The root of Angelica sinensis (Oliv.) Diels (abbreviated as AS) (Danggui) has a long history in Asian herbal medicine. Recently, it was demonstrated that AS possesses anti-cancer and anti-oxidant activities. Because the transcription factor Nrf2 mediates the expression of many cellular anti-oxidative stress genes, including genes that are involved in phase II drug metabolism and anti-oxidative stress, this study sought to investigate whether pure compounds from AS or an AS extract could activate antioxidant response element (ARE)-mediated gene expression and induce anti-inflammatory activities. Z-Ligustilide (Ligu), 3-butylidenephthalide (Buty) and CO2 supercritical fluid-extracted lipophilic AS extract (SFE) were tested in HepG2-C8 cells stabilized with ARE luciferase reporter gene. Ligu and Buty caused significant toxicity only at 100 μm. All three samples induced ARE-luciferase activity; however, SFE at 8.5 μg/ml induced ARE-luciferase activity 2–3 fold more potently than did either of the pure compounds. SFE also significantly increased the endogenous mRNA of Nrf2 and the Nrf2 target anti-oxidative gene NAD(P)H dehydrogenase, quinone 1 (NQO1). The protein expression of NQO1 was also significantly induced by SFE. In RAW 264.7 cells, SFE suppressed lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced IL-1β and TNF-α expression about 2 fold stronger than sulforaphane, whereas both pure compounds and SFE suppressed inflammatory nitric oxide (NO) production. In summary, this study demonstrates that AS has anti-inflammatory effects and activates the Nrf2 pathway, which protects against oxidative stress. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.