The antioxidant properties of twenty medical herbs used in the traditional Mediterranean and Chinese medicine were studied. Extracts from Forsythia suspensa, Helichrysum italicum, Scrophularia auriculata, Inula viscosa, Coptis chinensis, Poria cocos and Scutellaria baicalensis had previously shown anti-inflammatory activity in different experimental models. Using free radical-generating systems H. italicum. I. viscosa and F. suspensa protected against enzymatic and non-enzymatic lipid peroxidation in model membranes and also showed scavenging property on the superoxide radical. All extracts were assayed at a concentration of 100 microg/ml. Most of the extracts were weak scavengers of the hydroxyl radical and C. chinensis and P. cocos exhibited the highest scavenging activity. Although S. baicalensis inhibited the lipid peroxidation in rat liver microsomes and red blood cells, the extract showed inhibitory actions on aminopyrine N-demethylase and xanthine oxidase activities as well as an pro-oxidant effect observed in the Fe3+-EDTA-H2O2 system. The results of the present work suggest that the anti-inflammatory activities of the same extracts could be explained, at least in part, by their antioxidant properties.