The behavioral, neurochemical and neuroendocrine effects of icariin isolated from Epimedium brevicornum were investigated in behavioral despair models of KunMing strain of male mice. Icariin was found to significantly shorten immobility time in the forced swimming test (FST) after orally administration for 21 consecutive days. Icarrin also produced a marked reduction in immobility time in the tail suspension test (TST) when administered for at least 7 consecutive days. The preferable antidepressant action by icariin was obtained at 17.5 and 35 mg/kg in the present study. Moreover, it was observed that the stress of FST exposure induced increases in brain monoamine oxidase (MAO) A and B activities, serum corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) levels, as well as decreases in brain monoamine neurotransmitter levels. Treatment of icariin for 21 consecutive days mainly reversed the above effects in the mouse FST. These results suggested that icarrin possessed potent antidepressant-like properties that were mediated via neurochemical and neuroendocrine systems.