To examine the mechanism of the preventive effect of tannins on the progression of carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-induced acute liver injury in rats, sumac gall (SG) extract and gallic acid (GA) were used as substitutes for crude tannins, because SG is a kind of Chinese traditional medicinal herb containing large amounts of various tannins, and GA is one of the major constituents of SG. The protective effect of oral (p.o.) and intraperitoneal (i.p.) administration of each substance on progression of CCl4-induced hepatitis was investigated in rats. Speculating that the superoxide dismutase (SOD)-like activities (O2 radical-scavenging activities) and/or protective effects of these substances on cell membranes might play a key role in the mechanism opposing the progression of CCl4-induced hepatitis, the O2 radical-scavenging activities in liver cells and serum in rats were monitored. Both substances significantly prevented the progression of acute liver injury with both p.o. and i.p. administration. These findings suggest that the mechanism for this prevention might be due mainly to the protective effect of these substances on cell membranes rather than O2 radical-scavenging activities.