Many of the herbal extracts used in the Chinese clinical medical routine inhibit the growth of tumor cells. In the present work, extracts of 12 selected herbs were prepared with methanol, chloroform, ethyl acetate and water, and the effects of these on the multidrug resistance (MDR) and P-glycoprotein of mouse lymphoma cells transfected with the humanmdr1gene and on a human lung alveolar epithelial cell line were investigated. The extracts were tested for antiproliferative effects, and the reversal of MDR in mouse lymphoma cells. The possible chemopreventive effect of the chloroform extracts was studied on the expression of cytomegalovirus (CMV) immediate-early (IE) antigen in human lung cancer cells (A549). The antimicrobial effects of the extracts were tested on some representative micro-organisms. Certain of the chloroform extracts of the plant materials were the most effective compounds on the reversal of MDR. Two of the chloroform extracts enhanced the antiproliferative effect of doxorubicin on MDR mouse lymphoma cells. The selected extracts did not show any antibacterial effect with the agar diffusion method. Certain chloroform extracts decreased the intermediate IE antigen expression of CMV in A459 cells. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.