Context: Medicinal plants are a largely unexplored source of drug repository. Urtica dioica L. (Urticaceae) is used in traditional medicine to treat diverse conditions.
Objective: The present study describes the antidiabetic, antiinflammatory, antibacterial activity, and toxicological studies of Urtica dioica.
Materials and methods: U. dioica leaves were subjected to solvent extraction with hexane, chloroform, ethyl acetate, methanol, and aqueous, respectively, and screened for antidiabetic (300 mg/kg bw by glucose tolerance test; GTT), antiinflammatory (200 mg/kg bw by rat paw edema assay) and antibacterial activities [by disc-diffusion and minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) assays]. Toxicological studies were carried on Artemia salina and Wistar rats; phytochemical analyses were carried out, using chromatographic and spectroscopic techniques.
Results: The aqueous extract of U. dioica (AEUD) significantly (p < 0.001; 67.92%) reduced the blood glucose level during GTT in Wistar rats with an effective dose of 300 mg/kg bw in dose-dependent studies. High-performance liquid chromatography with photodiode-array detection (HPLC-DAD) analysis showed the presence of hydroxycinnamic acid derivatives and flavonoids in AEUD. Hexane Fraction-2 (HF2) exhibited both antiinflammatory activity (48.83% after 3 h), comparable to that of indomethacin (53.48%), and potent antibacterial activity with MIC values ranging from 31.25-250 µg/mL against all the tested strains. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) analysis showed fatty acid esters and terpenes as the major constituents of HF2. Toxicity tests showed higher safety margin of all the solvent extracts with LC(50) > 1000 μg/mL each on A. salina.
Discussion and conclusion: Our results showed that the U. dioica leaves are an interesting source of bioactive compounds, justifying their use in folk medicine, to treat various diseases.