Airway hypersecretion is mediated by increased release of inflammatory mediators and can be improved by inhibition of mediator production. We have recently reported that 1.8-cineol (eucalyptol) which is known as the major monoterpene of eucalyptus oil suppressed arachidonic acid metabolism and cytokine production in human monocytes. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the anti-inflammatory efficacy of 1.8-cineol by determining its prednisolone equivalent potency in patients with severe asthma. Thirty-two patients with steroid-dependent bronchial asthma were enrolled in a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. After determining the effective oral steroid dosage during a 2 month run-in phase, subjects were randomly allocated to receive either 200 mg 1.8-cineol t. i.d. or placebo in small gut soluble capsules for 12 weeks. Oral glucocorticosteroids were reduced by 2.5 mg increments every 3 weeks. The primary end point of this investigation was to establish the oral glucocorticosteroid-sparing capacity of 1.8-cineol in severe asthma. Reductions in daily prednisolone dosage of 36% with active treatment (range 2.5-10 mg, mean: 3.75 mg) vs. a decrease of only 7% (2.5-5 mg, mean: 0.91 mg) in the placebo group (P = 0.006) were tolerated. Twelve of 16 cineol vs. four out of 16 placebo patients achieved a reduction of oral steroids (P = 0.012). Long-term systemic therapy with 1.8-cineol has asignificant steroid-saving effect in steroid-depending asthma. This is the first evidence suggesting an anti-inflammatory activity of the monoterpene 1.8-cineol in asthma and a new rational for its use as mucolytic agent in upper and lower airway diseases.