The effects of three chemically different groups of compounds, (triterpenoid saponins, beta-phenylethylamines and tetrahydroisoquinolines), known to be present in Desmodium adscendens, on plasma membrane ion channel, cytochrome P450 NADPH-dependent oxygenation of arachidonic acid, and production of prostaglandins by the cyclooxygenase enzyme system, are described. The very high-conductance calcium-activated potassium ion channel, which is responsible for the maintenance of tone in smooth muscles, was activated by the saponins. The cytochrome P450 NADPH-dependent monooxygenase reaction, which produces epoxy- and hydroxylated eicosanoids from arachidonic acid metabolism, was inhibited by an analogue of the tetrahydroisoquinoline present in the plant. This analogue also acted as a reductant in the prostaglandin synthesizing system using microsomes from ram seminal vesicles. The same system was activated by the beta-phenylethylamines found in the plant material, with the formation of more prostaglandins, the type being dependent on the amount of cyclooxygenase enzyme used and the presence or absence of coenzyme.