In order to develop a new apoptosis inducer, we screened 22 crude drugs for their apoptosis-inducing activity. It was found that Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Cynomorium songaricum, Eucommia ulmoides, Phellodendron amurense, Cinnamomum cassia and Paeonia lactiflora induced the death of HL-60 cells. To investigate the mechanism of apoptosis induced by these six crude drugs, the mitochondrial transmembrane potential and the activity of caspase-3 were measured. Reduced mitochondrial transmembrane potentials within 12 hours after the administration of Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Cynomorium songaricum, Phellodendron amurense and Paeonia lactiflora, and within 24 hours after the administration of Eucommia ulmoides and Cinnamomum cassia were observed. All of the six apoptosis-inducing crude drugs increased caspase-3 activity within 12-36 hours after administration. After further examining the apoptosis-inducing activity of berberine, palmatine, panelofuroline and glycyrrhizin, which were the ingredients obtained from Phellodendron amurense, Glycyrrhiza uralensis and Paeonia lactiflora, it was found that only berberine could induce apoptosis. From these results, it was concluded that the apoptosis induced by the six crude drugs (Glycyrrhiza uralensis, Cynomorium songaricum, Eucommia ulmoides, Phellodendron amurense, Cinnamomum cassia and Paeonia lactiflora) occurred via the mitochondrial route and that the apoptosis-conducting mechanism acted through a cascade involving caspase-3.