ETHNOPHARMACOLOGICAL RELEVANCE: Terminalia chebula has an esteemed origin in Indian mythology; its fruits are used to treat many diseases such as digestive, diabetes, colic pain, chronic cough, sore throat, asthma, etc. AIM OF THE STUDY: The water or ethanolic extracts of the fruits were reported to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer and radio-protector properties. The present study is to isolate and identify the compounds that inhibit COX and 5-LOX, the key enzymes involved in inflammation and carcinogenesis. MATERIALS AND METHODS: The ethanolic extract of the fruits was fractionated by RP-HPLC and fractions were tested for enzyme inhibition activity against COX and 5-LOX. One of the fractionated compounds showed potent dual inhibition against COX and 5-LOX. It was identified as chebulagic acid by LC-MS, NMR and IR analyses. The chebulagic acid was also tested for anti-proliferative activity. RESULTS: Chebulagic acid showed potent COX-LOX dual inhibition activity with IC(50) values of 15+/-0.288, 0.92+/-0.011 and 2.1+/-0.057 microM for COX-1, COX-2 and 5-LOX respectively. It also showed anti-proliferative activity against HCT-15, COLO-205, MDA-MB-231, DU-145 and K562 cell lines. Further mechanistic studies on COLO-205 cells revealed induction of apoptosis by chebulagic acid. CONCLUSIONS: Chebulagic acid, a COX-2 and 5-LOX dual inhibitor isolated from the fruits of Terminalia chebula, induces apoptosis in COLO-205 cells.