The aim of the present study was to investigate whether ethanol extracts of Psoralea corylifolia L. (PCE) and its active component protect against bone loss in ovariectomised rats. We screened oestrogenic activities of the main extract fractions using in vitro assays and identified bakuchiol as the most active oestrogenic component by HPLC and LC/MS, and then demonstrated that bakuchiol had strong binding affinity for oestrogen receptor (ER) α. Seventy female Sprague–Dawley rats were assigned to either a sham-operated group (n 10) or an ovariectomised group (n 60). The ovariectomised group was subdivided into six groups, each containing ten rats: vehicle group, two bakuchiol-treated groups (dose of 15 mg/kg per d or 30 mg/kg per d; ten rats for each group), two PCE-supplemented groups (0·25 % or 0·5 % extracts of diets; ten rats for each group) and a 17β-oestradiol (E2)-treated group (20 μg/kg per d). We recorded weight and feed intake every week, and killed all animals after 6 weeks. Blood was collected, and the uterus, kidneys and livers were removed. Bakuchiol has a three-fold higher binding affinity for ERα than for ERβ. Bakuchiol and PCE treatments had no uterotrophic activity even though they demonstrated oestrogenic activity in the in vitro assays. Bakuchiol and PCE treatments reduced postmenopausal bone loss by increasing alkaline phosphatase, Ca concentrations, serum E2 concentration and bone mineral density, and by decreasing the inorganic P level. The present study indicated that bakuchiol and PCE treatments could protect against bone loss.