Aqueous or ethanol infusions of Azorella compacta (llareta) in common with many other plants have been used as antidiabetic in the popular medicine in the altiplanic region of Chile. In order to determine if the diterpenic compounds chemically elucidated and isolated from this plant are responsible for this effect, streptozotocin diabetic rats (507 +/- 67 mg/mL glucose) were injected with two injections of diterpenic compounds mulinolic acid, azorellanol, and mulin-11,13-dien-20-oic acid at 180 mg/mL. Glycemia of animals treated with mulinolic acid and azorellanol was decreased to 243 +/- 2 and 247 +/- 14 mg/mL respectively, values very close to those reached by chlorpropamide injection used in controls. After 3 h treatment with mulin-11,13-dien-20-oic acid no effect was detected. The blood serum insulin in diabetic rats (146 +/- 58 pg/mL) was lower than in control rats. After injection of azorellanol, insulin was elevated to 247 +/- 23 pg/mL but with mulinolic acid, insulin was not changed. The antihyperglycemic effect of these compounds may explain the effectiveness of llareta in popular medicine. Because of the similarity to the hypoglycemic medication chlorpropamide, azorellanol could be acting on the beta cells of pancreatic islets, while mulinolic acid may act upon glucose utilization or production in the liver.
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