To study the protective effect and mechanism of synthetic salidroside on acute lung injury (ALI) induced by lipopolysaccharide (LPS), male Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats were randomly divided into saline control group, 3 mg/kg LPS model group, different doses of salidroside groups (5, 20 and 80 mg/kg), and 5 mg/kg dexamethasone group. Intratracheal LPS instillation was used to establish the ALI model 0.5 h after intraperitoneal injection of salidroside or dexamethasone, and the rats were sacrificed 6 h later. Lung wet/dry weight ratio (W/D) was calculated. Lung tissue pathology and lung injury score (LIS) were observed and evaluated through hematoxylin and eosin (HE) staining. The centrifugal sediment of bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) was used to count the polymorphonuclear leukocyte (PMN) number by Wright's staining, and the centrifugal supernatant of BALF was used to determine the contents of protein and inflammatory factors (TNF-α, IL-1β and IL-6). The contents of myeloperoxidase (MPO) and malondialdehyde (MDA) in lung tissue were determined. Western blot was used to detect the expression levels of phosphorylated and total nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB)/p65 protein in lung tissue. The results showed that, compared with LPS group, the intervention of synthetic salidroside alleviated the pathological damage in lung tissue, decreased the LIS and lung W/D ratio (P < 0.05), reduced the PMN number, the contents of protein and inflammatory factors in BALF (P < 0.05), reduced the contents of MPO and MDA in lung tissue (P < 0.05), and inhibited the expression of p-NF-κB in lung tissue (P < 0.05). The results suggest that synthetic salidroside has a protective effect on ALI induced by LPS, and its mechanism is related to inhibiting the phosphorylation of NF-κB and reducing the aggregation of PMN in the lung.