Fangchinoline and tetrandrine are the major alkaloids from Stephania tetrandrae S. Moore which has been used traditionally for the treatment of inflammatory diseases in oriental countries including Korea. Both fangchinoline and tetrandrine showed anti-inflammatory effects on mouse ear edema induced by croton oil. In addition, the effects of fangchinoline and tetrandrine on cyclooxygenase, murine interleukin-5 (mIL-5) and human interleukin-6 (hIL-6) were examined in vitro to investigate the anti-inflammatory action mechanisms. One hundred micromolar of fangchinoline showed 35% of inhibition on cyclooxygenase, but the same concentration of tetrandrine did not show any inhibition. On the other hand, 12.5 microM of tetrandrine exhibited 95% of inhibition on mIL-5 activity, while fangchinoline did not show any effects. However, 4 microM of fangchinoline and 6 microM of tetrandrine showed 63 and 86% of inhibitions on hIL-6 activity, respectively. These results suggest that biochemical mechanisms of fangchinoline and tetrandrine on anti-inflammation are significantly different even though they are similar in chemical structure.