The present study aims to determine the permeability of naringenin in the stomach, small intestine and colon, to evaluate intestinal and hepatic first-pass metabolism, and to study the influence of the microbiota on the absorption and disposition of naringenin (3·5 μg/ml). A single-pass intestinal perfusion model in mice (n 4–6) was used. Perfusate (every 10 min), blood (at 60 min) and bile samples were taken and analysed to evaluate the presence of naringenin and its metabolites by an HPLC-MS/MS method. To study the influence of the microbiota on the bioavailability of naringenin, a group of animals received the antibiotic rifaximin (50 mg/kg per d) for 5 d, and naringenin permeability was determined in the colon. Naringenin was absorbed well throughout the gastrointestinal tract but mainly in the small intestine and colon (mean permeability coefficient 7·80 (sd 1·54) × 10− 4cm/s and 5·49 (sd 1·86) × 10− 4cm/s, respectively), at a level similar to the highly permeable compound, naproxen (6·39 (sd 1·23) × 10− 4cm/s). According to the high amounts of metabolites found in the perfusate compared to the bile and plasma, naringenin underwent extensive intestinal first-pass metabolism, and the main metabolites excreted were sulfates (84·00 (sd 12·14)%), followed by glucuronides (8·40 (sd 5·67)%). Phase II metabolites were found in all perfusates from 5 min of sampling. Mice treated with rifaximin showed a decrease in naringenin permeability and in the amounts of 4-hydroxyhippuric acid and hippuric acid in the lumen. Naringenin was well absorbed throughout the gastrointestinal tract and its poor bioavailability was due mainly to high intestinal metabolism.