Emodin, the major active component of Rhubarb, has shown neuroprotective activity. This study is attempted to investigate whether emodin possesses beneficial effects on chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS)-induced behavioral deficits (depression-like behaviors) and explore the possible mechanisms. ICR mice were subjected to chronic unpredictable mild stress for 42 consecutive days. Then, emodin and fluoxetine (positive control drug) were administered for 21 consecutive days at the last three weeks of CUMS procedure. The classical behavioral tests: open field test (OFT), sucrose preference test (SPT), tail suspension test (TST) and forced swimming test (FST) were applied to evaluate the antidepressant effects of emodin. Then plasma corticosterone concentration, hippocampal glucocorticoid receptor (GR) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) levels were tested to probe the mechanisms. Our results indicated that 6 weeks of CUMS exposure induced significant depression-like behavior, with high, plasma corticosterone concentration and low hippocampal GR and BDNF expression levels. Whereas, chronic emodin (20, 40 and 80 mg/kg) treatments reversed the behavioral deficiency induced by CUMS exposure. Treatment with emodin normalized the change of plasma corticosterone level, which demonstrated that emodin could partially restore CUMS-induced HPA axis impairments. Besides, hippocampal GR (mRNA and protein) and BDNF (mRNA) expressions were also up-regulated after emodin treatments. In conclusion, emodin remarkably improved depression-like behavior in CUMS mice and its antidepressant activity is mediated, at least in part, by the up-regulating GR and BDNF levels in hippocampus.