Subtotally nephrectomized rats were found to have decreased activities of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase, and spin trapping with 5,5-dimethyl-1-pyrroline-N-oxide (DMPO) showed that the amount of hydroxyl radical in the residual kidney tissue was greater than that in normal rat kidney. This indicated both direct and indirect involvement of free radicals in renal failure. In contrast, rats given magnesium lithospermate B (10 mg/kg body weight) orally for 30 days after subtotal nephrectomy showed restoration of SOD and catalase activities to almost normal levels. Hydroxyl radical, which is highly reactive and for which there is no scavenger system in the body, was decreased markedly in kidney homogenates obtained from rats given magnesium lithospermate B and in an experimental system for hydroxyl radical production to which magnesium lithospermate B was directly added. The increased levels of uremic toxins in the blood were also low in rats given magnesium lithospermate B. This indicates that magnesium lithospermate B helps to inhibit the progression of renal failure by scavenging radicals.