Flavonoids are polyphenolic compounds that are widespread in nature, and consumed as part of the human diet in significant amounts. The aim of the present study was to test the intestinal anti-inflammatory activity of apigenin K, a soluble form of apigenin, in two models of rat colitis, namely the trinitrobenzenesulfonic acid (TNBS) model and the dextran sulphate sodium (DSS) model. Apigenin K (1, 3 and 10 mg/kg; by the oral route; n 4–6 per group) was administered as a pre-treatment to rats with TNBS and DSS colitis, and colonic status was checked by macroscopic and biochemical examination. Apigenin K pre-treatment resulted in the amelioration of morphological signs and biochemical markers in the TNBS model. The results demonstrated a reduction in the inflamed area, as well as lower values of score and colonic weight:length ratio compared with the TNBS group. Myeloperoxidase (MPO) activity was reduced by 30 % (P< 0·05). Moreover, apigenin K pre-treatment ameliorated morphological signs and biochemical markers in the DSS model. Thus, macroscopic damage was significantly reduced and the colonic weight:length ratio was lowered by approximately 10 %, while colonic MPO and alkaline phosphatase activities were decreased by 35 and 21 %, respectively (P< 0·05). Apigenin K pre-treatment also tended to normalise the expression of a number of colonic inflammatory markers (e.g. TNF-α, transforming growth factor-β, IL-6, intercellular adhesion molecule 1 or chemokine (C–C motif) ligand 2). In conclusion, apigenin K is found to have anti-inflammatory effects in two preclinical models of inflammatory bowel disease.