The plant pathogenesis-related (PR) proteins play a crucial role in the defense of plants against pathogens and orchestrate the innate immune system of plants. In this paper, a non-normalized cDNA library of the leaf was constructed to obtain a comprehensive view of PR proteins of Macleaya cordata. Specifically, 511 expressed sequence tags (ESTs) were generated using Sanger sequencing. All ESTs were assembled into 364 non-redundancy sequences, including 78 clusters and 286 singlets. The PR protein expression profile of the medicinal herb M. cordata has been investigated and is represented by defensin, lipid-transfer protein, (S)-norcoclaurine synthase, and major allergen protein, suggesting that the herb contains rich active proteins against pathogens. Furthermore, two defensins were selected for recombinant expression in yeast, and the antimicrobial activities were explored. Since they both present a broad antimicrobial spectrum, they are of particular importance for agricultural and medicinal applications. Our study describes defensins in Papaveraceae for the first time and provides novel insights into the effective components. In addition to the alkaloids, PR proteins (such as defensins, lipid transfer proteins, (S) – norcoclaurine synthase, major allergen protein, and Class IV chitinases) are involved in the antibacterial and anti-inflammatory activities of M. cordata.