Twelve extracts of 11 Guatemalan medicinal plants were initially screened in vitro for potential macrofilaricidal activity against Brugia pahangi, a lymphatic dwelling filarial worm, using concentrations from 125 to 1000 μg ml−1 of each extract that could be dissolved in the culture medium. Of 12 extracts used, the ethanol extract of leaves of Neurolaena lobata showed the strongest activity against the motility of adult worms. Subsequently, the extract of N. lobata was extensively examined in vitro for macro- and micro-filaricidal effects using a series of concentrations of 500, 250, 100, 50 and 10 μg ml−1. The effects were assessed by worm motility, microfilarial release by female worms and a MTT assay. The effect on the motility of adult worms was observed in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. The time required to stop motility of both sexes of adult worms was 6 h at 500 μg ml−1, 24 h at 250 μg ml−1, and 3 days for females and 4 days for males at 100 μg ml−1. The movement of females ceased at 4 days at a concentration of 50 μg ml−1 whereas the motility of males was only reduced. The loss of worm's viability was confirmed by the MTT assay and was similar to the motility results. These concentrations, including 10 μg ml−1, prevented microfilarial release by females in a concentration- and time-dependent manner. Concentrations higher than 100 μg ml−1 even induced mortality of the microfilariae. The present study suggested that the ethanol extract of Neurolaena lobata has potential macro- and micro-filaricidal activities.