Background Bitter cumin (Centratherum anthelminticum (L.) Kuntze), is a medicinally important plant. Earlier, we have reported phenolic compounds, antioxidant, and anti-hyperglycemic, antimicrobial activity of bitter cumin. In this study we have further characterized the antioxidative activity of bitter cumin extracts in various in vitro models. Methods Bitter cumin seeds were extracted with a combination of acetone, methanol and water. The antioxidant activity of bitter cumin extracts were characterized in various in vitro model systems such as DPPH radical, ABTS radical scavenging, reducing power, oxidation of liposomes and oxidative damage to DNA. Results The phenolic extracts of bitter cumin at microgram concentration showed significant scavenging of DPPH and ABTS radicals, reduced phosphomolybdenum (Mo(VI) to Mo(V)), ferricyanide Fe(III) to Fe(II), inhibited liposomes oxidation and hydroxyl radical induced damage to prokaryotic genomic DNA. The results showed a direct correlation between phenolic acid content and antioxidant activity. Conclusion Bitter cumin is a good source of natural antioxidants.