6-Hydroxydopamine administration for 28 days (8 microg/2 microL) reduced the number of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH)-immunopositive neurons to 40.2% in the substantia nigra compared to the intact contralateral side. Dopamine, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, homovanillic acid and norepinephrine levels were reduced to 19.1%, 52.3%, 47.1% and 67.4% in the striatum of 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rats compared to the control group, respectively. However, an oral administration of herbal ethanol extracts from Gynostemma pentaphyllum (GP-EX) (10 mg/kg and 30 mg/kg) starting on day 3 post-lesion for 28 days markedly ameliorated the reduction of TH-immunopositive neurons induced by 6-hydroxydopamine-lesioned rat brain from 40.2% to 67.4% and 75.8% in the substantia nigra. GP-EX administration (10 and 30 mg/kg) also recovered the levels of dopamine, 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid, homovanillic acid and norepinephrine in post-lesion striatum to 64.1% and 65.0%, 77.9% and 89.7%, 82.6% and 90.2%, and 88.1% and 89.2% of the control group. GP-EX at the given doses did not produce any sign of toxicity such as weight loss, diarrhea and vomiting in rats during the 28 day treatment period and four gypenoside derivatives, gynosaponin TN-1, gynosaponin TN-2, gypenoside XLV and gypenoside LXXIV were identified from GP-EX. These results suggest that GP-EX might be helpful in the prevention of Parkinson's disease.