BACKGROUND Puerarin, the main isoflavone glycoside extracted from the root of Pueraria lobata, is widely prescribed for patients with cardiovascular disorders in China. This study investigates the effect of puerarin on severe burn-induced acute myocardial injury in rats and its underlying mechanisms. MATERIALS AND METHODS Healthy adult Wistar rats were divided into three groups: (1) sham group, sham burn treatment; (2) burn group, third-degree burns over 30% of the total body surface area (TBSA) with lactated Ringer's solution for resuscitation; and (3) burn plus puerarin group, third-degree burns over 30% of TBSA with lactated Ringer's solution containing puerarin for resuscitation. The burned animals were sacrificed at 1, 3, 6, 12, and 24 h after burn injury. Myocardial injury was evaluated by analyzing serum creatine kinase MB fraction (CK-MB) activity and cardiac troponin T (cTNT) level. Changes in cardiomyocyte ultrastructure were also determined using a transmission electron microscope. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α concentration in serum was measured by radioimmunoassay. Cardiac myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity and malondialdehyde (MDA) concentration were measured to determine neutrophil infiltration and oxidative stress in the heart, respectively. The expression of p38 mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase in the heart was determined by Western blot analysis. RESULTS After the 30% TBSA full-thickness burn injury, serum CK-MB activities and cTnT levels increased markedly, both of which were significantly decreased by the puerarin treatment. The level of serum TNF-α concentration in burn group at each time-point was obviously higher than those in sham group (1.09±0.09 ng/ml), and it reached the peak value at 12 h post burn. Burn trauma also resulted in worsen ultrastructural condition, elevated MPO activity and MDA content in heart tissue, and a significant activation of cardiac p38 MAP kinase. Administration of puerarin improved the ultrastructural changes in cardiomyocytes, decreased TNF-α concentration in serum as well as suppressed cardiac MPO activity and reduced MDA content, and abolished the activation of p38 MAP kinase in heart tissue after severe burn. CONCLUSIONS These results suggest that puerarin attenuates inflammatory responses, reduces neutrophil infiltration and oxidative stress in the heart, and protects against acute myocardial injury induced by severe burn.