The effect of silymarin on liver damage induced by acetaminophen (APAP) intoxication was studied. Wistar male rats pretreated (72 h) with 3-methylcholanthrene (3-MC) (20 mg kg-1 body wt. i.p.) were divided into three groups: animals in group 1 were treated with acetaminophen (APAP) (500 mg kg-1 body wt. p.o.), group 2 consisted of animals that received APAP plus silymarin (200 mg kg-1 body wt. p.o.) 24 h before APAP, and rats in group 3 (control) received the equivalent amount of the vehicles. Animals were sacrificed at different times after APAP administration. Reduced glutathione (GSH), lipid peroxidation and glycogen were measured in liver and alkaline phosphatase (AP), gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase (GGTP) and glutamic pyruvic transaminase (GPT) activities were measured in serum. After APAP intoxication, GSH and glycogen decreased very fast (1 h) and remained low for 6 h. Lipid peroxidation increased three times over the control 4 and 6 h after APAP treatment. Enzyme activities increased 18 h after intoxication. In the group receiving APAP plus silymarin, levels of lipid peroxidation and serum enzyme activities remained within the control values at any time studied. The fall in GSH was not prevented by silymarin, but glycogen was restored at 18 h. It was concluded that silymarin can protect against APAP intoxication through its antioxidant properties, possibly acting as a free-radical scavenger.