Pygeum africanum extract has been used for more than 20 years in France in patients suffering from benign prostatic hypertrophy (BPH). The extract displays anti-inflammatory activity and inhibits bladder hyperreactivity during the above conditions. However, the mechanism of action of P. africanum extract has never been clearly resolved. It has been recently demonstrated that infiltration by inflammatory cells may be involved in the development of BPH. Certain of these cell types, such as macrophages, are known to produce chemotactic mediators including leukotrienes, and thus may contribute to the development of the disease. In order to investigate the potential effect of P. africanum extract on arachidonate metabolism, we examined its effect in vitro on leukotriene (LT) synthesis in human polymorphonuclear cells stimulated with the calcium ionophore A23187. Two formulations of the extract were tested, one dissolved in DMSO and one aqueous solution obtained after alkalinization (0.1 N; NaOH/acidification (0.1 N; HCl). Neither formulation had any effect on cell viability which was above 95% in both cases. P. africanum extract dissolved in DMSO significantly inhibited the production of 5-lipoxygenase metabolites (5-HETE, 20-COOH LTB4, LTB4 and 20-OH LTB4) at concentrations as low as 3 micrograms/ml (p < 0.01), while the same extract dissolved in NaOH/HCl only exhibited an inhibitory effect at 10 micrograms/ml (p < 0.01). This difference apparently reflects the greater solubility of the active components in the extract in DMSO. The ability of P. africanum to antagonize 5-lipoxygenase metabolite production may contribute, at least in part, to its therapeutic activity in inflammatory component of BPH.