The rationale of this investigation was to examine the antinociceptive effect of an ethanol extract of Rosmarinus officinalis (RO) aerial parts, using three different experimental models: acetic acid-induced writhing test and formalin test in mice; and a model of arthritic pain: "pain-induced functional impairment model in the rat (PIFIR model)". The antinociceptive efficacies were evaluated using several dose-response curves and time courses. The antinociceptive effects from RO extract were compared with the antinociceptive effect of either tramadol (TR: 3.16-50 mg/kg, i.p. in mice, and 1.0-31.62 mg/kg, i.p. in rats) or acetylsalicylic acid (AA: 31.62-562.32 mg/kg, p.o.). RO extract (10-300 mg/kg, p.o.) significantly (P < 0.001) reduced the number of writhing movement induced by the i.p. administration of acetic acid solution in a dose-dependent way (ED50 = 108.84 mg/kg, whereas, TR showed an ED50 = 12.38 mg/kg). In addition, RO extract (30-300 mg/kg) significantly (P < 0.001) inhibited licking and shaking behaviours in both early (neurogenic pain) and in the late (inflammatory pain) phases of the formalin test. These effects were like those produced by TR. Concerning the results using the PIFIR model, RO extract (30-3000 mg/kg, p.o.) like either TR or AA, produced a significant (P < 0.001) and dose-dependent antinociceptive response in rats (RO: ED50 = 222.78 mg/kg versus TR: ED50 = 11.06 mg/kg and AA: ED50 = 206.13 mg/kg). These results strongly suggest that aerial parts of RO possess antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory activity, and reinforce the use of this plant in folk medicine.