This experimental study was designed to determine the effects of melatonin on the levels of malondialdehyde (MDA), reduced glutathione (GSH), xanthine oxidase (XO) after adnexial torsion/detorsion (ischemia/reperfusion, I/R) of the ovaries of in rats. Forty adult albino rats were divided into five groups: sham operation, torsion, I/R plus saline, I/R plus melatonin and torsion plus melatonin. Rats in the sham-operated group underwent a surgical procedure similar to the other groups but the adnexa was not occluded. Rats in the torsion group were killed after adnexal torsion for 3 hr. Melatonin and saline were injected intraperitoneally (10 mg/kg) 30 min before detorsion to the I/R plus melatonin group and I/R plus saline group respectively. After 3 hr of ovarian detorsion, the rats were killed and ovaries were removed. Melatonin was injected intraperitoneally (10 mg/kg) 30 min before torsion to the torsion plus melatonin group. After 3 hr of ovarian torsion, the rats were killed and ovaries were harvested. The tissue levels of MDA, GSH and XO were measured. MDA and XO levels in the I/R plus saline group increased significantly when compared with torsion and sham-operated groups (P < 0.001). MDA and XO levels in the I/R plus melatonin group were lower than I/R plus saline and differences between the two groups were statistically significant (P < 0.001). GSH levels in the I/R plus saline group decreased significantly when compared with ischemia and sham-operated groups (P < 0.001). GSH levels in the I/R plus melatonin treated rats were significantly higher than I/R plus saline and ischemia groups (P < 0.001). The tissue levels of XO, MDA and GSH were similar between ischemia and ischemia plus melatonin groups. Morphologically, polymorphonuclear neutrophil infiltration and vascular dilatation were obvious in the I/R-damaged ovaries, and the changes also partially reversed by melatonin. This study demonstrates that melatonin protects the ovaries against oxidative damage associated with reperfusion following an ischemic insult.