The aim of this study was to investigate the protective effect of honokiol and magnolol on hepatocyte injury induced by either tertiary butyl hydroperoxide (tBH)- or D-galactosamine (GalN). The cellular leakage of LDH and AST, and cell death by treatment with 1.5 mM tBH for 1 h, were significantly inhibited by treatment with honokiol (40 and 20 microM) or magnolol (40 microM). Treatment with honokiol or magnolol significantly inhibited lipid peroxidation in both cells and media, the generation of intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROIs), and intracellular glutathione (GSH) depletion induced by tBH. The cellular leakage of LDH and AST, and cell death, by 24-hour treatment with 30 mM GalN were significantly inhibited by treatment with honokiol (20, 5 and 1 microM) or magnolol (20, 5 and 1 microM). Treatment with honokiol (20, 5 and 1 microM) or magnolol (20 and 5 microM) significantly inhibited the intracellular GSH depletion induced by GalN. The hepatoprotective effects of honokiol and magnolol on oxidative stress induced by tBH were probably the result of their antioxidant activity. Honokiol and magnolol also had a protective effect against GalN-induced hepatotoxicity, which was used as an alternate model to oxidative stress, acting by inhibiting intracellular GSH depletion.