Several major bone diseases are directly attributable to bone loss, including osteoporosis, bone metastasis, and rheumatoid arthritis. The nuclear factor of activated T cell 1 (NFATc1), a transcription factor, has recently been shown to play an essential role in osteoclastogenesis. In this study, we found that of several herbs, Cinnamomum zeylanicum (C. zeylanicum) exhibited the strong inhibitory effects on osteoclastogenesis and that its mechanism of action involves the suppression of NFATc1-mediated signal transduction. C. zeylanicum dose-dependently inhibited osteoclast-like cell formation at concentrations of 12.5-50 microg/ml without affecting cell viability. Resorption pit assays have shown that C. zeylanicum also inhibits the bone-resorbing activity of mature osteoclasts. Treatment with C. zeylanicum inhibited the receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappaB ligand (RANKL)-induced NFATc1 and c-fos expression. Additionally, C. zeylanicum moderately inhibited phosphorylation of IkappaB-alpha, suggesting that the c-fos/NFATc1 pathway, rather than the nuclear factor-kappaB (NF-kappaB) pathway, is the primary target of C. zeylanicum during RANKL-induced osteoclastogenesis. Using an HPLC-DAD system, we identified three major peaks for four characteristic components in the C. zeylanicum extract and identified an unknown peak as 2-methoxycinnamaldehyde via HPLC and a 2D-COSY (1)H NMR study. We identified cinnamaldehyde and 2-methoxycinnamaldehyde as active components reducing osteoclast-like cell formation and inhibiting NFATc1 expression. Notably, in a resorption pit assay, 2-methoxycinnamaldehyde exhibited remarkable inhibition rates of 95% at 2 microM on bone resorption. In summary, this study points to the conclusion that C. zeylanicum inhibits RANKL-induced osteoclastogenesis. This finding raises prospects for the development of a novel approach in the treatment of osteopenic disease.