Recent accumulating evidence indicates that all-trans retinoic acid (ATRA) may be useful for preventing or treating inflammation, allergy, and autoimmune diseases, despite its severe side effects. In this study, screening of 99 crude drugs for retinoic acid receptor (RAR) ligands by luciferase reporter assay demonstrated that the methanol extract of Aralia cordata Rhizoma most effectively activates the transcriptional activity of RARα. Pimaradienoic acid (ent-pimara-8(14),15-dien-19-oic acid) was subsequently isolated as the constituent capable of activating RAR. Pimaric acid and abietic acid, which have similar structures to pimaradienoic acid, were also found to be novel RAR agonists, although abietic acid only slightly activated peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma. These three natural RAR agonists with diterpene structures, while structurally different from ATRA, were able to increase the mRNA levels of the constitutive androstane receptor in HepG2 cells, induce F9 cell differentiation followed by Cyp26a1 mRNA expression, and differentiate HL-60 cells via RAR activation in a different manner from ATRA. These results demonstrate that some diterpenes exist as naturally occurring RAR agonists and that the differences in chemical structure between ATRA and these diterpenes may induce distinct gene activation and a specific cellular response.