Objectives The key component of neuroprotection after cerebral ischemia–reperfusion (I–R) injury is mitochondrial improvement. By focusing on the function of mitochondrial biogenesis and ATP-sensitive potassium (mK–ATP) channels and inflammatory responses, the current study assessed the neuroprotective potentials of lemon essential oil, D-limonene (LIM), in rats with cerebral I–R injury. Methods In order to simulate cerebral I–R injury, Sprague Dawley rats (n=72) were subjected to a two h local ischemia induced by middle cerebral artery blockage, followed by a 24 h reperfusion period. Five minutes before starting reperfusion, rats were intraperitoneally given LIM at doses of 10 or 100 mg/kg. Cerebral infarct volume was assessed by triphenyl-tetrazolium chloride staining, brain activity by behavioral tests and mitochondrial function/biogenesis, as well as proinflammatory cytokines by fluorometry, immunoblotting and other related techniques. Results When compared to the untreated control group, the administration of LIM substantially and dose-dependently decreased cerebral infarct volumes and neurological deficits (p<0.01). I–R injury-induced alterations in mitochondrial membrane depolarization, mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (mitoROS), and superoxide dismutase (mnSOD), as well as inflammatory cytokines TNF-α, IL-6 and IL-1β, were all significantly reversed after treatment with LIM 100 mg/kg (p<0.01). Additionally, this dose of LIM increased the expression of mitochondrial biogenesis proteins PGC-1α, TFAM, and NRF1. Interestingly, blockage of mK–ATP channels by 5-hydoxydecanoate diminished the effects of LIM on cerebral positive endpoints, cytokines production, and mitochondrial function/biogenesis. Conclusions Thus, the strong neuroprotective effects of LIM-postconditioning were mediated by an increase in mK–ATP channel activity, which improved mitochondrial biogenesis and suppressed inflammatory responses.