All living organisms, ranging from microorganisms to plants and mammals, have evolved mechanisms to actively defend themselves against pathogen attack. A wide range of biological activities have been attributed to plant antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) including growth inhibitory effects on a broad range of fungi, Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, viruses, neoplastic cells and parasitic protozoa. Classes of AMPs, their mechanisms of action, biological activity, and cytotoxicity towards host cells are discussed. A particular focus regards AMP candidates with potential for use in defense against biological warfare agents. This field is young, but provides additional stimulus to consideration of these molecules as a new class of therapeutic agents and promises to revolutionize treatment of many infectious diseases.