To determine the extent of antiviral activity present in a number of plant extracts, hot glycerin extracts were prepared from Rheum officinale, Aloe barbadensis, Rhamnus frangula, Rhamnus purshianus, and Cassia angustifolia and their virucidal effects were tested against herpes simplex virus type 1. All the plant extracts inactivated the virus. The active components in these plants were separated by thin-layer chromatography and identified as anthraquinones. A purified sample of aloe emodin was prepared from aloin, and its effects on the infectivity of herpes simplex virus type 1 and type 2, varicella-zoster virus, pseudorabies virus, influenza virus, adenovirus, and rhinovirus were tested by mixing virus with dilutions of aloe emodin for 15 min at 37 degrees C, immediately diluting the sample, and assaying the amount of infectious virus remaining in the sample. The results showed that aloe emodin inactivated all of the viruses tested except adenovirus and rhinovirus. Electron microscopic examination of anthraquinone-treated herpes simplex virus demonstrated that the envelopes were partially disrupted. These results show that anthraquinones extracted from a variety of plants are directly virucidal to enveloped viruses.