Suspensions of rat peritoneal polymorphonuclear leukocytes (PMNL) elicited with glycogen were stimulated by calcium and ionophore to produce leukotrienes and 5-HETE from endogenous arachidonic acid (AA). We investigated the effect of ethanolic extracts of the gum resin exudate of Boswellia serrata. A concentration-dependent inhibition of LTB4 and 5-HETE production by different charges of exudate extracts were found. All products of the 5-lipoxygenase (5-LOx) from endogenous arachidonic acid (AA) in PMNL were reduced to the same extent by the extracts tested. The ethanolic extract of the gum resin also decreased 5-LOx mediated metabolisation of exogenously added AA to LTB4 and 5-HETE. Since steroidal-type anti-inflammatory drugs do not exert an immediate effect in the test system used, we conclude that the activity of the 5-LOx itself represents the side of inhibition by the gum resin extract. Therefore, an inhibition of 5-LOx catalysed mediator synthesis might be involved in the previously reported anti-inflammatory activity in vivo.