BACKGROUND Sepsis is a severe medical condition. Approximately 0.75 million people are diagnosed with sepsis in the USA annually. Several of anti-inflammatory drugs are used to manage sepsis, but with a very low success rate. This study examined the possible protective effects of a naturally occurring flavanone, quercetin, in a rat model of sepsis. MATERIAL AND METHODS The study was carried out using Wistar albino rats. Sepsis was induced by cecal ligation and puncture methods. Histological analysis was performed by hematoxylin and eosin (HE) staining. Reactive oxygen species (ROS) levels were determined by flow cytometery. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), and ascorbate peroxidase (APX) activities were determined by standard assays. Protein expression was determined by Western blot analysis. RESULTS The results showed that quercetin reduced the tissue edema, congestion, and hemorrhage, increased the alveolar volume, and helped to maintain the lung anatomy of septic rats. Admistration of quercetin at the dosage of 15 and 20 mg/kg to septic rats caused significant reduction in the ROS levels. The activities and the expression of SOD, CAT, and APX were significantly decreased upon administration of quercetin in the septic rats at the dosage of 15 and 20 mg/kg. The effects of quercetin were also examined on the expression of the High mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) protein in septic rats. The results showed that quercetin caused a significant decrease in HMGB1 protein levels. CONCLUSIONS The findings of this study suggest that quercetin has therapeutic potential in the treatment of sepsis.