The essential oil of Salvia potentillifolia was analysed by GC and GC-MS. Totally, 123 components were detected in both hydrodistilled and steam-distilled oils, alpha- and beta-pinenes being major compounds. The antioxidant activities were determined by using complementary tests, namely, DPPH radical-scavenging, beta-carotene-linoleic acid and reducing power assays. The ethanol extract also showed better activity (IC50 = 69.4 +/- 0.99 mu g/ml) than that of BHT in the DPPH system, and showed great lipid peroxidation inhibition in the beta-caratene-linoleic acid system (IC50 = 30.4 +/- 0.50 mu g/ml). The essential oil showed meaningful butyrylcholinesterase activity (65.7 +/- 0.21%), and alpha-pinene showed high acetylcholinesterase inhibitory activity (IC50 = 86.2 +/- 0.96 mu g/ml) while beta-pinene was inactive. Antimicrobial activity was also investigated on several microorganisms, and the essential oil showed high activity against Bacillus subtilis and B. cereus. It also exhibited remarkable anticandidal activity against Candida albicans and C. tropicalis with MIC values of 18.5 and 15.5 mu g/ml, respectively, while alpha- and beta-pinenes showed moderate activity. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.