Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease induced by tobacco smoke has been regarded as a great health problem worldwide. The purpose of this study is to evaluate the protective effect of hydrogen-rich saline, a novel antioxidant, on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and explore the underlying mechanism. Sprague-Dawley rats were made chronic obstructive pulmonary disease models via tobacco smoke exposure for 12 weeks and the rats were treated with 10 ml/kg hydrogen-rich saline intraperitoneally during the last 4 weeks. Lung function testing indicated hydrogen-rich saline decreased lung airway resistance and increased lung compliance and the ratio of forced expiratory volume in 0.1 s/forced vital capacity in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease rats. Histological analysis revealed that hydrogen-rich saline alleviated morphological impairments of lung in tobacco smoke-induced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease rats. ELISA assay showed hydrogen-rich saline lowered the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-8 and IL-6) and anti-inflammatory cytokine IL-10 in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and serum of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease rats. The content of malondialdehyde in lung tissue and serum was also determined and the data indicated hydrogen-rich saline suppressed oxidative stress reaction. The protein expressions of mucin MUC5C and aquaporin 5 involved in mucus hypersecretion were analyzed by Western blot and ELISA and the data revealed that hydrogen-rich saline down-regulated MUC5AC level in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and lung tissue and up-regulated aquaporin 5 level in lung tissue of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease rats. In conclusion, these results suggest that administration of hydrogen-rich saline exhibits significant protective effect on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease through alleviating inflammation, reducing oxidative stress and lessening mucus hypersecretion in tobacco smoke-induced chronic obstructive pulmonary disease rats.