The influence of the main flavonoids from Crataegus species (hawthorn, Rosaceae) on coronary flow, heart rate and left ventricular pressure as well as on the velocity of contraction and relaxation was investigated in Langendorff perfused isolated guinea pig hearts at a constant pressure of 70 cmH2O. Drug action was evaluated in a concentration range of 10(-7) to 5 x 10(-4) mol/l. An increase of coronary flow caused by the O-glycosides luteolin-7-glucoside (186%), hyperoside (66%) and rutin (66%) as well as an increase of the relaxation velocity (positive lusitropism) by luteolin-7-glucoside (104%), hyperoside (62%) and rutin (73%) were the major effects observed at a maximum concentration of 0.5 mmol/l. Furthermore, slight positive inotropic effects and a rise in heart rate were seen. Similar but less intensive actions were found with the C-glycosides vitexin, vitexin-rhamnoside and monoacetyl-vitexin-rhamnoside. Possible beta-adrenergic activities of the flavonoids could be excluded by the addition of propranolol in fixed concentrations of 10(-8) to 10(-5) mol/l. Moreover, pretreatment of the animals with reserpine (7 mg/kg) did not influence myocardial activity of hyperoside (10(-4) mol/l). As previous experiments showed an inhibition of the 3',5'-cyclic adenosine monophosphate phosphodiesterase, the results suggest an inhibition of this enzyme as the possible underlying mechanism of cardiac action of flavonoids from Crataegus species.