The aim of this study is to show that protective effects of the main catechin (-)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG) against capsaicin (CAP) induced oxidative stress and DNA damage in human blood in vitro. Superoxide dismutase, catalase, glutathione peroxidase and malondialdehyde (MDA) level were studied in erythrocytes and leucocytes with increased concentrations of CAP. DNA damage in leucocytes was measured by the comet assay. Human blood cells have been administered with doses between 0 and 200 mu M of CAP and/or EGCG (20 mu M) for an hour at 37 A degrees C. Treatment with CAP alone has increased the levels of MDA and decreased antioxidant enzymes in human blood cells. A significant increase in tail DNA%, mean tail length and tail moment indicating DNA damage has been observed at the highest dose of CAP treatment when compared to controls. Treatment of cells with CAP plus EGCG prevented CAP-induced changes in antioxidant enzyme activities and MDA level and mean tail lenght indicating DNA damage. A significant increase in mean tail lenght was observed at high doses of CAP. These data suggest that EGCG can prevent toxicity to human erythrocytes and leucocytes caused by CAP, only at low doses.