Abstract Anoectochilus roxburghii (Wall.) Lindl., Orchidaceae, is a Chinese medicinal plant which can be effective for some diseases such as hepatitis, nephritis, pneumonia. Its active ingredient is kinsenoside. The mechanisms of kinsenoside on the liver-protective effect have not been fully explored until today. The present study was aimed to investigate the protective effect and mechanism of kinsenoside on acute alcoholic liver injury. The protected activity of kinsenoside (10, 20 and 40 mg/kg) were investigated on acute alcoholic liver injury in mice. Male C57BL/6 J mice were fed with non-fat feed for 30 days and oral administrated 14 ml/kg bw of ethanol (50%) on the 31st day. The activities of serum aspartate aminotransferase, serum alanine aminotransferase, triacylglyceride and very low density lipoprotein were determined in serum. The hepatic levels of oxidative stress as glutathione, malondialdehyde were measured in liver homogenates. The levels of cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) were measured by immunohistochemistry. Furthermore, histopathological observations were carried out on the separated livers of mice. It was suggested that the trends of acute hepatic injury and fatty degeneration induced by alcohol were reduced in the ethanol group after kinsenoside treatment. Compared to ethanol groups, triacylglyceride, malondialdehyde, very low density lipoprotein, reduced glutathione, serum alanine aminotransferase and serum aspartate aminotransferase levels of kinsenoside (20, 40 mg/kg) groups were decreased (p < 0.05). Meanwhile kinsenoside significantly decreased the level of protein CYP2E1. In conclusion, kinsenoside enhances antioxidant capacity of mice and antagonizes alcohol-induced lipid metabolism disorders. Besides, kinsenoside inhibits alcohol-caused hepatocyte apoptosis, reduces oxidative stress, and relieves hepatocyte death, which may be a mechanism of kinsenoside in the treatment of alcoholic liver.