Verbena officinialis Linn. (Verbenaceae) is a perennial plant which has been used as herbal medicine or health supplement in both Western and Eastern countries for centuries. It has been used to treat acute dysentery, enteritis, amenorrhea and depression. In view of its wide array of biological effects, we hypothesized that V. officinalis can exert cytoprotective effects on cells of the central nervous system. Pre-treatment of aqueous extracts of V. officinalis significantly attenuated the toxicity of beta-amyloid (Abeta) peptide and reducing agent dithiothreitol in primary cultures of cortical neurons. As extracellular accumulation of Abeta peptide is an important cytotoxic factor involved in Alzheimer's disease (AD), we have further explored its neuroprotective effect against Abeta. Treatment of V. officinalis attenuated Abeta-triggered DEVD- and VDVAD-cleavage activities in a dose-dependent manner. Further studies elucidated that phosphorylation of both interferon-inducing protein kinase (PKR) and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) was attenuated in Abeta-treated neurons. Taken together, we have proved our hypothesis by showing the novel neuroprotective effects of V. officinalis. As V. officinalis has long been used for many years to be a folk medicine, our study may provide a lead for its potential to be a neuroprotective agent against neuronal loss in AD.