Current antidepressants are clinically effective only after several weeks of administration. We show that Fuzi polysaccharide-1 (FPS), a new water-soluble polysaccharide isolated from Fuzi, which has been used to treat mood disorders in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, increases the number of newborn cells in the dentate gyrus in adult mice, and most of these cells subsequently differentiate into new neurons. We also found that FPS administration reduces immobility in the forced swim test, and latency in the novelty suppressed-feeding test. Moreover, a 14-d regimen with FPS reverses avoidance behaviour and inhibition of hippocampal neurogenesis induced by chronic defeat stress. In contrast, imipramine, a well known antidepressant, reverses this avoidance behaviour only after 4 wk of continuous administration. Finally, acute treatment with FPS had no effect on brain monoamine levels in frontal cortex but significantly increases BDNF in the hippocampus, while the antidepressant effect and enhancement of cell proliferation induced by FPS administration were totally blocked by K252a, an inhibitor of trkB in a chronic social defeat depression model, suggesting that the neurogenic and antidepressant effects of FPS may involve BDNF signalling. In conclusion, our findings suggest that FPS could be developed as a putative antidepressant with a rapid onset of action.