The present study investigates the hepatoprotective effect of fenugreek seed polyphenolic extract (FPEt) against ethanol-induced hepatic injury and apoptosis in rats. Chronic ethanol administration (6 g/kg/day x 60 days) caused liver damage that was manifested by the elevation of markers of liver dysfunction--aspartate aminotransferase (AST), alanine aminotransferase (ALT), alkaline phosphatase (ALP), lactate dehydrogenase (LDH), bilirubin and gamma-glutamyl transferase (GGT) in plasma and reduction in liver glycogen. The effects on alcohol metabolizing enzymes such as alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) and aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) were studied and found to be altered in the alcohol-treated group. Ethanol administration resulted in adaptive induction of the activities of cytochrome p450 (cyt-p-450) and cytochrome-b5 (cyt-b5) and reduction in cytochrome-c-reductase (cyt-c-red) and glutathione-S-tranferase (GST), a phase II enzyme. Further, ethanol reduced the viability of isolated hepatocytes (ex vivo) as assessed by the trypan blue exclusion test and increased hepatocyte apoptosis as assessed by propidium iodide staining (PI). Treatment with FPEt restored the levels of markers of liver injury and mitigated the alterations in alcohol metabolizing and detoxification enzymes and the electron transport component cytochrome-c reductase. Increased hepatocyte viability and reduced apoptotic nuclei were observed in FPEt-treated rats. These findings demonstrate that FPEt acts as a protective agent against ethanol-induced abnormalities in the liver. The effects of FPEt are comparable with those of a known hepatoprotective agent, silymarin.