In the central nervous system, Asiaticoside has been shown to attenuate in vitro neuronal damage caused by exposure to β-amyloid. In vivo studies demonstrated that Asiaticoside could attenuate neurobehavioral, neurochemical and histological changes in transient focal middle cerebral artery occlusion animals. In addition, Asiaticoside showed anxiolytic effects in acute and chronic stress animals. However, its potential neuroprotective properties in glutamate-induced excitotoxicity have not been fully studied. We investigated the neuroprotective effects of Asiaticoside in primary cultured mouse cortical neurons exposed to glutamate-induced excitotoxicity invoked by N-methyl-D-aspartate. Pretreatment with Asiaticoside decreased neuronal cell loss in a concentration-dependent manner and restored changes in expression of apoptotic-related proteins Bcl-2 and Bax. Asiaticoside pretreatment also attenuated the upregulation of NR2B expression, a subunit of N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors, but did not affect expression of NR2A subunits. Additionally, in cultured neurons, Asiaticoside significantly inhibited Ca(2+) influx induced by N-methyl-D-aspartate. These experimental findings provide preliminary evidence that during excitotoxicity induced by N-methyl-D-aspartate exposure in cultured cortical neurons, the neuroprotective effects of Asiaticoside are mediated through inhibition of calcium influx. Aside from its anti-oxidant activity, down-regulation of NR2B-containing N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors may be one of the underlying mechanisms in Asiaticoside neuroprotection.