Alzheimer's disease (AD), a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that deprives the patient of memory, is associated mainly with extracellular senile plaque induced by the accumulation of amyloid β protein (Aβ). Silybum marianum (Asteraceae;SM) is a medicinal plant that has long been used in traditional medicine as a hepatoprotective remedy owing to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. The present study examined the methanol extract of the aerial parts of SM for neuroprotection against Aβ (25-35)-induced neuronal death in cultured rat cortical neurons to investigate a possible therapeutic role of SM in AD. The primary cortical neuron cultures were prepared using embryonic day 15 to 16 SD rat fetuses. Cultured cortical neurons exposed to 10 µM Aβ (25-35) for 36 h underwent neuronal cell death. At 10 and 50 µg/mL, SM prevented Aβ (25-35)-induced neuronal cell death and apoptosis in cultured cortical neurons. Furthermore, SM inhibited the Aβ (25-35)-induced decrease in anti-apoptotic protein, Bcl-2, and the increase in the proapoptotic proteins, Bax and active caspase-3. Cultured cortical neurons exposed to 1 mM N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) for 14 h induced neuronal cell death. SM (10 and 50 µg/mL) prevented NMDA-induced neuronal cell death. These results suggest that SM inhibited Aβ (25-35)-induced neuronal apoptotic death via inhibition of NMDA receptor activation and that SM has a possible therapeutic role in preventing the progression of neurodegeneration in AD.