As a chronic musculoskeletal degeneration disease, osteoarthritis (OA) clinically manifests as joint pain, stiffness and a limited range of movement. OA has affected the life quality of at least one-tenth of the population but lacks satisfactory treatments. α-Bisabolol (BISA) is a small oily sesquiterpene alcohol widely found in essential oils of chamomile (Matricaria recutita), salvia and wood of Candeia and has multiple biological properties, particularly an anti-inflammatory effect. The purpose of this study is to assess the anti-inflammatory and chondroprotective effect of BISA in OA progression and explore its underlying mechanism. We isolated human chondrocytes and treated them with advanced glycation end products (AGEs) to imitate OA progression in vitro. BISA pretreatment suppressed the AGE-induced inflammatory reaction and extracellular matrix (ECM) degeneration by blocking nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB), p38 and c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling. Moreover, a mouse destabilization of the medial meniscus (DMM) model was established by surgery to investigate BISA protection in vivo. BISA administration attenuated DMM-induced radiological and histopathological changes relative to the DMM group and resulted in lower OARSI scores. Taken together, the results of our study indicate the potential of BISA in OA therapy.