Green tea contains relatively large amounts of catechins, that have been recognized to be efficient free-radical scavengers. In spite of a largely described antioxidant effect, the metabolic fate of catechins in humans has been scarcely studied. An infusion of green tea (about 400 mg of catechins) was given to healthy volunteers; plasma and urine samples were collected for 5 h and 2 days, respectively. Epigallocatechin gallate and epicatechin gallate were detected in plasma samples, reaching the maximum concentration (2 microM) at 2 h. Urine samples collected at 6-48 h contained detectable amounts of final catechin metabolites, including 4-hydroxybenzoic acid, 3,4-dihydroxybenzoic acid, 3-methoxy-4-hydroxy-hippuric acid and 3-methoxy-4-hydroxybenzoic acid (vanillic acid). The total content of these metabolites averaged 60 mg. The levels of free plasma catechins account only partly for the increased (approximately +20%) total radical-trapping antioxidant parameter (TRAP) detected after green tea intake. Catechin conjugates (glucuronide and sulphate) and metabolites may add further contribution and explain the measured TRAP increase.