AIM: To examine sera for the presence of salicylic acid and 2,3- and 2,5-dihydroxybenzoic acids (2,3- and 2,5-DHBA), in individuals not taking salicylate drugs. METHODS: Extracts of acidified serum samples were analysed by high performance liquid chromatography with electro-chemical detection. The chromatographic conditions were altered, and the retention times of the unknown compounds compared against authentic salicylic acid, 2,3-DHBA, and 2,5-DHBA. Serum samples (some spiked with salicylic acid) were incubated with salicylate hydroxylase and analyses undertaken. An extract of acidified serum was derivatised using N-methyl-N-trimethylsilyltrifluoroacetamide and the salicylic acid derivative identified by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. RESULTS: Salicylic acid, 2,3-DHBA, and 2,5-DHBA were identified as being normal constituents of serum. CONCLUSIONS: Salicylic acid, 2,3-DHBA, and 2,5-DHBA possess anti-inflammatory properties. The finding that these compounds are present as normal constituents of serum, possibly arising from diet, raises important questions as to their role in the promotion of health.