Curcumin is a phytophenolic compound, which is highly efficacious for treating several inflammatory diseases. The aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of curcumin in preventing or reversing liver cirrhosis. A 4-week bile duct ligation (BDL) rat model was used to test the ability of curcumin (100 mg/kg, p.o., daily) to prevent cirrhosis. To reverse cirrhosis, CCl(4) was administered chronically for 3 months, and then it was withdrawn and curcumin administered for 2 months. Alanine aminotransferase, gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, liver histopathology, bilirubin, glycogen, reduced and oxidized glutathione, and TGF-beta (mRNA and protein) levels were assessed. Curcumin preserved normal values of markers of liver damage in BDL rats. Fibrosis, assessed by measuring hydroxyproline levels and histopathology, increased nearly fivefold after BDL and this effect was partially but significantly prevented by curcumin. BDL increased transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) levels (mRNA and proteins), while curcumin partially suppressed this mediator of fibrosis. Curcumin also partially reversed the fibrosis induced by CCl(4). Curcumin was effective in preventing and reversing cirrhosis, probably by its ability of reducing TGF-beta expression. These data suggest that curcumin might be an effective antifibrotic and fibrolitic drug in the treatment of chronic hepatic diseases.