Plants have been used throughout history for their medicinal properties. This use has often focused on human health but plants have also been, and still are, applied in ethnoveterinary practice and animal health management. In recent times, the use of synthetic chemicals has become prevalent. Public awareness of the potential environmental and health risks associated with heavy chemical use has also increased. This has put pressure on regulatory bodies to reduce the use of chemicals in agriculture. The most striking example is the 2006 banning of antibiotics in animal feed by the European Union. Moves such as this have increased the drive to find alternatives to synthetic chemicals and research has again turned to the use of plant bioactives as a means of improving animal health. Current scientific evidence suggests there is significant potential to use plants to enhance animal health in general and that of ruminants (cattle, deer, sheep, etc.) in particular. Active areas of research for plant bioactives (particularly saponin and tannin containing plants) include reproductive efficiency, milk and meat quality improvement, foam production/bloat control and methane production. Nematode control is also a significant area of research and the evidence suggests a much broader range of phytochemicals may be effective. This review presents a summary of the literature and examines international research efforts towards the development of plant bioactives for animal health.