The effect of anise oil, dwarf-pine oil and chamomile oil against different thymidine-kinase-positive (aciclovir-sensitive) and thymidine-kinase-negative (aciclovir-resistant) herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) strains was examined. Clinical HSV-1 isolates containing frameshift mutations in the thymidine kinase (TK) gene, an insertion or a deletion, yield a non-functional thymidine kinase enzyme resulting in phenotypical resistance against aciclovir. The inhibitory activity of three different essential oils against herpes simplex virus isolates was tested in-vitro using a plaque reduction assay. All essential oils exhibited high levels of antiviral activity against aciclovir-sensitive HSV strain KOS and aciclovir-resistant clinical HSV isolates as well as aciclovir-resistant strain Angelotti. At maximum noncytotoxic concentrations of the plant oils, plaque formation was significantly reduced by 96.6-99.9%, when herpesviruses were preincubated with drugs before attachment to host cells. No significant effect on viral infectivity could be achieved by adding these compounds during the replication phase. These results indicate that anise oil, dwarf-pine oil and chamomile oil affected the virus by interrupting adsorption of herpesviruses and in a different manner than aciclovir, which is effective after attachment inside the infected cells. Thus the investigated essential oils are capable of exerting a direct effect on HSV and might be useful in the treatment of drug-resistant viruses. Chamomile oil did not reveal any irritating potential on hen's egg chorioallantoic membrane, demonstrated the highest selectivity index among the oils tested and was highly active against clinically relevant aciclovir-resistant HSV-1 strains.