The use of synthetic pesticides and repellents to target pests of veterinary and medical significance is becoming increasingly problematic. One alternative approach employs the bioactive attributes of plant-derived products (PDPs). These are particularly attractive on the grounds of low mammalian toxicity, short environmental persistence and complex chemistries that should limit development of pest resistance against them. Several pesticides and repellents based on PDPs are already available, and in some cases widely utilised, in modern pest management. Many more have a long history of traditional use in poorer areas of the globe where access to synthetic pesticides is often limited. Preliminary studies support that PDPs could be more widely used to target numerous medical and veterinary pests, with modes of action often specific to invertebrates. Though their current and future potential appears significant, development and deployment of PDPs to target veterinary and medical pests is not without issue. Variable efficacy is widely recognised as a restraint to PDPs for pest control. Identifying and developing natural bioactive PDP components in place of chemically less-stable raw or 'whole’ products seems to be the most popular solution to this problem. A limited residual activity, often due to photosensitivity or high volatility, is a further drawback in some cases (though potentially advantageous in others). Nevertheless, encapsulation technologies and other slow-release mechanisms offer strong potential to improve residual activity where needed. The current review provides a summary of existing use and future potential of PDPs against ectoparasites of veterinary and medical significance. Four main types of PDP are considered (pyrethrum, neem, essential oils and plant extracts) for their pesticidal, growth regulating and repellent or deterrent properties. An overview of existing use and research for each is provided, with direction to more extensive reviews given in many sections. Sections to highlight potential issues, modes of action and emerging and future potential are also included.