DNA damage can lead to carcinogenesis if replication proceeds without proper repair. This study evaluated the effects of the water extracts of three Salvia sp., Salvia officinalis (SO), Salvia fruticosa (SF), and Salvia lavandulifolia (SL), and of the major phenolic constituents, rosmarinic acid (RA) and luteolin-7-glucoside (L-7-G), on DNA protection in Caco-2 and HeLa cells exposed to oxidative agents and on DNA repair in Caco-2 cells. The comet assay was used to measure DNA damage and repair capacity. The final concentration of each sage extract was 50 mu g/mL, and concentrations of RA and L-7-G were 50 and 20 mu M, respectively. After a short incubation (2 h), L-7-G protected DNA in Caco-2 cells from damage induced by H(2)O(2) (75 mu M); also, after a long incubation (24 h), SF, RA, and L-7-G had protective effects in Caco-2 cells. In HeLa cells, SO, SF, and RA protected against damage induced by H(2)O(2) after 24 h of incubation. Assays of DNA repair show that SO, SF, and L-7-G increased the rate of DNA repair (rejoining of strand breaks) in Caco-2 cells treated with H(2)O(2). The incision activity of a Caco-2 cell extract on a DNA substrate containing specific damage (8-oxoGua) was also measured to evaluate effects on base excision repair (BER) activity. Preincubation for 24 h with SO and L-7-G had a BER inductive effect, increasing incision activity in Caco-2 cells. In conclusion, SO, SF, and the isolated compounds (RA and L-7-G) demonstrated chemopreventive activity by protecting cells against oxidative DNA damage and stimulating DNA repair (SO, SF, and L-7-G).