Notoginsenoside R1 is one of major bioactive compounds extracted from Panax notoginseng (Burk.) dry roots and rhizomes of F.H. Chen, which has been increasingly used for enhancing cognition and physical health worldwide. The objective of this study was to review the pharmacological effects of notoginsenoside R1 in a systematic manner. We performed searches on databases including MEDLINE (Pubmed), Google Scholar and Web of Science, the System for Information on to select the original research publications reporting the biological and pharmacological effects of notoginsenoside R1 from in vitro and in vivo studies regardless of publication language and study design. Notoginsenoside R1 exhibited potent characteristics of neuroprotective, anti-inflammatory, anti-apoptosis and anti-ischemia-reperfusion injury properties etc. The cytotoxic effects of notoginsenoside R1 were dependent on different types of cell lines. Other pharmacological effects including accumulation of lipopolysac chaired-induced microcirculation, endothelial injury, hypoxia-reoxygenation injury effects have been mentioned, but the results were considerably diverged. A higher quality of evidence on clinical trial studies is highly recommended to confirm the efficacy of notoginsenoside R1.