Extracts of the plant species Pinus sylvestris L. and Plantago lanceolata L. have been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of certain respiratory diseases, but little is known about their precise effects and mechanisms of action. In this study, we investigated the effect of these plant extracts on the production of nitric oxide (NO) and prostaglandin E(2), NO synthase (NOS) type II, cyclooxygenase-1 (COX-1) and COX-2 mRNA expression in the murine macrophage cell line J774A.1. We found that Pinus sylvestris and Plantago lanceolata extracts inhibited NO production in a concentration-dependent manner in this cell line, without obvious cytotoxic effects as tested by MTT assay. The Plantago lanceolata extract at all doses used, and the Pinus sylvestris extract at high doses, showed significant scavenging of NO radicals released by the NO donor PAPA-NONOate. Our data also show that pre-treatment with these extracts significantly inhibits inducible NOS (iNOS) mRNA production in this cell line, without affecting COX-1 mRNA expression. COX-2 mRNA levels and PGE(2) levels induced by lipopolysaccharide/interferon-gamma were not modified upon pre-treatment with the extracts. Thus, our results suggest that the anti-inflammatory properties of Pinus sylvestris and Plantago lanceolata extracts may reflect decreased NO production, possibly due to inhibitory effects on iNOS gene expression or to NO-scavenging activity.