Research on Coleus goes back for well over thirty years, and the monograph I have for it has thirty-one clinical studies supporting an equal number of effects it has within the body. Coleus needs to be used with carefully selected adjuvitants, but it is usually indicated in hypertension, angina and weight loss.


The main molecule in Coleus is Forskolin (note, no 'h'). Forskolin's role in weight loss comes from two main actions, namely the conversion of fat in fat cells back to glucose (technically, lipolysis of adipocytes), and the inhibition of the uptake of glucose by fat cells. The latter is achieved by forskolin binding to a glucose transport protein thus inhibiting glucose transport through the cell membrane. (There are a wide range of glucose transport proteins embedded in cell membranes.)

However, here are some of the actions of Coleus;

Activation of adenylate cyclase (a powerful enzyme in the physiology of energy systems of all cell activity)

Inhibition of platelet aggregation (blood clot inhibition)

Inhibition of the generation of hydroxyl radicals (antioxidation)

Stimulation of thyroid function.

Stimulation of ACTH (a vitally important pituitary hormone) and Growth Hormone.

Enhanced secretion of digestive juices from the stomach. (Hydrochloric acid and the enzyme Pepsinogen).


Stimulation of oocytes (female eggs).

Stimulation of lacrimal, salivary and pancreatic glands.

A positive effect on heart contraction without increasing myocardial oxygen consumption. (Heart muscle).

Dilation of myocardial blood vessels.

Lowering of blood pressure through smooth muscle vascular dilation.

Stimulation of steroidal hormonal production by adrenal and gonadal cells.

Reduction of intraocular pressure (glaucoma).

Vasodilation of brain vessels.

Inhibition of mast cell degranulation (as occurs in asthma).

Stimulation of liver glycogen to glucose. (Glycogenolysis)

Possible inhibition of cancer metastasis.

Acts with a hormone (calcitonin) to reduce bone loss.


There are a number of other functions which are too complicated to explain herein.



The main used of Coleus clinically are;


Congestive heart failure,

Brain vessel disease,

Ischemic heart disease and blood thinning,

Asthma and chronic obstructive airways disease (COAD), bronchiectasis and so forth.

Digestive insufficiency and weight loss.


You will recall how last week I wrote about the three 'anti's', and it is common to see a triumvirate in herbal medicines. In this case, Coleus is an antihypertensive, an anti-inflammatory in that it inhibits mast cell degranulation (a type of white cell breakdown) in the lungs and therefore inhibits histamine release, and because in improves gastric physiology it is also an antacid in that sense; most reflux occurring due to poor gastric function.


One of the main advantages of herbal anti-hypertensives over synthetic ones - particularly calcium channel blockers - is their affect on the myocardium (heart muscle). Calcium channel blockers have what's called a negative inotropic affect on the myocardium. What this means is that the myocardium doesn't contract as powerfully as it normally would, thereby reducing ventricular output. Coleus has a positive inotropic effect on the myocardium without increasing it's oxygen demand, so the level of myocardial stress is reduced.


One of the mistakes cardiac patients make is to believe that the drugs they take for cardiac disease are all that's needed, however, virtually all cardiac patients will benefit in the long term with the addition of a medicine such as Coleus, as it is likely to potentiate the effects of the drugs they are taking thereby reducing the dosages and leaving a wider dosage margin for when the drug starts to become less effective. 


The dosage and administration of these medicines in concert with synthetic drugs is a part of our training of course, something many elderly patients are unaware of. 


Sometimes cardiac events just happen despite everyone's best efforts - it's really little different from household plumbing in a sense. It's unfortunate that when this happens, everyone points the finger at the herbalist as being responsible when it simply isn't the case; indeed, it was probably the herbal medicine/s which prevented it from happening much sooner!


There certainly isn't anything at all in the research to suggest otherwise.

Coleus for Heart Disease

One of the reasons I wanted to touch on Coleus as an example of a cardiac medicine is because I've found that, as the clinical trials suggest, these type of medicines are more effective at treating angina than nitroglycerin. I feel that all patients with cardiac and vascular problems benefit from the addition of herbal medicines over the longer term. Perhaps this doesn't pertain to you, but everyone knows someone who will benefit, so I hope this information is a little help.