Free radicals induce numerous diseases by lipid peroxidation, protein peroxidation, and DNA damage. It has been reported that numerous plant extracts have antioxidant activities to scavenge free radicals. Whether Polygonum aviculare L. (Polygonaceae) has antioxidant activity is unknown. In this study, dried Polygonum aviculare L. was extracted by ethanol, and the extract was lyophilized. The antioxidant activities of extract powder were examined by free radical scavenging assays, superoxide radical scavenging assays, lipid peroxidation assays and hydroxyl radical-induced DNA strand scission assays. The results show that the IC50 value of Polygonum aviculare L. extract is 50 microg/ml in free radical scavenging assays, 0.8 microg/ml in superoxide radical scavenging assays, and 15 microg/ml in lipid peroxidation assays, respectively. Furthermore, Polygonum aviculare L. extract has DNA protective effect in hydroxyl radical-induced DNA strand scission assays. The total phenolics and flavonoid content of extract is 677.4 +/- 62.7 microg/g and 112.7 +/- 13 microg/g. The results indicate that Polygonum aviculare L. extract clearly has antioxidant effects.