Human enterovirus 71 (EV71) infection causes hand, foot and mouth disease in children under 6 years old and this infection occasionally induces severe neurological complications. No vaccines or drugs are clinical available to control EV71 epidemics. In present study, we show that treatment with lycorine reduced the viral cytopathic effect (CPE) on rhabdomyosarcoma (RD) cells by inhibiting virus replication. Analysis of this inhibitory effect of lycorine on viral proteins synthesis suggests that lycorine blocks the elongation of the viral polyprotein during translation. Lycorine treatment of mice challenged with a lethal dose of EV71 resulted in reduction of mortality, clinical scores and pathological changes in the muscles of mice, which were achieved through inhibition of viral replication. When mice were infected with a moderate dose of EV71, lycorine treatment was able to protect them from paralysis. Lycorine may be a potential drug candidate for the clinical treatment of EV71-infected patients.