Extracts or alkaloids isolated from Mahonia aquifolium exhibit antimicrobial activity against Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, fungi, and protozoa. In this study the bacteriostatic and bacteriocidal activities of a M. aquifolium extract and two of its major alkaloids, berberine chloride and oxyacanthine sulphate, were tested in vitro against nine different oral bacteria. Minimum inhibitory concentrations were in the range from < or = 0.0031% to 0.1993% for the M. aquifolium extract, from 0.002% to > 0.125% for berberine chloride, and from 0.0156% to > 0.0625% for oxyacanthine sulphate. The values for the minimum bactericidal concentrations were in the same range, indicating that the test substances most probably acted in a bactericidal manner. The most susceptible bacterium against all three test substances was Porphyromonas gingivalis.