Herbal medicines are widely consumed by patients in different clinical settings in the United States and all over the world. In this study, 7 herbal components ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, Rc, and Rd (from ginseng quercetin) ginkgolides A and B (from ginkgo biloba) were investigated for their inhibitory effects on hepatic CYP2C9 and CYP3A4 catalytic activities in human liver microsomes. Tolbutamide 4-methylhydroxylation and testosterone 6beta-hydroxylation were used as index reactions of CYP2C9 or CYP3A4 catalytic activities, respectively. The metabolites of both reactions were measured by high-performance liquid chromatography and used as indicators of whether enzymes were inhibited or unaffected by these agents. Herbal components were studied at various concentrations (0.1, 1, 10, 100, 200 micromol/L). The herbal compounds investigated were capable of inhibiting CYP2C9 and CYP3A4 catalytic activities, but the potencies differed. Quercetin showed marked inhibitory effects on both tolbutamide 4-methylhydroxylation and testosterone 6beta-hydroxylation with IC(50) values of 35 and 38 micromol/L, respectively. Ginsenoside Rd also had significant inhibitory potency on both CYP2C9- and CYP3A4-mediated index reactions with IC(50) values of 105 and 62 micromol/L, respectively. Ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, and Rc had limited inhibitory activities on both enzyme reaction systems, whereas the effects of ginkgolides A and B appeared negligible. It is concluded that the components of ginseng and ginkgo biloba screened are capable of inhibiting CYP2C9- and CYP3A4-mediated metabolic reactions. Our findings suggest that quercetin and ginsenoside Rd have the potential to interact with conventional medicines that are metabolized by CYP2C9 and CYP3A4 in vivo.