1. Extracts from the leaves of Ginkgo biloba (EGb) and ginsenosides (GS) have been reported to be effective at increasing vascular relaxation. In the present study, the actions of EGb and GS on the vascular functions of porcine basilar arteries were investigated in vitro using tissue bath techniques. 2. Both EGb and GS relaxed the basilar artery in a concentration-dependent and partly endothelium-dependent manner. However, EGb appeared to be more potent than GS. Relaxation induced by transmural nerve stimulation (TNS) was significantly enhanced by EGb (7.5, 15 and 30 micrograms/mL) and GS (20, 40 and 80 micrograms/mL) in both endothelium-intact and -denuded basilar arteries. Enhanced TNS-induced relaxations were abolished by 0.3 mmol/L N-L-arginine. 3. The present study demonstrates that nitric oxide plays a primary role in TNS-induced relaxation as well as in EGb- and GS-enhanced relaxation within the cerebral vasculature. In addition, our data support the potential of these compounds as therapeutic strategies in cerebral ischaemia and other related vascular dysfunctions.