Acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) is a specific subtype of acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) characterized by the proliferation of abnormal promyelocytes. Realgar, a Chinese medicine containing arsenic, can be taken orally. Traditional Chinese medicine physicians have employed realgar to treat APL for over a thousand years. Therefore, realgar may be a promising candidate for the treatment of APL. Nevertheless, the underlying mechanism behind realgar therapy is largely unclear. The present study aimed to investigate the effect of realgar on cell death in the APL cell line (NB4) in vitro and to elucidate the underlying mechanism. In this study, after APL cells were treated with different concentrations of realgar, the cell survival rate, apoptotic assay, morphological changes, ATP levels and cell cycle arrest were assessed. The expression of Bcl-2, Bax, Cytochrome C (Cyt-C) and apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) at the mRNA and protein levels were also measured by immunofluorescence, quantitative PCR (qPCR) and Western blotting. We found that realgar could significantly inhibit APL cell proliferation and cell death in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Realgar effectively decreased the ATP levels in APL cells. Realgar also induced APL cell cycle arrest at the S and G2/M phases. Following realgar treatment, the mRNA and protein levels of Bcl-2 were significantly downregulated, whereas the levels of Bax, Cyt-C, and AIF were significantly upregulated. In summary, realgar can induce APL cell death via the Bcl-2/Bax/Cyt-C/AIF signaling pathway, suggesting that realgar may be an effective therapeutic for APL.