Sesquiterpenoids, and specifically sesquiterpene lactones from Asteraceae, may play a highly significant role in human health, both as part of a balanced diet and as pharmaceutical agents, due to their potential for the treatment of cardiovascular disease and cancer. This review highlights the role of sesquiterpene lactones endogenously in the plants that produce them, and explores mechanisms by which they interact in animal and human consumers of these plants. Several mechanisms are proposed for the reduction of inflammation and tumorigenesis at potentially achievable levels in humans. Plants can be classified by their specific array of produced sesquiterpene lactones, showing high levels of translational control. Studies of folk medicines implicate sesquiterpene lactones as the active ingredient in many treatments for other ailments such as diarrhea, burns, influenza, and neurodegradation. In addition to the anti-inflammatory response, sesquiterpene lactones have been found to sensitize tumor cells to conventional drug treatments. This review explores the varied ecological roles of sesquiterpenes in the plant producer, depending upon the plant and the compound. These include allelopathy with other plants, insects, and microbes, thereby causing behavioural or developmental modification to these secondary organisms to the benefit of the sesquiterpenoid producer. Some sesquiterpenoid lactones are antimicrobial, disrupting the cell wall of fungi and invasive bacteria, whereas others protect the plant from environmental stresses that would otherwise cause oxidative damage. Many of the compounds are effective due to their bitter flavor, which has obvious implications for human consumers. The implications of sesquiterpenoid lactone qualities for future crop production are discussed.