PURPOSE: Principles of magnetic resonance imaging techniques providing perfusion-related contrast weighting without administration of contrast media are reported and analysed systematically. Especially common approaches to arterial spin labelling (ASL) perfusion imaging allowing quantitative assessment of specific perfusion rates are described in detail. The potential of ASL for perfusion imaging was tested in several types of tissue. METHODS: After a systematic comparison of technical aspects of continuous and pulsed ASL techniques the standard kinetic model and tissue properties of influence to quantitative measurements of perfusion are reported. For the applications demonstrated in this paper a flow-sensitive alternating inversion recovery (FAIR) ASL perfusion preparation approach followed by true fast imaging with steady precession (true FISP) data recording was developed and implemented on whole-body scanners operating at 0.2, 1.5 and 3 T for quantitative perfusion measurement in various types of tissue. RESULTS: ASL imaging provides a non-invasive tool for assessment of tissue perfusion rates in vivo. Images recorded from kidney, lung, brain, salivary gland and thyroid gland provide a spatial resolution of a few millimetres and sufficient signal to noise ratio in perfusion maps after 2-5 min of examination time. CONCLUSIONS: Newly developed ASL techniques provide especially high image quality and quantitative perfusion maps in tissues with relatively high perfusion rates (as also present in many tumours). Averaging of acquisitions and image subtraction procedures are mandatory, leading to the necessity of synchronization of data recording to breathing in abdominal and thoracic organs.