The essential oils and methatiolic extracts of Salvia cryptantha and Salvia multicaulis were examined for their potential antimicrobial and radical scavenging activities. No, or slight, activity was observed when the polar and non-polar subfractions of the extracts were tested, whereas essential oils exhibited antimicrobial activity. The essential oils isolated from S. cryptantha and S. multicaulis were analysed by GC-MS and 53 and 47 constituents were identified, respectively. Antioxidant activities of the polar subfraction and the essential oil were examined using 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH), hydroxyl radical-scavenging and lipid peroxidation assays. The essential oils, in particular, and the non-polar subfractions of methanol extracts, showed antioxidant activity. In conclusion, the results indicate that the oils of S. cryptantha and S. multicaulis have the capacity to scavenge free radicals and to inhibit the growth of pathogenic microorganisms. Therefore they could be suitable for using as antimicrobial and anti-oxidative agents in the food industry. (C) 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.