pituitary gland axis and for the feedback control of hormones.[2] Cyclic AMP acts by activating cAMP-sensitive pathways such as protein kinase A and Epac.


  • As with other members of the large diterpene family of natural products, forskolin is derived from geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate (GGPP). Forskolin, however, contains some unique functional elements, key among them is the presence of a tetrahydopyran derived heterocyclic ring. This ring is synthesized after the formation of the trans-fused carbon ring systems are formed by a carbocation mediated cyclization. The remaining tertiary carbocation is quenched by a molecule of water. After deprotonation, the remaining hydroxyl group is free to form the heterocyclic ring. This cyclization can occur either by attack of the alcohol oxygen onto the allylic carbocation formed by loss of diphosphate, or by an analogous SN2' like displacement of the diphosphate.[3] This forms the core ring system A of forskolin.
  • The remaining modifications of the core ring system A can putatively be understood as a series of oxidation reactions to form a poly-ol B which is then further oxidized and esterified to form the ketone and acetate ester moieties seen in forskolin. However, because the biosynthetic gene cluster has not been described, this putative synthesis could be incorrect in the sequence of oxidation/esterification events, which could occur in almost any order.

Adverse reactions[edit]

There are limited clinical trials about the adverse effects of forskolin. One study has shown that the lethal dose in rats (with the oral formulation) was >2,000 mg/kg. [4]

Safety in pregnancy[edit]

There is limited information on forskolin’s use in pregnant women. The safety has not yet been determined.[5] Historically, Forskolin has been used to stimulate or promote menses in women as well as a form of oral birth control. [6] Forskolin should be used with caution or avoided altogether in women who are pregnant.[5]


  1. ^ "Forskolin" (pdf). Sigma Aldrich. 
  2. ^ "Forskolin For Weight Loss And Side Effects". Retrieved 7 December 2014. 
  3. ^ Dewick, P. M. (2009). Medicinal Natural Products (3rd ed.). Wiley. p. 232. ISBN 978-0470741689. 
  4. ^ In: Huerta M, Urzúa Z, Trujillo X, González-Sánchez R, Trujillo-Hernández B. Forskolin compared with beclomethasone for prevention of asthma attacks: a single-blind clinical trial. J Int Med Res . 2010;38(2):661-668.
  5. ^ a b "Forskolin". 
  6. ^ In:Lukhoba CW, Simmonds MS, Paton AJ. Plectranthus : a review of ethnobotanical uses. J Ethnopharmacol . 2006;103(1):1-24..

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]