Ischemic brain injury is one of the leading causes of death worldwide and has attracted a lot of attention in the field of drug discovery. Cerebral ischemia is a complex pathological process involving a series of mechanisms, including generation of free radicals, oxidative stress, disruption of the membrane function, release of neurotransmitters and apoptosis. Thrombolytic therapy is the most effective therapeutic strategy, but the benefits are far from being absolute. Increased attention in the field of drug discovery has been focused on using natural compounds from traditional medicinal herbs for neuroprotection, which appears to be a promising therapeutic option for cerebral ischemia with minimal systemic adverse effects that could limit their long term use. The scenario calls for extensive investigations which can result in the development of lead molecules for neuroprotection in the future. In this context, the present review focuses on possible mechanisms underlying the beneficial effects of herbal drugs in patients with cerebral ischemic injury. Natural compounds have been demonstrated to have neurofunctional regulatory actions with antioxidative, anti-inflammatory, calcium antagonizing and anti-apoptotic activities. Among the several leads obtained from plant sources as potential neuroprotective agents, resveratrol, EGb761, curcumin and epigallocatechin-3-gallate have shown significant therapeutic benefits in cerebral ischemic conditions. However, ligustilide, tanshinone, scutellarin and shikonin are the few lead molecules which are under investigation for treatment of cerebral ischemia.