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Shiso, Perilla frutescens var. crispa

Shiso, Perilla frutescens var. crispa

Family:  Lamiaceae (Mint)

Names:  Shiso, in Chinese zi su ye, beefsteak plant, Chinese basil, purple perilla, Orig. 

Origin: Eastern Asia, including China, Japan, India, Korea.


Green shiso is similar in appearance to stinging nettle; it has beautiful bright green leaves with serrated edges yet it is rounder in shape. Is the more palatable variety with a slight cinnamon flavor Red shiso has red-purple leaves and stems. It is the spicier variety. Shiso has spread uncontrollably and come to be considered as weed in some locations. The actual weed is distinguishable from the herb by its lack of fragrance.


Shiso is typically associated with Japanese cuisine. It is used as a flavoring for most any dish e.g. soups, salads, sauces and candies. The leaves are used as a condiment for tofu and as a garnish for tempura. As a leafy green it is used in traditional recipes such as pasta, ravioli, risotto and baked goods. It is appreciated for its spiciness and unique flavor.


In Chinese medicine, shiso has a long history of use. The seeds and leaves  are used to induce sweating, as an expectorant, a stomachic, to treat gastrointestinal conditions e.g. nausea, vomiting abdominal pain, food poisoning, morning sickness and constipation, infection, relief from cough and headaches and muscle cramps. It is also used for the respiratory system for asthma, nasal inflammation, chest congestion, chills, and bronchitis.

As a result of its rosmarinic acid content it stops bacterial growth and has antiviral properties lending it toward treating food poisoning and indigestion, and other mild digestive disorders.

It has also been used as a preventative against sickness, and to help preserve and sterilize other foods.

Shiso is a great source of antioxidants, thus supporting healthy circulation and a positive effect on cholesterol.  Antioxidants lessen the systemic damage caused by free radicals and thus are nature’s support to anti-aging.    

Herbal tea infusions are preferred for medicinal use. However extracts are also available for allergy, cough or flu medicines. Shiso extracts are found in pharmacies as approved natural medication for colds, flue and respiratory tract infections.

Plant seeds and leaves are sources of the plants oil. The seed oil is also used as an edible oil for cooking, more for its medicinal benefit than flavor.

As a rich source of omega -3, 6 and 9 fatty acids, the plant helps to protect artery walls and to reduce inflammation. Add to that its mineral and vitamin content and it is clearly it is a boon to staying healthy.

Eating shiso on a regular basis is said to reduce allergic reactions. If shiso is not be available, substituting other herbs that contain rosmarinic acid (thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon balm, peppermint and rosemary.) may work for you as well.

Where to source shiso: Look for Chinese basil in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese markets. During summer months check local farmers at farmers’ markets or your csa (consumer supported agriculture.)


Author, Eve Stahl, is a Health Consultant, Herbalist and Skin Care expert. She specializes in using nature’s plants to enhance the health of people and to protect the health of our planet. To achieve this purpose she has created Garden of Eve Skin Care products for sensitive skin and all skin types. You can visit her company at: www.gardenofeve.com Prospective Affiliates visit: www.gardenofeveskincare.com/affiliate-application

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