Xanthine oxidase (xanthine: oxygen oxidoreductase EC 188.8.131.52) inhibitory activity was assayed from 26 species belonging to 18 families traditionally used for the treatment of gout and related symptoms by Indigenous people of northeastern North America. The degree of inhibition was determined by measuring the increase in absorbance at 295 nm associated with uric acid formation. Eighty-eight percent of the plants were found to have inhibitory activity at 100 microg/ml, with 20% having greater than 50% inhibition. Larix laricina exhibited the highest activity with an inhibition of 86.33%. Of the species with the highest activity, Lineweaver-Burk plots showed that inhibition mode was of linear mixed-type. Inhibitory activity of the plants correlated positively with their phenolic content (r = 0.52 P < 0.01) and tannin content (r = 0.59 P < 0.001).