Drynaria fortunei (Kunze) J. Sm. (DF), a Chinese herb commonly used for the treatment of bone fracture, was previously shown to exert anabolic effects on bone. However, its active ingredients as well as the mechanisms of action are far from clear. The present study aimed to characterise the bone anabolic effects of DF flavonoid fraction (DFTF) in ovariectomised (OVX) mice and to determine if DFTF and its isolated compounds exert oestrogen-like effects in rat osteoblast-like UMR-106 cells. Young OVX C57/BL6J mice were treated orally with DFTF (0·087, 0·173 or 0·346 mg/g per d), 17β-oestradiol (2 μg/g per d) or its vehicle for 6 weeks. Serum and urine samples were collected for biochemical marker analysis. Bones were collected for computed tomography analysis. UMR-106 cells were treated with DFTF and isolated compounds naringin, (2S)-5,7,3′,5′-tetrahydroxy-flavonone 7-O-neohesperidoside (compound 1) and 5,7-dihydroxychromone 7-O-neohesperidoside (compound 2). DFTF exerted dose-dependent effects in improving bone mineral densities as well as bone strength at the femur, tibia and lumbar spine L1 in OVX mice. DFTF and the three isolated compounds stimulated osteoblastic cell proliferation and alkaline phosphatase activities in a dose-dependent manner. In addition, they stimulated the ratio of osteoprotegrin and receptor-activator NF-κB ligand mRNA expression, suggesting their involvement in inhibiting osteoclastogenesis. These stimulatory effects on osteoblastic functions were abolished in the presence of oestrogen receptor (ER) antagonist, ICI 182780. The present results suggested that DFTF is effective in protecting against OVX-induced bone loss in mice, and its actions in regulating osteoblastic activities appear to be mediated by ER.