Oxidative stress has been shown to play an important role in development of vascular dysfunction in diabetes. Protocatechuic acid (PCA) has been reported to exert antioxidant and anti-hyperglycemic activities. Diabetes was induced in male Sprague–Dawley rats by a single intraperitoneal injection of 50 mg/kg streptozotocin (STZ). The rats were maintained in a state of hyperglycemia for 12 weeks. Then, PCA (50 or 100 mg/kg/day) was administered orally or insulin (4 U/kg/day) was subcutaneous injected to the rats for 6 weeks. Blood pressure, vascular responses to vasoactive agents, vascular superoxide production, blood glucose, insulin, malondialdehyde, nitric oxide and antioxidant enzymes were examined. The diabetic rats showed weight loss, insulin deficiency, hyperglycemia, increased oxidative stress, decreased plasma nitric oxide, elevated blood pressure, increased vascular response to phenylephrine and decreased vascular responses to acetylcholine and sodium nitroprusside. PCA significantly decreased blood glucose and oxidative stress, and increased plasma nitric oxide in diabetic rats. Interestingly, PCA treatment restored blood pressure and vascular reactivity, and antioxidant enzyme activity diabetic rats. This study provides the first evidence of the efficacy of PCA in restoring the vascular reactivity of diabetic rats. The mechanism of action may be associated with an alleviation of oxidative stress. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.