In vitro Assessment of the Antidiabetic Activity of Aqueous and Ethanolic Extracts from the Aerial Parts of Ajuga orientalis L.


Arwa R. Althaher*

Department of Pharmacy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Al-Zaytoonah University of Jordan, Amman 11733, Jordan.

*Corresponding Author E-mail:,



Ajuga orientalis L. is a member of the Lamiaceae family. Many biological properties of A. orientalis, such as antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activities, have been documented. The current study aims to assess the in vitro antidiabetic efficacy of aerial parts A. orientalis extracts through digestive enzymes inhibition assay (a-amylase and a-glucosidase), which are responsible for the digestion of poly and oligosaccharides. Acarbose, aqueous, and ethanolic extracts of A. orientalis were utilized in various concentrations (100, 200, 300, 400, and 500mg/ml). The absorbance values for the enzymes a-amylase and a-glucosidase at 540nm and 400nm, respectively, were measured using a spectrophotometer. Both extracts demonstrated significant inhibition of α-amylase and α-glucosidase enzymes in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, the ethanolic extract showed more inhibitory activity than the aqueous extract. In conclusion, A. orientalis extracts exhibited in vitro antidiabetic activity.


KEYWORDS: Ajuga, Lamiaceae, Antihyperglycemic Agent, Alpha-Glucosidases, Alpha-Amylases.




Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a metabolic condition characterized by impaired glucose homeostasis (chronic hyperglycemia) with disruptions of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins metabolism resulting from defects in insulin secretion, insulin action, or both1,2. Chronic hyperglycemia during diabetes is interconnected to cardiovascular,  kidney, nerve, and ocular dysfunctions. Moreover, its effects are mostly related to dyslipidemia, increased oxidative stress, and changes in the body's antioxidant defense mechanism3. Over the past few decades, diabetes cases and prevalence have gradually risen worldwide (over 690 million people by 2045)4, but it is a severe health issue and societal burden in developing nations5.


In countries like Jordan, medicinal plants account for around 20% of Jordan's flora6,7. Due to the relatively high cost of allopathic medicines, it is advantageous to use local plant remedies. For to their efficiency, lack of clinically significant side effects, and affordable price, herbal medicines are gaining popularity8,9.


In Jordan, several studies reported using indigenous medicinal plants to manage diabetes mellitus. Al-Aboudi and Afifi (2011) reviewed that Achillea santolina L., Ajuga iva L., Allium sativum L., Aloe vera L., Artemisia herba-alba Asso., and Capparis spinosa L. showed in vitro/ in vivo hypoglycemic activities10.


Issa et al. (2019) also reviewed other plants with an antidiabetic effect11 such as Artemisia vulgari, Fucus vesicolosus, Lepidium sativum, Olea europae, Teucrium polium, Urtic apilulifera, Salvia triloba, and Cinnamomum ceylanicum.


Further, in the review reported by Abu-Odeh and Talib. (2021) some medicinal plants treat diabetes mellitus in the Middle East and Jordan. Achillea santolina, Geranium graveolens, Eryngium creticum, Pistaci aatlantica, and Varthemia iphionoides have an antidiabetic effect12.


Ajuga orientalis L. was used by traditional healers to manage diabetes mellitus in Jordan. A. orientalis is an annual herbaceous flowering plant belonging to the family Lamiaceae, also known as the Eastern bugle. Ajuga species has been reported to have antibacterial13, antitumor14, antioxidant14, and anti-inflammatory properties13.

Most in vitro studies focus on the inhibitory effects of medicinal plants on α-glucosidase and α-amylase. Alpha-amylase digests dietary starch into maltose, which is digested by glucose in the intestine with alpha-glucosidase. Inhibition of these two enzymes delays the digestion of carbohydrates, lowering postprandial blood glucose levels2,3. Most of the plants studied inhibit these two enzymes that regulate carbohydrate metabolism. However, different activity levels may be detected for a single plant, depending on extract preparation and study conditions15.


On the other hand, there are no prior investigations on A. orientalis antidiabetic effects. Therefore, the present study desired to assess the in vitro antidiabetic activity of aqueous and ethanolic extracts of A. orientalis aerial part.



Chemicals and Reagents:

All the chemicals and reagents were of AR grade and were procured from Sigma Chemical Co, USA.


Plant Material and Extract Preparation:

The fresh aerial parts of A. orientalis were collected from Ajloun county-Northern of Jordan (31.9494964, 35.9342189) in April 2022 and authentically identified by Prof. Dr. Sawsan Oran, University of Jordan, Amman- Jordan. A. orientalis aerial parts were air-dried at room temperature in the dark for about six weeks before being ground to a fine powder. Ten grams of powder were soaked in 100ml of solvents (absolute ethanol, distilled water) (1:10 w/v sample-to-solvent ratio) for 72 h at room temperature with frequent agitation to make ethanolic and aqueous extracts. The extracts were then filtered with Whitman filter paper (No.1), and the solvents were then evaporated using a rotary evaporator under reduced pressure. The crude extract was then collected and kept at 20°C14.


