The protective effect of phenylpropanoid glycosides, forsythoside B and alyssonoside, and the iridoid glycoside lamiide, isolated from the aerial parts of Phlomis pungens var. pungens, against free radical-induced impairment of endothelium-dependent relaxation in isolated rat aorta was investigated. Aortic rings were exposed to free radicals by the electrolysis of the physiological bathing solution. Free radical-induced inhibition of the endothelium-dependent relaxation in response to acetylcholine was countered by incubation of the aortic rings before electrolysis with the aqueous extract (100 mug/ml), phenylpropanoid fraction (100 mug/ml) and iridoid fraction (150 mug/ml) of P. pungens var. pungens. Major components of the phenylpropanoid fraction forsythoside B and alyssonoside also prevented the inhibition of the acetylcholine response, at 10(-4) M concentration. However, the major component of iridoid fraction lamiide was found ineffective at the same concentration. The protective activity of phenylpropanoid glycosides against the free radical-induced impairment of endothelium-dependent relaxation may be related to their free radical scavenging property. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.