Dietary modifications may significantly reduce cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors, including cholesterol and atherosclerosis. The present study addressed the effects of the crude extract from the pulp fruit of Tamarindus indica L. on lipid serum levels and early atherosclerotic lesions in hypercholesterolemic hamsters in vivo, and the extract's antioxidant action, in vitro. Animals were fed on either chow or atherogenic diet during 10 weeks and concomitantly received either water or T. indica L. extract for drinking. Treatment of hypercholesterolemic hamsters with the T. indica pulp fruit extract (5%) led to a decrease in the levels of serum total cholesterol (50%), non-HDL cholesterol (73%) and triglyceride (60%), and to an increase of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels (61%). In vitro, the extract presented radical scavenging ability, as assessed by the 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and superoxide radicals assays, and led to decreased lipid peroxidation in serum, as assessed by the thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (TBARS) assay. In vivo, the extract improved the efficiency of the antioxidant defense system, as assessed by the superoxide dismutase, catalase and glutathione peroxidase activities. Together these results indicate the potential of tamarind extracts in diminishing the risk of atherosclerosis development in humans.