The low molecular weight antioxidants (LMWA) of biological samples include many compounds and contribute to the total antioxidant capacity of the system. They act as direct chemical scavengers neutralizing, reactive oxygen-derived species (ROS), and contribute to the ability of the sample to cope with oxidative stress. We propose cyclic voltammetry (CV) as a new method for evaluating the antioxidant capacity of plasma-LMWA and the severity of oxidative stress exerted on the plasma. It is based on the reducing properties of these molecules. CV has been proven to be a simple, sensitive and reliable method. Its tracing does not change during storage of frozen plasma for up to six months. We analyzed the CV tracings by the oxidation potential E1/2, and the current heights Ia of its anodic wave(s). E1/2 indicates the specific component of the LMWA and its ability to donate electron(s); Ia indicates the concentration of this component. Two anodic waves have been identified in human plasma, at E1/2 = 420 +/- 25 and 920 +/- 25 mV. Ascorbate (AA) and urate (UA) were identified as major LMWA components of the first anodic wave, and were confirmed by HPLC-electrochemical detection. Ia was shown to depend linearly on the concentration of either of these LMWA, both in buffer and in plasma. Oxidative stress exerted by exposure to peroxyl radicals, copper ions and ionizing irradiation caused marked changes in the CV tracing. These changes represent corresponding alterations particularly in la, rather than in E1/2. The Ia and E1/2 values reflect the antioxidant capacity of the plasma, while the change of Ia value represents the severity of the oxidative stress induced.