This study was designed to examine the chemical composition and in vitro antioxidant activity of the essential oil and various extracts (hexane, dichloromethane and methanol sub-fractions) of Nepeta flavida. GC and GC-MS analyses of the essential oil resulted in the identification of 68 compounds, representing 96.4% of the oil; 1,8-cineole (38.9%) and linalool (25.1%) were the main components, comprising 64.0% of the total oil. The samples were subjected to a screening for their possible antioxidant activities by using 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH) and beta-carotene-linoleic acid assays. In the first case, the IC50 value of the N. flavida essential oil was determined to be 42.8 +/- 2.19 mu g/ml. Among the extracts, the strongest activity was exhibited by the polar sub-fraction of the methanol extract with an IC50 value of 63.2 +/- 1.75 mu g/ml. In the beta-carotene-linoleic acid system, N. flavida essential oil exhibited 86.3% +/- 1.69 inhibition against linoleic acid oxidation. Among the extracts prepared with various solvents, a correlation was observed between the polarity and antioxidant activity. The extracts exhibited the same activity pattern in this system the most active one is the polar sub-fraction, 79.7% +/- 0.89. On the other hand, 1,8-cineole, a major compound of the essential oil, exhibited marked antioxidant activity in both systems, whereas the other compound, linalool, did not show any activity. The amount of total phenolics was highest in the polar and non-polar sub-fractions. Particularly, a positive correlation was observed between the total phenolic content and the antioxidant activity of the extracts. As estimated from the results, amounts of phenolic compounds were less in hexane and dichloromethane extracts than in the others. In conclusion, antioxidant potentials of polar and non-polar methanol sub-fractions could be attributed to their high phenolic contents. In both systems, antioxidant capacities of BHT, ascorbic acid, curcumin and alpha-tocopherol were also determined in parallel experiments. (c) 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.