The inhibitory effects of 150 medicinal plants on elastase activity were investigated. Among the 150 plants, six plant extracts (final concentration 1 mg/ml in methanol) exhibited more than 65% of inhibition of elastase activity. The inhibitory effects of six active plants, including Areca catechu (IC50, 42.4 mug/ml), Cinnamonum cassia (IC50, 208.7 mug/ml), Myristica fragrans (IC50, 284.1 mug/ml), Curcuma longa (IC50, 398.4 mug/ml), Alpinia katsumadai (IC50, 465.7 mug/ml) and Dryopteris cassirrhizoma (IC50, 714.4 mug/ml) on the activity of human leukocyte elastase, hyaluronidase and lipid peroxidation were examined. In the lipid peroxidation assay, using the TBA method, three of the six plants, including Curcuma longa (IC50, 45.5 mug/ml), Areca catechu (IC50, 51.0 mug/ml) and Alpinia katsumadai (IC50, 116.3 mug/ml) exhibited more than 70% inhibition at the concentration of 1 mug/ml, but only one plant, Areca catechu (IC50, 563 mug/ml) showed high inhibitory effect on hyaluronidase activity. The results suggest that medicinal plants showing several biological activities may be potent inhibitors of the anti-ageing process in skin. This property might be useful for application in cosmetics.