A simple method for the simultaneous determination of five bioactive components (rutin, puerarin, daidzein esculin and esculetin) in traditional medicinal preparations by non-aqueous capillary electrophoresis with UV detection has been developed for the first time. A running buffer composed of 15% acetonitrile, 2.5% acetic acid and 90 mM sodium cholate in methanol was found to be the most suitable for this separation. The limits of detection for five analytes were over the range of 0.050-1.216 microg ml(-1). The relative standard deviations (R.S.Ds.) of the migration times and the peak areas of the analytes were in the range of 1.3-2.9% and 2.2-2.7% (intraday), 1.7-1.9% and 2.8-3.6% (interday), respectively. In the tested concentration range, linear relationships (correlation coefficients: 0.9974 for rutin, 0.9976 for puerarin, 0.9981 for daidzein, 0.9972 for esculin and 0.9929 for esculetin) between peak areas and concentrations of the analytes were obtained. This method has been successfully applied to simultaneous determination of the five bioactive components with recoveries over the range of 89.4-107.4%.