Osteoporosis is a systemic skeletal disease characterized by low bone mass and microarchitectural deterioration of bone tissue, with a consequent increase in bone fragility and susceptibility to fracture. In order to improve the treatment of osteoporosis, identification of anabolic agents with minimal side effects is highly desirable. Cimicifuga racemosa has a long and diverse history of medicinal use and deoxyactein isolated from this species is one of the major constituents. In the present study, the effect of deoxyactein on the function of osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 cells was studied. Deoxyactein caused a significant elevation of cell growth, alkaline phosphatase activity, collagen content, and mineralization in the cells (P < 0.05). Moreover, deoxyactein significantly (P < 0.05) decreased the production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) and osteoclast differentiation-inducing factors such as TNF-α, IL-6 and receptor activator of nuclear factor-κB ligand in the presence of antimycin A, which inhibits mitochondrial electron transport and has been used as an ROS generator. These results demonstrate that deoxyactein may have positive effects on skeletal structure. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.