Background: Lumefantrine, an antimalarial molecule has very low and variable bioavailability owing to its extremely poor solubility in water. It is recommended to be taken with milk to enhance its solubility and bioavailability. The aim of present study was to develop a Self Nanoemulsifying Delivery system (SNEDs) of lumefantrine (LF) to achieve rapid and complete dissolution independent of food-fat and surfactant in dissolution media. Methods. Solubility of LF in oil, co-solvent/co-surfactant and surfactant solution and emulsification efficiency of surfactant were analyzed to optimize the LF loaded self nanoemulsifying preconcentrate. Effect of LF-oleic acid complexation on emulsification, droplet size, zeta potential and dissolution were investigated. Effect of milk concentration and fat content on saturation solubility and dissolution of LF was investigated. Dissolution of marketed formulation and LF-SNEDs was carried out in pH 1.2 and pH 6.8 phosphate buffer. Results: LF exhibited very high solubility in oleic acid owing to complexation between tertiary amine of LF and carboxyl group of oleic acid (OA). Cremophore EL and medium chain monoglyceride were selected surfactant and co-surfactant, respectively. Significantly smaller droplet size (37 nm), shift in zeta potential from negative to positive value, very high drug loading in lipid based system (> 10%), no precipitation after dissolution are the major distinguish characteristics contributed by LF-OA complex in the SNED system. Saturation solubility and dissolution study in milk containing media pointed the significant increment in solubility of LF in the presence of milk-food fat. LF-SNEDs showed > 90% LF release within 30 min in pH 1.2 while marketed tablet showed almost 0% drug release. Conclusion: Self nanoemulsification promoting ionic complexation between basic drug and oleic acid hold great promise in enhancing solubility of hydrophobic drugs. © 2013 Patel et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.