Oxidative stress is involved in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. Astrocytes, the most abundant glial cells in the brain, protect neurons from reactive oxygen species (ROS) and provide them with trophic support, such as glial-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF). Thus, any damage to astrocytes will affect neuronal survival. In the present study, by activity-guided fractionation, we have purified from the desert plant Pulicaria incisa two protective compounds and determined their structures by spectroscopic methods. The compounds were found to be new chalcones - pulichalconoid B and pulichalconoid C. This is the first study to characterize the antioxidant and protective effects of these compounds in any biological system. Using primary cultures of astrocytes, we have found that pulichalconoid B attenuated the accumulation of ROS following treatment of these cells with hydrogen peroxide by 89% and prevented 89% of the H 2O2-induced death of astrocytes. Pulichalconoid B exhibited an antioxidant effect both in vitro and in the cellular antioxidant assay in astrocytes and microglial cells. Pulichalconoid B also caused a fourfold increase in GDNF transcription in these cells. Thus, this chalcone deserves further studies in order to evaluate if beneficial therapeutic effect exists.