Ethanolic extracts of the aerial parts of Eclipta prostrata L. (Asteraceae) neutralized the lethal activity of the venom of South American rattlesnake (Crotalus durissus terrificus) when mixed in vitro before i.p. injection into adult Swiss mice. Samples of ethanolic extract corresponding to 1.8 mg of dry extract per animal neutralized up to four lethal doses of the venom (LD50 = 0.08 micrograms venom/g animal). Three substances isolated from the plant--wedelolactone (0.54 mg/animal), sitosterol (2.3 mg/animal) and stigmasterol (2.3 mg/animal)--were able to neutralize three lethal doses of the venom. Aqueous extracts of the plant inhibited the release of creatine kinase from isolated rat muscle exposed to the crude venom. The protection conferred against the myotoxic effects of the venom could be demonstrated also in vivo, when the venom was preincubated with the extract prior to injection into mice.