Alpha-amylase Inhibitory Activity:

The a-amylase inhibitory activity was conducted using the method reported by Ibrahim et al. (2017) with slight modifications16. The reaction mixture contained 1ml of (sample) A. orientalis extracts at concentration ranges of 100-500μg/ml and 1ml of a-amylase solution (0.5 mg/ml prepared in 0.20mM phosphate buffer (pH 6.9). The mixture was pre-incubated for 30 min, and then 1 ml of starch solution (1%) in 0.02mol/L sodium phosphate buffer (pH 6.9) was added to the reaction and incubated at 37°C for 10 min. The reaction mixture was terminated by adding 1ml of 3, 5-dinitrosalicylic acid reagent (DNS), and the mixture was boiled for 5 min. Acarbose(100-500μg/ml) was used as a standard (positive control). The absorbance of the reaction mixture was measured at 540nm using a UV- vis spectrophotometer.  All assays were carried out in triplicate. The percentage of inhibition was determined using the following equation:


% Inhibition = [(Absorbance Control - Absorbance Sample) / Absorbance Control] x 100


Alpha-glucosidase Inhibitory Activity:

The α-glucosidases inhibitory activity of A. orientalis extracts was determined by incubating 1ml of starch solution (2% w/v maltose) with 0.2M tris buffer (pH 8.0) and various concentrations of extracts (100-500 mg/ml). The reaction mixture was incubated at 37°C for 10min. The reaction was started by adding 1ml of the α-glucosidase enzyme (1U/ml) to the mixture and incubated at 35°C for 40 min. Then the reaction was terminated by adding 2ml of 6 N HCl. Acarbose was used as a positive control. All assays were done in triplicate. The absorbance of the mixture was measured at 400 nm via a spectrophotometer17. The inhibitory effect was calculated using the following equation.


% Inhibition = [(Absorbance Control - Absorbance Sample) / Absorbance Control] x 100


Statistical Analysis:

All assays were conducted in triplicate, and values are expressed as the mean ± standard error of the mean (SEM) using GraphPad Prism9.0.2 (GraphPad Software, San Diego, USA). Furthermore, the IC50 value was calculated to determine the concentration of the plant extract needed to inhibit 50% of a-amylase or a-glucosidase activity under assayed conditions. The differences between extracts were determined using one-way ANOVA and Tukey's post hoc test, where a p-value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.



α- amylase and α- glucosidase inhibition assay:

In the current study, A. orientalis extracts were evaluated for their inhibitory effect on α-amylase and α-glucosidase enzymes by the in-vitro method.


Both extracts significantly demonstrated inhibition to α-amylase and α-glucosidase enzymes in a dose-dependent manner (p-value< 0.05) (Figures 1 and 2). The aqueous and ethanolic extracts of A. orientalis (at a concentration of 500 mg/ml) exhibited 67.21% and 77.9% α-amylase inhibitory activity (Figure 1) and 72.23%, and 83.44% α-glucosidase inhibitory activity (Figure 2), respectively. However, an ethanolic extract inhibited α-amylase and α-glucosidase more than an aqueous extract. Acarbose was used as a positive control (standard), which showed the best α-amylase and α-glucosidase inhibitory activity of 89.18% and 93.35%, respectively, at a concentration of 500 μg/ml.


Moreover, the ethanolic extract of A. orientalis has shown higher enzyme inhibitory activity than the aqueous extract, with an IC50 value of 226.79±3.22 and 209.81±1.33mg/ml (α-amylase and α-glucosidase) (Table 1) compared with that of acarbose, which showed α-amylase inhibitory activity with an IC50 value of 94.96 ± 4.25mg/ml and α-glucosidase inhibitory activity with an IC50 value of 64.15±4.22mg/ml (Table 1).


Table 1. Alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase inhibitory effects of aqueous and ethanolic extracts and of Ajuga orientalis, and acarbose.


IC50 values  of α-amylase (mg/ml)

IC50 values of α- glucosidase (mg/ml)

Aqueous extract of A. orientalis (AEAO)



Ethanolic extract of A. orientalis (EEAO)



Acarbose (Standard)



Values were expressed as Mean ± SEM (N=3).



Figure 1. In vitro α-amylase inhibitory activity of AEAO: Aqueous Extract of Ajuga orientalis and EEAO: Ethanolic Extract of Ajuga orientalis. Acarbose was used as a standard. Values are represented as Mean±SEM (n=3). *p<0.05, **p<0.01, ***p<0.001 vs. Acarbose (ANOVA, Tukey post hoc test).


