Background: Phenolic compounds are a class of the most widely distributed secondary metabolites
in plants. They may function as pollination, pigment constituents and protection against UV radiation and predation
for plants. Plant phenols have been studied for hundreds of years, and have acted as the major class of
compounds that show great activity against various viruses such as herpes simplex, Epstein-Barr virus, equid
herpesvirus, hepatitis B virus, human immunodeficiency virus, respiratory syncytial and canine distemper viruses.
Because of the extensive antiviral activities, phenolic compounds have been widely investigated both
chemically and biologically. The distribution of hydroxyl groups and ester group accounts for different antiviral
activities of phenolic compounds, and research of these compounds has revealed that phenols have great
potential for the development as therapeutic agents against various viruses. As a result, dozens of phenols in
functional foods have been discovered to display antiviral activity.
Objective: This review emphasizes structure classification and antiviral activities of plant phenolic compounds,
which are expected to provide guides for rational design of antiviral drugs.