The alkaloid boldine, found in the leaves and bark of boldo, was an effective inhibitor of rat liver microsomal lipid peroxidation under a variety of conditions. The following systems all displayed a similar sensitivity to boldine: non-enzymatic peroxidation initiated by ferrous ammonium sulfate; iron-dependent peroxidation produced by ferric-ATP with either NADPH or NADH as cofactor; organic hydroperoxide-catalyzed peroxidation; and carbon tetrachloride plus NADPH-dependent peroxidation. Boldine inhibited the excess oxygen uptake associated with microsomal lipid peroxidation. Thus, boldine was effective in inhibiting iron-dependent and iron-independent microsomal lipid peroxidation, with 50% inhibition occurring at a concentration of about 0.015 mM. Boldine did not appear to react efficiently with Superoxide radical or hydrogen peroxide, but was effective in competing for hydroxyl radicals with chemical scavengers. Concentrations of boldine which produced nearly total inhibition of lipid peroxidation had no effect on microsomal mixed-function oxidase activity nor did boldine appear to direct electrons from NADPH-cytochrome P450 reductase away from cytochrome P450. Boldine completely protected microsomal mixed-function oxidase activity against inactivation produced by lipid peroxidation. The effectiveness of boldine as an anti-oxidant under various conditions, and its low toxicity, suggest that this alkaloid may be an attractive agent for further evaluation as a clinically useful anti-oxidant.