The aim of this study was to investigate the pleotropic effects of an extract of a traditional herb, Tribulus terrestris (TT), on the lipid profile and vascular endothelium of the abdominal aorta in New Zealand rabbits fed a cholesterol-rich diet. Eighteen rabbits were randomly divided into three groups (n = 6 for each). One experimental group (EG-I) was given a cholesterol-rich diet, a second experimental group (EG-II) was treated with TT following a cholesterol-rich diet, and a control group (CG) was fed a standard diet. Blood samples were collected on day 0 and then at weeks 4 and 12 to determine total serum cholesterol (TC), high density lipid-cholesterol (HDL-C), low density lipid-cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglyceride (TG) levels. Tissues were collected from the abdominal aorta for immunohistochemistry and transmission and scanning electron microscopy. In EG-II, the serum lipid profile was significantly lower than that of EG-I at week 12 with a reduction of TC: 65%; LDL-C: 66%; HDL-C: 64%; TG: 55%. Ultrastructural analysis revealed that endothelial. damage was more prominent in EG-I compared to EG-II. The ruptured endothelial. linings and damaged cellular surfaces increased in EG-I compared to EG-II. Our data indicate that dietary intake of TT can significantly lower serum lipid profiles, decrease endothelial cellular surface damage and rupture and may partially repair the endothelial dysfunction resulting from hyperlipidemia.. (C) 2008 Elsevier GmbH. All rights reserved.