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Coleus

Reviewed on 9/17/2019

What other names is Coleus known by?

17beta-acetoxy-8,13-epoxy-1alpha, 6beta,9alpha-trihydroxylabd-14-en-11-one, Borforsin, Coleus, Coleus Barbatus, Coleus Forskolii, Coleus Forskohlii, Coleus Penzigii, Colforsin, Colforsine, Forskohlii, Forskolin, Forskolina, Forskoline, Gandir, Garamar, HL-362, L-75-1362B, Makandi, Plectranthus Barbatus, Plectranthus forskohlii.

What is Coleus?

Coleus is a plant that has been used since ancient times to treat heart disorders such as high blood pressure and chest pain (angina), as well as respiratory disorders such as asthma. Forskolin is a chemical found in the roots of the coleus plant.

When taken by mouth, coleus is used to treat allergies, dry eye, skin conditions such as eczema and psoriasis, obesity, painful menstrual periods, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), urinary tract infections (UTI), bladder infections, advanced cancer, blood clots, sexual problems in men, trouble sleeping (insomnia), and convulsions.

Healthcare providers sometimes give coleus intravenously (by IV) for heart failure.

Some people breathe in (inhale) coleus powder for asthma.

Coleus drops are used in the eyes to treat glaucoma.

Herbal product manufacturers are now producing Coleus extracts that contain high levels of forskolin. These preparations are being promoted for the same conditions for which forskolin has been traditionally used. However, currently there is no reliable scientific information that shows Coleus extracts taken by mouth are effective.

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Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Asthma. It is not known if coleus is beneficial for treating asthma because research findings are inconsistent. Some research shows that inhaling a chemical from coleus called forskolin might improve breathing. Some research shows that taking forskolin by mouth might reduce asthma attacks, but other research shows no benefit.
  • Dry eye. Early research suggests that taking a specific combination supplement (Kronek, SOOFT Italia) containing coleus for 30 days moderately decreases dry eye symptoms compared to placebo.
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED). Early research suggests that injecting coleus into the base of the penis along with the drugs phentolamine, papaverine, and prostaglandin E1 improves sexual function in men with ED.
  • High blood pressure. Early research shows that taking coleus root tuber or coleus whole root tablets for 2 months slightly decreases in blood pressure in elderly people with high blood pressure.
  • A heart condition called idiopathic congestive cardiomyopathy. Some research shows that giving forskolin, a chemical found in coleus, by injection improves the function of the heart in people with a heart condition called congestive cardiomyopathy.
  • Glaucoma. Early research suggests that taking a specific combination supplement (Kronek Sooft Italia SpA, Montegiorgio, Italy) containing forskolin may slightly decrease eye blood pressure in people with glaucoma. Other research shows that taking a different specific product (Gangliolife, SOOFT Italia) in addition to prescription drug therapy decreases eye blood pressure in people with glaucoma.
  • Obesity. Early research shows that taking a specific coleus supplement (Forslean; Sabina Corp., Piscataway, NJ) does not decrease weight, but modestly decreases body fat in overweight and obese men. However, other early research has found no benefit for weight or fat loss.
  • Allergies.
  • Blood clots.
  • Cancer.
  • Chest pain.
  • Insomnia.
  • Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • Period pains.
  • Seizures.
  • Skin.
  • Urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder infections.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of forskolin for these uses.

How does Coleus work?

Forskolin works on muscles in the heart and in the walls of the blood vessels. It produces a more powerful heartbeat and widening of the blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure.

Are there safety concerns?

Coleus is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth, given intravenously (by IV), when inhaled (breathed in), or when applied as eye drops. However, there can be some side effects. When given by IV, coleus can cause flushing and low blood pressure. When inhaled, coleus can cause throat irritation, cough, tremor, and restlessness. Eye drops containing coleus can cause stinging.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy: Coleus is POSSIBLY UNSAFE when used during pregnancy. High doses of coleus might slow or stop the growth of the fetus. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking coleus if you are breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Bleeding disorders: There is some evidence that forskolin, a chemical found in coleus, might increase the risk of bleeding in some people.

Heart disease: Forskolin, a chemical found in coleus, might lower blood pressure. There is some concern that coleus might interfere with treatment for heart or blood vessel diseases and could make these conditions worse. Use coleus with caution if you have a heart problem.

Low blood pressure: Forskolin, a chemical found in coleus, might lower blood pressure. If your blood pressure is already low, taking coleus might make it drop too much.

Surgery: Forskolin, a chemical found in coleus, might increase bleeding during and after surgery. Stop using coleus at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.

Are there any interactions with medications?


Medications for high blood pressure (Calcium channel blockers)Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Coleus might decrease blood pressure. Calcium channel blockers are a type of medicine used to decrease blood pressure. Taking coleus with calcium channel blockers might cause your blood pressure to go too low. Don't use coleus if you are taking calcium channel blockers.

Some calcium channel blockers include nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), diltiazem (Cardizem), isradipine (DynaCirc), felodipine (Plendil), amlodipine (Norvasc), and others.


Medications that increase blood flow to the heart (Nitrates)Interaction Rating: Major Do not take this combination.

Coleus increases blood flow. Taking coleus with medications that increase blood flow to the heart might increase the chance of dizziness and lightheadedness. Don't use coleus if you are taking medications that increase blood flow to the heart..

Some of these medications that increase blood flow to the heart include nitroglycerin (Nitro-Bid, Nitro-Dur, Nitrostat) and isosorbide (Imdur, Isordil, Sorbitrate).


Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Coleus might decrease blood pressure. Taking coleus along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.

Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.


Medications that slow blood clotting (Anticoagulant / Antiplatelet drugs)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination.Talk with your health provider.

Coleus might slow blood clotting. Taking coleus along with medications that also slow clotting might increase the chances of bruising and bleeding.

Some medications that slow blood clotting include aspirin, clopidogrel (Plavix), diclofenac (Voltaren, Cataflam, others), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others), naproxen (Anaprox, Naprosyn, others), dalteparin (Fragmin), enoxaparin (Lovenox), heparin, warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Dosing considerations for Coleus.

The appropriate dose of coleus depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for coleus. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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References

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Burstein NL, Sears ML, Mead A. Aqueous flow in human eyes is reduced by forskolin, a potent adenylate cyclase activator. Exp Eye Res 1984;39:745-9. View abstract.

Caprioli J, Sears M, Bausher L, et al. Forskolin lowers intraocular pressure by reducing aqueous inflow. Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci 1984;25:268-77. View abstract.

Caprioli J, Sears M. Forskolin lowers intraocular pressure in rabbits, monkeys, and man. Lancet 1983;1:958-60. View abstract.

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