The increasing prevalence of anthelmintic-resistant strains of helminths, drug residues in animal products and high cost of conventional anthelmintics has created an interest in studying medicinal plants as an alternative source of anthelmintic. The potential nematicidal activities of four extracts from the bark of Canthium mannii (Rubiaceae) stem were investigated in vitro. Extracts were diluted in distilled water (DW) to obtain five different concentrations (1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0 and 3.5 mg/ml) and put in contact with eggs and larvae of Heligmosomoides polygyrus. The different stages of the life cycle were also put in contact with the same concentration of mebendazole (MBZ, positive control). One millilitre of each extract at different concentrations and control were added to 1 ml solution containing 30–40 eggs or 10–15 larvae (L1, L2 and L3) and distributed in different Petri dishes. The eggs and larvae were incubated at 24°C and exposure times were: 48 h for un-embryonated eggs, 6 h for embryonated eggs; 2, 4, 6 and 24 h for L1 and L2 larvae, 24–48 h for infective larvae (L3), and 5 days for the larval development test (from L1 to L3). DW and 1% dimethyl sulphoxide (DMSO) were used as placebo and DMSO control, respectively. Significant effects were obtained with three of the four extracts, and differences were observed depending on the parasite stage. Cold water extract (CWE), hot water extract (HWE) and ethanol extract (ETE) inhibited embryonic development (40, 45 and 10%) and hatching of embryonated eggs (40, 85 and 80%), respectively, at 3.5 mg/ml. Only ETE killed L1 (97.18%) and L2 (92.68%) larvae of H. polygyrus after 24 h at 3.5 mg/ml and drastically reduced the production rate (6% at 3.0 and 3.5 mg/ml) of infective larvae (L3) after 5 days of incubation compared to other extracts (P < 0.05). However, the infective larvae of H. polygyrus were resistant to the effect of each of the tested products (extracts and mebendazole). These in vitro results suggested that extracts of C. mannii, used by traditional healers in Dschang, Western Region of Cameroon (Central Africa) to cure intestinal helminthiasis and abdominal pains of their patients, possess nematicidal properties. The active principles responsible for the activity could be secondary metabolites such as alkaloids and saponins present in the extracts. It is suggested that further experiments incorporating in vivo purification of extracts and toxicological investigations should be carried out.