Free radicals and other reactive species are considered to be important causative factors in the development of diseases of aging such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. This relationship has led to considerable interest in assessing the antioxidant capacity of foods and botanicals and other nutritional antioxidant supplements. The use of the oxygen radical absorbance capacity (ORAC) assay as a tool for antioxidant assessment is described and proposed as a method for comparing botanical sources and for standardizing nutritional supplements. The free radical or oxidant source is important and direct comparisons cannot be made between procedures that use different sources. The ORAC procedure uses 2,2'-azobis(2-amidinopropane) dihydrochloride as a peroxyl radical source, which is relevant to biological systems because the peroxyl radical is the most abundant free radical. Other oxidant sources (hydroxyl radical and Cu++) can also be used to characterize antioxidants in botanicals. Phenolics or polyphenolics are responsible for most of the antioxidant capacity in fruits, vegetables, and most botanical antioxidant supplements. Although little is known about the absorption and metabolism of these components, improvement in the in vivo antioxidant status has been observed in human subjects following consumption of antioxidant botanicals. The ORAC method provides a basis from which to establish appropriate dietary intakes that might impact health outcomes.