The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in China and its spread worldwide has become one of the biggest health problem due to the lack of knowledge about an effective chemotherapy. Based on the current reality of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, this study aimed to make a review literature about potential anti-coronavirus natural compounds guided by an in silico study. In the first step, essential oils from native species found in the Brazilian herbal medicine market and Brazilian species that have already shown antiviral potential were used as source for the literature search and compounds selection. Among these compounds, 184 showed high antiviral potential against rhinovirus or picornavirus by quantitative structure–activity relationship analysis. ( E )-α-atlantone; 14-hydroxy-α-muurolene; allo-aromadendrene epoxide; amorpha-4,9-dien-2-ol; aristochene; azulenol; germacrene A; guaia-6,9-diene; hedycaryol; humulene epoxide II; α-amorphene; α-cadinene; α-calacorene and α-muurolene showed by a molecular docking study the best result for four target proteins that are essential for SARS-CoV-2 lifecycle. In addition, other parameters obtained for the selected compounds indicated low toxicity and showed good probability to achieve cell permeability and be used as a drug. These results guided the second literature search which included other species in addition to native Brazilian plants. The majority presence of any of these compounds was reported for essential oils from 45 species. In view of the few studies relating essential oils and antiviral activity, this review is important for future assays against the new coronavirus. Supplementary Information The online version contains supplementary material available at 10.1007/s11101-021-09754-4.