Stroke is an enormous public health problem with an imperative need for more effective therapy. Free radicals have been reported to play a role in the expansion of ischemic brain lesions, and the effect of free radical scavengers is still under debate. The present study investigated the neuroprotective effect of Ocimum sanctum (OS) to reduce brain injury after middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO). Male Wistar rats were subjected to MCAO for 2 h and reperfused for 22 h. The administration of OS (200 mg/kg bwt., orally) once daily for 15 days before MCAO showed marked reduction in infarct size, reduced the neurological deficits, and suppressed neuronal loss in MCAO rats. A significantly depleted activity of antioxidant enzymes and content of glutathione in MCAO group were protected significantly in MCAO group pretreated with OS. Conversely, the elevated level of thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS) in MCAO group was attenuated significantly in OS-pretreated group when compared with MCAO group. Consequently, OS pretreatment may reduce the deterioration caused by free radicals, and thus may used to prevent subsequent behavioral, biochemical and histopathological changes that transpire during cerebral ischemia. This finding reflects that supplementation of OS intuitively by reasonable and understandable treatment effectively ameliorates the cerebral ischemia-induced oxidative damage.