In vitro antiplasmodial activity of methanolic extracts of 16 medicinal plants was evaluated by fluorometric assay using PicoGreen. The IC50s, as determined by parasite DNA concentration, ranged from <11 to >200 and <13 to >200 microg/ml for Plasmodium falciparum 3D7 and K1, respectively; and the most active extracts were those from Anogeissus leiocarpus and Terminalia avicennoides (<11-> or =14 microg/ml). Aqueous, butanolic, ethyl acetate, and methanolic fractions of these two extracts revealed butanolic fraction to have a relatively better activity (IC50, 10-12 microg/ml). Activity-guided chromatographic separation of the butanolic fraction on Sephadex LH-20 followed by nuclear magnetic resonance and correlation high-performance liquid chromatography revealed the presence of known hydrolysable tannins and some related compounds-castalagin, ellagic acid, flavogallonic acid, punicalagin, terchebulin, and two other fractions. The IC50s of all these compounds ranged between 8-21 microg/ml (8-40 microM) against both the strains. Toxicity assay with mouse fibroblasts showed all the extracts and isolated compounds to have IC50 > or = 1500 microg/ml, except for Momordica balsamina with <1500 microg/l. All the extracts and isolated compounds did not affect the integrity of human erythrocyte membrane at the observed IC50s. However, adverse effects manifest in a concentration-dependent fashion (from IC50 > or = 500 microg/ml).