Xanthine oxidase inhibitory activity was assayed from six species belonging to different families traditionally used for the treatment of gout and related symptoms by indigenous people of India. The aqueous, methanol-water mixture and methanolic extract of these plants were used for the experiment. Of the 18 extracts assayed, 14 extracts demonstrated xanthine oxidase inhibitory activity at 100 microg/ml, among which 10 extracts showed an inhibition greater than 50% and IC(50) values below 100 microg/ml. The methanolic extracts of Coccinia grandis, Datura metel, Strychnos nux-vomica and Vitex negundo showed more than 50% inhibition, hence, they were screened for their in vivo hypouricaemic activity against potassium oxonate-induced hyperuricaemia in mice. Methanolic extracts of Coccinia grandis and Vitex negundo showed a significant decrease in the serum urate level (3.90+/-0.07 mg/dl, P<0.001) and (6.26+/-0.06 mg/dl, P<0.01), respectively, when compared to hyperuricaemic control (11.42+/-0.14 mg/dl). This effect is almost similar to the serum urate level of allopurinol (3.89+/-0.07 mg/dl).