In traditional Chinese medicine a number of herbs are used to alleviate the symptoms of aging, among them the stems of Cynomorium songaricum, Cynomoriaceae. This study evaluated the protective effect of different extracts of C. songaricum on staurosporine-induced apoptotic cell death in SK-N-SH neuroblastoma cells. Staurosporine (100 nm) reduced cell viability to about 55%. The ethyl acetate fraction of C. songaricum significantly attenuated staurosporine-induced cell death at concentrations of 100 and 10 microg/mL. On the other hand, the dichloromethane as well as water fractions showed no protective effects. In order to further analyse the protective mode of action, the superoxide anion scavenging activity of two extracts was evaluated in a xanthine/xanthine oxidase system. In this system, the EtOAc extract showed a good scavenging activity (IC(50) value 2.9 microg/mL) without inhibition of xanthine oxidase. In conclusion, the results prove the neuroprotective activity of C. songaricum extracts in vitro, thus supporting its traditional use.