The steam distillate prepared from fresh plants of Houttuynia cordata Thunb. (Saururaceae) was found to have direct inhibitory activity against herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), influenza virus, and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) without showing cytotoxicity, but not against poliovirus and coxsackie-virus. The loss of viral infectivity was related to the duration of drug treatment. Three major components of the distillate, methyl n-nonyl ketone, lauryl aldehyde, and capryl aldehyde, also inactivated HSV-1, influenza virus, and HIV-1. These in vitro findings demonstrate that the essential oils provide virucidal activity against enveloped viruses by interfering with the function of virus envelope.