This study aimed to evaluate in vitro and in vivo trypanocidal activity of free and nanoencapsulated curcumin against Trypanosoma evansi. In vitro efficacy of free curcumin (CURC) and curcumin-loaded in lipid-core nanocapsules (C-LNCs) was evaluated to verify their lethal effect on T. evansi. To perform the in vivo tests, T. evansi-infected animals were treated with CURC (10 and 100 mg kg−1, intraperitoneally [i.p.]) and C-LNCs (10 mg kg−1, i.p.) during 6 days, with the results showing that these treatments significantly attenuated the parasitaemia. Infected untreated rats showed protein peroxidation and an increase of nitrites/nitrates, whereas animals treated with curcumin showed a reduction on these variables. As a result, the activity of antioxidant enzymes (superoxide dismutase and catalase) differs between groups (P<0·05). Infected animals and treated with CURC exhibited a reduction in the levels of alanine aminotransferase and creatinine, when compared with the positive control group. The use of curcumin in vitro resulted in a better parasitaemia control, an antioxidant activity and a protective effect on liver and kidney functions of T. evansi-infected adult male Wistar rats.