It is becoming increasingly clear that plants ranging across the plant kingdom produce anionic host defence peptides (AHDPs) with potent activity against a wide variety of human cancers cells. In general, this activity involves membrane partitioning by AHDPs, which leads to membranolysis and / or internalization to attack intracellular targets such as DNA. Several models have been proposed to describe these events including: the toroidal pore and Shai-Matsuzaki-Huang mechanisms but, in general, the mechanisms underpinning the membrane interactions and anticancer activity of these peptides are poorly understood. Plant AHDPs with anticancer activity can be conveniently discussed with reference to two groups: cyclotides, which possess cyclic molecules stabilized by cysteine knot motifs, and other ADHPs that adopt extended and α-helical conformations. Here, we review research into the anticancer action of these two groups of peptides along with current understanding of the mechanisms underpinning this action.