The acetonitrile extracts of various Tanacetum L. (Emend. Briq.) taxa from Turkey as well as parthenolide, a sesquiterpene lactone found in Tanacetum species as active substance were investigated for their inhibitory activity against acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BChE), the key enzymes in pathogenesis of Alzheimer's disease, at 100 mu g mL(-1) using ELISA microplate assay. Most of the extracts displayed a remarkable AChE inhibition where the leaf of Tanacetum argenteum subsp. flabellifolium had the highest inhibition (96.68 +/- 0.35%). The extracts had moderate inhibition toward BChE, among which the stem of Tanacetum argyrophyllum var. argyrophyllum-1 exerted the best inhibition (63.81 +/- 3.64%). However, parthenolide exhibited low inhibition against both of the enzymes. Total flavonoid content of the extracts was determined spectrophotometrically. Parthenolide, a sesquiterpene lactone, was quantified in these taxa by LC-MS and the leaf of T. argenteum subsp. argenteum possessed the richest parthenolide amount (2.261 +/- 0.002%), while most of the species screened were found to contain the required percentage (0.2% minimum) by European Pharmacopeia. (C) 2014 Phytochemical Society of Europe. Published by Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.