Puerarin is an isoflavone isolated from traditional Chinese medicine Ge-gen (Radix Puerariae). Clinical studies have confirmed the cardioprotective effects of puerarin; however, the mechanisms underlying these effects are still unclear. On the basis of previous findings, we hypothesized that puerarin protects cardiomyocytes from ischemia–reperfusion injury via the protein kinase C epsilon (PKCε) (a critical cardioprotective protein) signalling pathway. Neonatal rat primary cardiomyocytes were preconditioned with puerarin or puerarin plus εV1-2, a selective PKCε inhibitor, prior to anoxia/reoxygenation (A/R) treatment. Western blot analysis showed that expression and activity of PKCε protein in puerarin preconditioned group were both increased compared with the control or A/R group. Subsequent assays showed that preconditioning with puerarin could increase the viability of neonatal rat primary cardiomyocytes treated with A/R, decreased the generation of reactive oxygen species (ROS), loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, cell necrosis and apoptosis induced by A/R injury. However, the protective effects of puerarin completely disappeared in the group pretreated with puerarin plus εV1-2. Thus, for the first time, we revealed the protective effects of puerarin in cardiomocytes from anoxia/reoxygenation injury are mediated by PKCε. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.