Abstract Background Radix Paeoniae Rubra (RPR), a traditional Chinese herb, has anti-inflammatory and immuno-regulatory properties. This study explored the effects of RPR on stimulation of osteoclast differentiation in RAW264.7 cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC)s. Methods The mature osteoclasts were measured by bone resorption assays and TRAP staining. JNK, ERK, p38 and NF-κB inhibitors were used applied in order to verify their contribution in RPR-induced osteoclast differentiation. The NF-κB and MAPK pathways were evaluated by western blotting, RT-PCR and luciferase assay. Results RPR induced osteoclast differentiation in a dose-dependent manner and induced the resorption activity of osteoclasts differentiation of RAW264.7 cells and PBMCs. Western blotting showed that RPR treatment induced phosphorylation of JNK, ERK, and p38 in RAW 264.7 cells. Treatment of JNK, ERK, and p38 MAP kinase inhibitors verified the contribution of JNK, ERK and p38. RPR treatment induced c-Fos and NFATc1 protein expression; NF-κB inhibitor treatment and luciferase assay verified the contribution of the NF-κB pathway. Conclusions This study demonstrated the interesting effect, in which RPR stimulated osteoclast differentiation in murine RAW264.7 cells and human monocytes.