Honokiol, a neolignan, is a physiologically active component of kouboku (Magnolia obovata), a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine. This study investigated the effects of honokiol on the differentiation and function of osteoclasts induced by receptor activator of nuclear factor-kappaB ligand (RANKL). Honokiol markedly inhibited RANKL-induced tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) activity and the formation of TRAP-positive multinucleated cells in both bone marrow-derived monocytes and RAW264 cells. In experiments to elucidate its mechanism of action, honokiol was found to suppress RANKL-induced phosphorylation of p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK). The RANKL-induced expressions of c-Fos and nuclear factor of activated T cells-c1 (NFATc1), which are crucial transcriptional factors for osteoclastogenesis, were also reduced by treatment with honokiol. Furthermore, honokiol induced disruption of the actin rings in mature osteoclasts (mOCs) without affecting the cell viability and suppressed osteoclastic pit formation on dentin slices. Taken together, these results suggest that honokiol inhibits osteoclast differentiation by suppressing the activation of MAPKs (p38 MAPK, ERK and JNK), decreasing the expressions of c-Fos and NFATc1, and attenuates bone resorption by disrupting the actin rings in mOCs. Therefore, honokiol could prove useful for the treatment of bone diseases associated with excessive bone resorption.