Ghrelin is a novel brain–gut peptide that plays various roles in mammals, including control of food intake and growth hormone release, as well as gastric motility and acid secretion in the gastrointestinal tract. It is mainly secreted by the gastric mucosa, but is also expressed in various other tissues. Different studies confirm the multiple biological roles of and possible protective effects of ghrelin. Multiple in vitro and in vivo studies support the powerful protective action of ghrelin against heart, gastric and liver injury. Moreover, ghrelin has been reported to be beneficial in renal tissue injury and excretory function after ischemia–reperfusion and to exert neuroprotective effects in cerebral ischemic regions. The aim of this review is to summarize and evaluate all the currently available in vivo and in vitro studies regarding the effects of ghrelin on tissue injury induced in different organs and tissues. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.