Herb: Purple Shiso

Latin name: Perilla frutescens nankinensis

Synonyms: Perilla arguta, Perilla crispa, Perilla nankinensis

Family: Labiatae

Medicinal use of Purple Shiso:

The leaves, stems and seeds of shiso are often used in Oriental medicine. It is a pungent, aromatic, warming herb that is antibacterial, antidote, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, emollient, expectorant, pectoral, stomachic and tonic. The leaves are used in the treatment of colds, chest stuffiness, vomiting, abdominal pain etc. The seed is antiasthmatic, antitussive, emollient and expectorant. It is used internally in the treatment of asthma, colds and chills, nausea, abdominal pain, food poisoning and allergic reactions (especially from seafood), bronchitis and constipation. The stems are a traditional Chinese remedy for morning sickness. This herb should be avoided by pregnant women.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

July to


Habitat of the herb:

Banks of streams and wet places.

Edible parts of Purple Shiso:

Edible young leaves and seedlings - raw or cooked. The flavour is strange to western palates at first, some people detecting cinnamon, others coriander or citrus. Seedlings are added to salads, older leaves are used as a garnish or flavouring. Older leaves are also salted and used as a condiment for tofu and as a garnish for tempura. Leaves from purple cultivars are used to colour preserved fruits. The leaves can also be dried for later use. The leaves contain about 3.1% protein, 0.8% fat, 4.1% carbohydrate, 1.1% ash. Immature flower clusters are used as a garnish for soups and chilled tofu. Older flower clusters are fried and eaten. The seeds are preserved in salt or are used as a spice in pickles, tempura and miso. They are one of the ingredients in "Shichimi" or "seven spice" mixture. The seed can also be eaten cooked. Seeds from purple-leafed forms of the plant are preferred for culinary use. The seed contains about 21.5% protein, 43.4% fat, 11.3% carbohydrate, 4.4% ash. An edible drying oil is obtained from the seed. It is rich in linolenic acid. The plant yields an essential oil which is used as a food flavouring in candies and sauces. An edible purple dye is obtained from the plant. The part of the plant is not specified, but it is almost certainly the leaves.

Other uses of the herb:

A drying oil obtained from the seed is used in making paints, varnishes, water proofing etc. The plant yields 0.3 - 1.3% essential oil, which contains 20% citral. It is used as a food flavouring and in dental products.

Propagation of Purple Shiso:

Surface-sow or only lightly cover the seed in mid spring in a greenhouse. The seed germinates best at 20C, though it also succeeds at slightly lower temperatures. Germination is usually quick, prick out the seedlings into trays or individual pots when they are large enough to handle and plant them out into their permanent positions in early summer. Give the plants some protection such as a cloche until they are growing away well. The seed has a short viability and should be used when less than a year old.

Cultivation of the herb:

Banks of streams and wet places.

Known hazards of Perilla frutescens nankinensis:

There have been cases of toxicity, including dermatitis, pulmonary oedema, respiratory distress and even death following ingestion by cattle and horses.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.