BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE Poncirus fructus (PF), also known as the dried immature fruit of Poncirus trifoliata (L.) Raf., has long been used as a cure for the treatment of various gastrointestinal disorders in eastern Asia. Recently, it was reported that naringin, a flavonoid constituent of the PF extract, causes the activation of ghrelin receptor in vitro. Although the ghrelin receptor is involved in the enhancement of intestinal motility, there are no studies as yet involving in vivo action of naringin. Therefore, the purpose of the present study is to investigate whether naringin exhibits a prokinetic effect in vivo. METHODS We measured the intestinal transit rate in rats with gastrointestinal motility dysfunction (GMD) and performed a pharmacokinetic analysis of naringin to investigate the effect of naringin on prokinetic activity in vivo. RESULTS The results of this study show that the aqueous extract of PF and its constituent naringin have a strong prokinetic activity in GMD rats via activation of the ghrelin receptor. Surprisingly, pharmacokinetic analysis revealed that naringin has low bioavailability (11%), implying that the prokinetic effect of naringin was largely due to the local activation of ghrelin receptor in the intestine rather than a systemic effect after absorption. Indeed, it turned out that intravenous administration of naringin led to a lower prokinetic effect than when administrated orally to rats, indicating that naringin prefers to act on the intestinal wall rather than getting absorbed into the systemic circuit. This local mode of action might be advantageous for preventing possible systemic side effects since naringin is not well absorbed into the system circuit. CONCLUSIONS Naringin exhibits an in vivo prokinetic activity by a preferable local activation of ghrelin receptor. Moreover, we propose that naringin could play a role as a leading compound for the development of ghrelin receptor-based prokinetic agents.