Plectranthus barbatus

Plectranthus barbatus

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Common name: Indian Coleus
Hindi: Makandi, पत्थरचूर Patharchur, पाषाणभेदी Pashan bhedi
Marathi: Karmelo
Nepali: गन्धे झार Gandhe jhar
Botanical name: Plectranthus barbatus     
Family: Lamiaceae (Mint family)
Synonyms: Coleus barbatus, Coleus forskohlii, Plectranthus forskohlii

Common Names: Coleus, Flame Nettle, Painted Nettle, Painted Leaf, Poor Man’s Croton, Ahijado, Dafronaya, Malaina, Mayana.

Coleus (Coleus Blumei) is a genus of perennial plants native to tropical Africa, Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands. It is composed of about 150 species under the Mint family of plants (Lamiaceae) and closely related to spearmint, peppermint, basil, thyme, oregano and salvia.

Coleus is an erect and branched annual herb that grows to about 100 cm in height. Coleus stems are square while the leaves are blotched with toothed margins. Coleus leaves are ovate in shape about 5 to 10 cm in length. Coleus flowers bloom on terminal spiked stalks that are purplish, white, or bluish in color. Flowers are numerous, in simple or branched inflorescences, 15-30 cm long.

The coleus foliage is remarkably unique, exhibiting arrays of color combinations unmatched by any other plant specie. Coleus has an aroma similar to camphor and extremely fragrant due to large amount of essential oils present in the plant. Unlike most of the mint family plants, coleus fibrous roots are used for medicinal purposes.

Coleus Medicinal uses and Health Benefits

Coleus use as medicine has ancient origins used in Ayurveda (Indian traditional medicine) with verifiable texts mentioned from ancient Sanskrit writings where it is used as a health tonic, treatment for heart problems, chest pains, lung ailments, digestive disorder and sleeplessness (insomnia).

Coleus has Anti Hypertensive Health Benefit

Recent scientific studies confirmed that coleus contains a potent compound called forskolin that may have muscle relaxant properties and can dilate blood vessels thereby has a capability to lower blood pressure (anti-hypertensive property). With dilated blood vessels the heart works less to pump blood throughout the body. Coleus can provide health benefit for patients suffering from cardiomyopathy.

This activity of the coleus forskohlii to lower blood pressure has been established in a research published in the Journal of Research in Ayurveda, 2011 where it was suggested that patients with hypertension exhibited improved blood pressure after being treated with coleus extract.

Coleus has Hypothyrodism Health Benefit

The forskolin found in coleus has been found to regulate various enzymes and hormones in human body. Coleus may be used to control and cure thyroid gland malfunctioning, especially when the gland is under functioning (hypothyroidism).

Coleus can lower intra ocular pressure in Glaucoma patients.

Glaucoma is a condition in which there is an abnormal build up of aqueous humor in the eye thereby increasing the pressure in the eye constricting the blood vessel nourishing the optic nerve. If glaucoma is left untreated it may cause irreversible damage to the nerve and can cause blindness

While there are no clinically proven alternative therapies for glaucoma, there are several treatments that may be beneficial and coleus is one of them. Clinical studies have shown that topical application of one percent forskolin eye drops resulted in significant decreases in intraocular pressure for up to five hours. An Indian pharmaceutical company is currently engaged in clinical trials of a forskolin eye drop product.

Coleus has Anti Histamine and Anti Asthma Health Benefit

Coleus extract has been found to have smooth muscle relaxant effect that results in bronchial tube dilation, decreasing airway resistance and increased lung air volume capacity. This action is the result of the increase in Cyclic AMP caused by coleus by inhibiting the enzymes that cause its breakdown. Increased cellular cyclic AMP likewise reduces histamine, making coleus beneficial in the treatment of allergy associated asthma.

Coleus can promote weight-loss in obese patients

The active chemical found in Coleus herb is forskolin has been found to promote weight loss in patients who are considered obese. Research have shown that forskolin in coleus can boost the production of enzyme called adenylate cyclase and as a result likewise boost another enzyme called cAMP. This cascading reaction of enzymes forces the fat cells to burn and release their stored energy.

In a study published in the December 2005 Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition entitled "Effects of Coleus forskohlii extract supplementation on body composition and markers of health in sedentary overweight females" showed that ForsLean, Sabinsa Corporation's patented Coleus forskohlii extract, promotes favorable changes in body composition and showed decreases in body mass and reported less fatigue and hunger. Additionally, no clinically significant interactions were seen in metabolic markers, blood lipids, muscle and liver enzymes, electrolytes, red cells, white cells, hormones (insulin, TSH, T3, T4), heart rate or blood pressure.

Coleus has Anti Cancer Health Benefit

Seven compounds were obtained from ethyl acetate extract fraction of coleus forskohlii. Their structures were identified as lupeol (1), oleanolic acid (2), uvalo(3), beta-sitosterol (4), colonic acid (5), demethylcryptojaponol (6), coleolic acid (7). Compounds 1, 2, 6, 7 showed obviously antitumor activity.
Research has shown coleus contains diterpenoids that inhibits tumor colonization in mice. It has been studied for the treatment of gastric cancer and preventing metastatic (secondary) cancers.

Coleus is being studied to cure HIV

In a study published in Natural Product Communication, 2009. various extracts of the aerial parts of Coleus forskohlii (Labiatae) were prepared and evaluated at their non cytotoxic concentration against HIV-1 NL4-3. They have identified four diterpenes, namely; 1-deoxyforskolin, 1,9-dideoxyforskolin, forskolin and isoforskolin that have activity against HIV(NL4-3) virus.

Where and How to Buy Coleus

Many health food and nutrition stores also sell Coleus in a capsule form, which simplifies the consumption process.

Coleus side effects, contraindications and warning

Coleus and its ingredient forskolin is generally safe for most adults when taken as recommended by injection, inhalation or as topical eye drops. Although there are some reported irritation and sensation of stinging at the point application.
Coleus may aggravate stomach ulcer.

Pregnancy and Breast Feeding

There are no sufficient studies conducted to determine coleus safe use during pregnancy or breast feeding. Use of coleus during pregnancy or breast feeding is discouraged.

Interaction and contra indication of Coleus - Forskolin

Coleus can aggravate bleeding. Do not use when having bleeding problems.  Similarly, when taking blood thinners including warfarin and heparin, coleus are to be taken with caution and with close medical supervision.

Coleus can lower blood pressure. Caution should be taken when under medication for high blood pressure. Blood pressure may go down too low and may cause hypotension symptoms such as dizziness, nausea and light headedness.

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