Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), used in traditional Turkish folk medicine for the treatment of hyperglycaemia, is widely accepted as one of the medicinal herb with the highest antioxidant activity. Accordingly, the present study was designed to investigate the possible actions of ethanolic extract of the leaves of Rosmarinus officinalis on glucose homeostasis and antioxidant defense in rabbits. In the first set of experiments, hypoglycaemic effects of oral administration of various doses (50, 100 and 200 mg/kg) of the extract were examined in normoglycaemic and glucose-hyperglycaemic rabbits. Optimal effect was observed in both of the animal groups with a dose of 200 mg/kg of the extract and this activity was independent from the effects of insulin. In another part of experiments, acute effect of various doses of the Rosmarinus officinalis extract on blood glucose and serum insulin levels was studied in alloxan-induced diabetic rabbits. Of the three doses of extract, the highest dose (200 mg/kg) significantly lowered blood glucose level and increased serum insulin concentration in alloxan-diabetic rabbits. The last set of experiments designed to investigate the subacute effect of the Rosmarinus officinalis extract on repeated administration in alloxan-diabetic rabbits. At the doses of 100 and 200 mg/kg, antihyperglycaemic effect of extract was accompanied by a significant increase in serum insulin levels in diabetic rabbits. Furthermore, during 1 week of treatment of diabetic rabbits with a dose of 200 mg/kg of the extract showed that the extract possessed a capability to inhibit the lipid peroxidation and activate the antioxidant enzymes. It was concluded that probably, due to its potent antioxidant properties, the Rosmarinus officinalis extract exerts remarkable antidiabetogenic effect. (C) 2007 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.