Polyphenols are a group of widely distributed phytochemicals present in most foods of vegetable origin. A growing number of biological effects have been attributed to these molecules in the past few years and only recently has their interference with the transport capacity of epithelial barriers received attention. This review will present data obtained concerning the effect of polyphenols upon the transport of some compounds (organic cations, glucose and the vitamins thiamin and folic acid) at the intestinal and placental barriers. Important conclusions can be drawn: (i) different classes of polyphenols affect transport of these bioactive compounds at the intestinal epithelia and the placenta; (ii) different compounds belonging to the same phenolic family often possess opposite effects upon transport of a given molecule; (iii) the acute and chronic/short-term and long-term exposures to polyphenols do not produce parallel results and, therefore, care should be taken when extrapolating results; (iv) the effect of polyphenolics in combination may be very different from the expected ones taking into account the effect of each of these compounds alone, and so care should be taken when speculating on the effect of a drink based on the effect of one component only; (v) care should be taken in drawing conclusions for alcoholic beverages from results obtained with ethanol alone. Although most of the data reviewed in the present paper refer to in vitro experiments with cell-culture systems, these studies raise a concern about possible changes in the bioavailability of substrates upon concomitant ingestion of polyphenols.