Current therapies for ischemic stroke are insufficient due to the lack of specific drugs. This study aimed to investigate the protective activity of polyphenol extracts from Terminalia chebula against cerebral ischemia-reperfusion induced damage. Polyphenols of ethyl acetate and n-butanol fractions were extracted from T. chebula. BV2 microglial cells exposed to oxygen-glucose deprivation/reoxygenation and mice subjected to middle cerebral artery occlusion/reperfusion were treated by TPE and TPB. Cell viability, cell morphology, apoptosis, mitochondrial membrane potential, enzyme activity and signaling pathway related to oxidative stress were observed. We found that TPE and TPB showed strong antioxidant activity in vitro. The protective effects of TPE and TPB on cerebral ischemia-reperfusion injury were demonstrated by enhanced antioxidant enzyme activities, elevated level of the nucleus transportation of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 and expressions of antioxidant proteins, with a simultaneous reduction in cell apoptosis and reactive oxygen species level. In conclusion, TPE and TPB exert neuroprotective effects by stimulating the Nrf2 signaling pathway, thereby inhibiting apoptosis.