EGb 761, a standardized extract of Ginkgo biloba leaves, has been used in clinical trials for its beneficial effects on brain functions. In mammals, EGb 761 has been shown to enhance cognition, stress resistance, and longevity, but its molecular and cellular mechanisms are not known. In the present investigation, we used the model organism Caenorhabditis elegans to evaluate pharmacological effects of EGb 761 on aging. We tested the theory that EGb 761 augments the natural antioxidant system of C elegans, and thus increases stress resistance and longevity. We found that treatment of the wild-type worms with EGb 761 extended their median life span by 8%. Amongst several purified components of EGb 761, the flavonoid tamarixetin showed the most dramatic effect: it extended the median life span by 25%. Furthermore, EGb 761 increased the wild type's resistance to acute oxidative and thermal stress by 33% and 25%, respectively. Treatment of the prematurely aging mutant worms mev-1 with EGb 761 increased their resistance to acute oxidative and thermal stress by 33% and 11%, respectively. It appears that oxidative stress, a major determinant of life span, as well as other types of stress, can be successfully counteracted by the Ginlkgo biloba extract EGb 761.