Organic isothiocyanates are widely distributed in plants and are responsible for a variety of beneficial and toxic biological effects. No direct and generic method for quantitating isothiocyanates has been described. Under mild conditions nearly all organic isothiocyanates (R-NCS) react quantitatively with an excess of vicinal dithiols to give rise to five-membered cyclic condensation products with release of the corresponding free amines (R-NH2). The products of the condensation of propyl-NCS with 1,2-ethanedithiol, 2,3-dimercaptopropanol, and 1,2-benzenedithiol have been isolated and identified as 1,3-dithiolane-2-thione, 4-hydroxymethyl-1,3-dithiolane-2-thione, and 1,3-benzodithiole-2-thione, respectively. Since 1,3-benzodithiole-2-thione (lambda max 365 nm and alpha m 23,000 M-1 cm-1) can be sensitively measured spectroscopically, the reaction of organic isothiocyanates with 1,2-benzenedithiol has been developed for analytical purposes. All aliphatic and aromatic isothiocyanates tested (except tert-butyl and other tertiary isothiocyanates) reacted quantitatively with an excess of 1,2-benzenedithiol. Thiocyanates, cyanates, isocyanates, cyanides, or related compounds did not interfere with this reaction under assay conditions. The method can be used to measure 1 nmol or less of pure isothiocyanates or isothiocyanates in crude mixtures. It can also be used to measure isothiocyanates in chromatographic fractions obtained from plant extracts and for the assay of the rate of cleavage of glucosinolates by myrosinase (thioglucoside glucohydrolase; EC 188.8.131.52).