The anti-inflammatory activity of hamamelis distillate has been evaluated with respect to drug concentration (0.64 mg/2.56 mg hamamelis ketone/100 g) and the effect of the vehicle (O/W emulsion with/without phosphatidylcholine (PC) in an experimental study. The effects were compared with those of chamomile cream, hydrocortisone 1% cream and 4 base preparations. Erythema was induced by UV irradiation and cellophane tape stripping of the horny layer in 24 healthy subjects per test. Skin blanching was quantified by visual scoring and chromametry. Drug effects were compared with one another and with an untreated control area, as well as with any action due to the vehicle. UV-induced erythema at 24 h was suppressed by low dose hamamelis PC-cream and hydrocortisone cream. Hydrocortisone appeared superior to both hamamelis vehicles, hamamelis cream (without PC) and chamomile cream. The latter preparation was also less potent than hamamelis PC-cream. Erythema 4 to 8 h after the stripping of the horny layer was suppressed by hydrocortisone (P < or = 0.05). Inflammation was also less pronounced following low dose hamamelis PC-cream and chamomile cream. Hamamelis PC-cream, however, appeared less potent than hydrocortisone. In general, visual scoring was more discriminatory than chromametry. The results have demonstrated an anti-inflammatory activity of hamamelis distillate in a PC-containing vehicle. A fourfold increase of drug concentration, however, did not produce an increase in activity.