The current study was aimed at investigating the potential antidepressant activity of Areca catechu nut ethanol extract and its various fractions using behavioral (acute and sub-chronic forced swim tests) and biochemical (monoamines and their metabolite levels using high performance liquid chromatography) tests. The areca nut ethanol extract and its aqueous fraction exhibited antidepressant activity in both acute and sub-chronic forced swim tests (IC50 ~ 50 and 20 mg/kg, respectively), which was further confirmed by unaltered locomotor (horizontal and vertical) activities of rats in the activity cage. Phytochemical analysis revealed that saponins of areca nut may be the active component in its antidepressant action. The rats treated sub-chronically with areca nut extract displayed toxic effects, whereas its active aqueous fraction was non-toxic, indicating the presence of different constituents for antidepressant and toxic effects. In the hippocampus of rats, the areca nut extract (50 mg/kg) and aqueous fraction (20 mg/kg) caused a significant elevation of serotonin (around 35%) and noradrenaline (around 30%) compared with the control (261 ± 25 and 512 ± 29 ng/g, respectively). In conclusion, the areca nut possesses potential antidepressant effect via the elevation of serotonin and noradrenaline. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.