Curcuma comosa Roxb. is ginger-family plant used to relieve menopausal symptoms. Previous work showed that C. comosa extracts protect mice from ovariectomy-induced osteopenia with minimal effects on reproductive organs, and identified the diarylheptanoid (3R)-1,7-diphenyl-(4E,6E)-4,6-heptadien-3-ol (DPHD) as the major active component of C. comosa rhizomes. At 1-10µM, DPHD increased differentiation in transformed mouse osteoblasts, but the effect of DPHD on normal bone cells was unknown. We examined the concentration dependency and mechanism of action of DPHD relative to 17ß-estradiol in nontransformed human osteoblasts (h-OB). The h-OB were 10-100 fold more sensitive to DPHD than transformed osteoblasts: DPHD increased h-OB proliferation at 10nM and, at 100nM, activated MAP kinase signaling within 30 min. In long-term differentiation assays, responses of h-OB to DPHD were significant at 10nM, and optimal response in most cases was at 100 nM. At 7-21 days, DPHD accelerated osteoblast differentiation, indicated by alkaline phosphatase activity and osteoblast-specific mRNA production. Effects of DPHD were eliminated by the estrogen receptor antagonist ICI182780. During differentiation, DPHD promoted early expression of osteoblast transcription factors, RUNX2 and osterix. Subsequently, DPHD accelerated production of bone structural genes, including COL1A1 and osteocalcin comparably to 17ß-estradiol. In h-OB, DPHD increased the osteoprotegerin to RANKL ratio and supported mineralization more efficiently than 10nM 17ß-estradiol. We conclude that DPHD promotes human osteoblast function in vitro effectively at nanomolar concentrations, making it a promising compound to protect bone in menopausal women.