Extracts from forty-three plant species were selected on account of reported traditional uses for the treatment of TB and/or leprosy. These were assayed for antimycobacterial activities. A simple in vitro screening assay was employed using two model species of mycobacteria, M. aurum and M. smegmatis. Crude methanolic extracts from three of the plants, C. mukul, P. corylifolia and S. canadensis, were found to have significant antimycobacterial activity against M. aurum only (MIC=62.5 microg/ml). Bioassay guided fractionation led to the isolation of two known benzophenanthridine alkaloids, sanguinarine (1) and chelerythrine (2), from the roots S. canadensis and the known phenolic meroterpene, bakuchiol (3) from the seeds of P. corylifolia. The fractionation of the resin of C. mukul lead to a decrease in antimycobacterial activity and hence further work was not pursued. Compound (2) was the most active against M. aurum and M. smegmatis (IC(50)=7.30 microg/ml [19.02 microM] and 29.0 microg/ml [75.56 microM], respectively). M. aurum was the most susceptible organism to all three compounds. No significant difference in antimycobacterial activity was observed when the two alkaloids were tested for activity in media of differing pH values. The activities of the pure compounds against M. aurum were comparable with those against M. bovis BCG with compound (2) being the most active (M. bovis BCG, IC(50)=14.3 microg/ml [37.3 microM]). These results support the use of these plants in traditional medicine.