Inflammation plays a pivotal role in the development and progression of diabetic nephropathy (DN). Oridonin (Ori), a component isolated from Rabdosia rubescens, possesses remarkable anti-inflammatory, immunoregulatory and antitumor properties. However, the renoprotective effects of Ori and the underlying molecular mechanisms have not been explored in DN. In this study, we aimed to investigate the protective effects and potential mechanisms responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects of Ori in diabetes-induced renal injury in vivo and in vitro. Our results showed that Ori significantly attenuated diabetes-induced renal injury and markedly decreased urinary protein excretion levels, serum creatinine concentrations and blood urea nitrogen concentrations in rats. Ori also significantly alleviated infiltration of inflammatory cells (cluster of differentiation (CD)68) in kidney tissues and reduced the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, including tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), interleukin-6 (IL-6), IL-1β and monocyte chemotactic protein 1 (MCP-1), both in vivo and in vitro. TLR4 is a principal mediator of innate immune and inflammatory responses and participates in the development of DN. Our molecular studies indicated that Ori administration significantly down-regulated TLR4 overexpression in DN. Additional studies were conducted to investigate the effect of Ori on the p38-mitogen-activated protein kinase (p38-MAPK) and nuclear factor (NF)-κB pathways. The results showed that Ori inhibited IκBα, p65, and p38 phosphorylation, as well as NF-κB DNA-binding activity. In conclusion, these results demonstrated that Ori exerts protective effects in diabetes-induced renal injury in vivo and in vitro. These effects may be ascribed to its anti-inflammatory and modulatory effects on the TLR4/p38-MAPK and TLR4/NF-κB signaling pathways.