Saikosaponin a (SSa) and its epimer saikosaponin d (SSd) are major triterpenoid saponin derivatives from Radix bupleuri (RB), which has been long used in Chinese traditional medicine for treatment of various inflammation-related diseases. In the present study, the anti-inflammatory activity, as well as the underlying mechanism, of SSa and SSd was investigated in lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced RAW264.7 cells. Our results demonstrated that both SSa and SSd significantly inhibited the expression of inducible nitric-oxide synthase (iNOS) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in LPS-induced RAW264.7 cells, and finally resulted in the reduction of nitric oxide (NO) and prostaglandin E(2) (PGE(2)). In addition, LPS-induced production of major pro-inflammatory cytokines: the tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) and interleukin-6 (IL-6), was suppressed in a dose-dependent manner by the treatment of SSa or SSd in RAW264.7 cells. Further analysis revealed that both SSa and SSd could inhibit translocation of nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) from the cytoplasm to the nucleus in the LPS-induced RAW264.7 cells. Furthermore, SSa and SSd exhibited significant anti-inflammatory activity in two different murine models of acute inflammation, carrageenan-induced paw edema in rats and acetic acid-induced vascular permeability in mice. In conclusion, SSa and SSd showed potent anti-inflammatory activity through inhibitory effects on NF-κB activation and thereby on iNOS, COX-2 and pro-inflammatory cytokines.