Searsia species are used in South Africa to treat epilepsy. Previous studies have demonstrated an in vitro N-methyl-D-aspartic acid (NMDA) receptor antagonistic effect of the ethanolic leaf extract. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential anticonvulsant properties of the ethanolic extract of S. dentata in various animal models of epilepsy. The extract was submitted to a screening in anticonvulsant assays including NMDA-, kainic acid (KA)-, pentylenetetrazol (PTZ)- and bicuculline (BIC)-induced seizures in rats. The extract protected 47% of the PN 18 Wistar pups (postnatal day 18, date of birth PN 0) (p < 0.05, n > 10) against NMDA-induced seizures and significantly delayed the onset of PTZ-induced seizures (p < 0.05, n > 8) at a dose of 250 mg/kg. A dose optimum was detected at 500 mg/kg for protection against KA-(63% protection, p < 0.05, n > 8) and BIC-induced seizures (50% protection, p < 0.05, n > 8) in young adult and PN 18 rats, respectively. The ethanolic extract of S. dentata showed anticonvulsive properties in several models of epilepsy. These results are compatible with previous findings of NMDA receptor antagonism. Due to the complex composition of the extract, the effect might be caused by more than one compound. Copyright (c) 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.