Figure 2. In vitro α-glucosidase inhibitory activity of AEAO: Aqueous Extract of Ajuga orientalis and EEAO: Ethanolic Extract of Ajuga orientalis. Acarbose was used as a standard. Values are represented as Mean±SEM (n=3). *p<0.05, **p<0.01, ***p<0.001 vs. Acarbose (ANOVA, Tukey post hoc test)



Chronic hyperglycemia in diabetes is associated with long-term damage and failure of various organ systems, most notably the eyes, nerves, kidneys, and heart, while macrovascular complications refer to increased atherosclerosis-related events such as myocardial infarction and stroke18.


Traditional diabetes medications are effective, but they also have unavoidable side effects. On the other hand, medicinal plants may serve as an alternative source of anti-diabetic agents19,20. Many plants have been considered a primary source of powerful anti-diabetic drugs for centuries. Medicinal plants are used to treat diabetes in developing countries, mainly to alleviate the financial burden of conventional medicines on the population21,22. Currently, medicinal plants treat diseases such as diabetes23; because they contain diverse bioactive constituents such as flavonoids, saponins, terpenoids, carotenoids, alkaloids, and glycosides that may have anti-diabetic properties24,25,26,27.


Postprandial hyperglycemia is primarily caused by two carbohydrate hydrolyzing enzymes (a-amylase and a -glucosidase). Alpha-amylase initiates carbohydrate digestion by hydrolyzing 1, 4-glycosidic linkages of polysaccharides (starch, glycogen) to disaccharides, and a-glucosidase catalyzes disaccharides to monosaccharides, resulting in postprandial hyperglycemia28. As a result, a-amylase and a-glucosidase inhibitors help manage hyperglycemia because they delay carbohydrate digestion, lowering postprandial plasma glucose levels29,30.


Many bioactive compounds derived from various plants may be responsible for enzyme inhibition (hypoglycemic effect). Most phenolics and triterpenoids positively correlate as anti-diabetic agents31. These bioactive constituents had a hypoglycemic effect via a variety of mechanisms. Polyphenolic compounds may interact with or inhibit specific enzyme positions, reducing the potency of α-amylase and α-glucosidase32. Flavonoid compounds may protect against diabetes by preventing glucose absorption or improving glucose tolerance through competitive inhibition of sodium-dependent glucose transporter-133. Moreover, flavonoid compounds such as luteolin, kaempferol, chrysin, and galangin reduced blood glucose levels by inhibiting α-amylase and α-glucosidase activity in the intestine34.


In a study on the aqueous and ethanolic extracts of Ajuga remota, the results showed that the aqueous extract caused more reduction in blood glucose levels than ethanolic extract in diabetic mice 35.


Furthermore, the methanolic and aqueous extracts of Ajuga iva showed inhibition of the vital digestive enzymes linked to type 2 diabetes, with a more potent inhibitory effect against a-glucosidase and a significant inhibition against a-amylase36.


In 2020, Alene and his colleagues conducted an in vivo and in vitro study. They revealed that hydro-methanolic crude extract and its aqueous fraction of Ajuga integrifolia root possess significant anti-diabetic activity37.


In Jordan, there was no available data about the in-vitro (α-amylase and α-glucosidase inhibitory activity) anti-diabetic studies of A. orientalis. As a result, the current study sought to determine the inhibitory activity of ethanolic and aqueous extracts of A. orientalis against α -amylase and α -glucosidase.


Previously, the phytochemical constituents of methanolic extract of A. orientalis were determined by Oran et al. (2022), where the major components were 9-octadecenoic acid, methyl ester, (E)- (27.2%), hexadecanoic acid, methyl ester (12.8%), and methyl stearate (9.6%). Also, Oran et al. (2022) reported that the ethanolic and aqueous extracts of A. orientalis have antioxidant properties and anti-cancer activity14.


The current study showed that both extracts significantly inhibited the α-amylase and α-glucosidase (p-value<0.05). Ethanolic extract of A. orientalis had more inhibitory activity to α-amylase and α-glucosidase than aqueous extract. Hence, it may be helpful in the management of diabetes mellitus.



The results of this study show that A. orientalis ethanolic and aqueous extracts are effective α-amylase and α-glucosidase inhibitors, which may help reduce of postprandial glucose levels. However, the main compounds responsible for α-amylase and α-glucosidase inhibitory action must be identified and characterized further. Moreover, in-vivo studies are needed to confirm the obtained results further, and it could help develop new anti-diabetic agents based on native plant resources.



The author has no conflicts of interest regarding this investigation.



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Received on 15.07.2022            Modified on 30.08.2022

Accepted on 01.10.2022           © RJPT All right reserved

Research J. Pharm. and Tech 2023; 16(4):1828-1832.

DOI: 10.52711/0974-360X.2023.00300