The volatile constituents of the sterile stems of Equisetum arvense L. (Equisetaceae) were investigated for the first time using GC, GC/MS and 13C-NMR. Twenty-five compounds were identified. Hexahydrofarnesyl acetone (18.34%), cis-geranyl acetone (13.74%), thymol (12.09%) and trans-phytol (10.06%) were the major constituents. A disk diffusion method was used for the evaluation of the antimicrobial activity of this oil against a panel of microorganisms (bacteria: Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Salmonella enteritidis; fungi: Aspergillus niger and Candida albicans). The 1:10 dilution of the essential oil of Equisetum arvense L. was shown to possess a broad spectrum of a very strong antimicrobial activity against all tested strains. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.