Latin name: Perilla frutescens
Chinese name: zi su ye
Other names: beefsteakplant, Chinese basil, purple perilla, shiso
What is Perilla?
Perilla is a perennial herb that grows in Eastern Asia, including China, Japan, and India. There are both green-leafed and purple-leafed varieties. It is typically associated with Japanese cuisine, where it is usually called shiso. Perilla oil is used in Asia for medicinal purposes and as a food flavoring in candies and sauces. Perilla is a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and the leaves are used as a condiment for tofu and as a garnish for tempura. The leaf of this plant is a common garnish in many Asian cuisines, often seen in soups, salads, and sushi dishes.
What are the health benefits of Perilla?
Medicinally, perilla is associated with Asian medicine and is primarily used for its expectorant and stomachic qualities. In addition, perilla is used for a variety of conditions related to the respiratory system including asthma, nasal inflammation, and congestion from allergies, colds, chest stuffiness, chills, and bronchitis. It is also used to treat gastrointestinal conditions such as vomiting, abdominal pain, food poisoning, morning sickness, and constipation. Other conditions that perilla is used to treat include sunstroke and warts. Additionally, perilla has been shown to stimulate interferon activity and therefore promote a healthy immune system.
The use of shiso leaf in sushi preparation shows us how the herb is used with foods to play a preventative role against sickness. Many cultures have used it to help preserve and sterilize other foods.
How do I use Perilla to get the health benefits?
In Asia, perilla oil is used as an edible oil, valued more for its medicinal benefit than its flavor. Perilla oil is a very rich source of the omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid. Perilla oil is obtained by pressing the seeds of perilla, which contain 35 to 45% oil. Try it in your cooking and note that the essential oils provide a strong flavor.
Where can I find Perilla?
Look for Chinese basil in Japanese, Korean, Chinese, and Vietnamese supermarkets. It can also be found in some health food or vitamin stores, online, and at the offices of Chinese medical practitioners.
You can find this herb combined with other herbs in the Traditions of Tao formula:
Summer Tea, which is helpful for replenishing energy and fluid drained by the summer heat.
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