Geniposide as the major active component of Gardenia jasminoides Ellis has neuroprotective activity. This study elucidated the potential antidepressant-like effect of geniposide and its related mechanisms using a depression rat model induced by 3 consecutive weeks of chronic unpredictable mild stress (CUMS). Sucrose preference test, open field test (OFT) and forced swimming test (FST) were applied to evaluate the antidepressant effect of geniposide. Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and corticosterone (CORT) serum levels, adrenal gland index and hypothalamic corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) mRNA expression were measured to assess the activity of hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Hypothalamic glucocorticoid receptor α (GRα) mRNA expression and GRα protein expression in hypothalamic paraventricular nucleus (PVN) were also determined by real-time PCR and immunohistochemistry, respectively. We found that geniposide (25, 50, 100mg/kg) treatment reversed the CUMS-induced behavioral abnormalities, as suggested by increased sucrose intake, improved crossing and rearing behavior in OFT, shortened immobility and prolonged swimming time in FST. Additionally, geniposide treatment normalized the CUMS-induced hyperactivity of HPA axis, as evidenced by reduced CORT serum level, adrenal gland index and hypothalamic CRH mRNA expression, with no significant effect on ACTH serum level. Moreover, geniposide treatment upregulated the hypothalamic GRα mRNA level and GRα protein expression in PVN, suggesting geniposide could recover the impaired GRα negative feedback on CRH expression and HPA axis. These aforementioned therapeutic effects of geniposide were essentially similar to fluoxetine. Our results indicated that geniposide possessed potent antidepressant-like properties that may be mediated by its effects on the HPA axis.