Osteoarthritis (OA) is driven by chronic low-grade inflammation and subsequent cartilage degradation. OA is the most prevalent degenerative joint disease worldwide, and its treatment remains a challenge. The aim of this study was to explore the potential effects and mechanism underlying the anti-OA properties of ginkgolide C (GC). Protective effects of GC on hydrogen peroxide (HO)-treated rat chondrocytes were evaluated using ELISA, qPCR, western blot analysis, flow cytometry, ROS detection and immunofluorescence . Ameliorating effects of GC on cartilage degeneration in rats were evaluated through behavioral assays, microcomputed tomography, histopathological analysis, western blot analysis and ELISA . , GC treatment inhibited the release of pro-apoptotic factors induced by HO and promoted the release of the anti-apoptotic proteins. In addition, GC decreased the expression of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP3 and MMP13), thrombospondin motifs 4 (ADAMTS4), and inflammatory mediators inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS), cyclooxygenase (COX-2), and SOX9 thereby inhibiting extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation. Mechanistically, GC exerts its anti-apoptotic and anti-inflammatory effects by upregulating the oxidative stress signaling Nrf2/HO-1 pathway and preventing p65 from binding to DNA. Similarly, In a rat model with post-traumatic OA (PTOA) induced by anterior cruciate ligament transection (ACLT), GC inhibited joint pain, cartilage destruction, and abnormal bone remodeling of subchondral bone. GC inhibited HO-induced chondrocyte apoptosis through Nrf2/HO-1 and NF-κB axis, exerted anti-inflammatory effects, and inhibited cartilage degeneration in rat OA. Our findings advanced the concept that GC may contribute to cartilage metabolism through anti-inflammatory and anti-apoptotic effects, and the identified GC is a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of OA.