Perilla frutescens

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See shiso for further discussions of the two distinct botanical varieties. Also see Perilla for a survey of the genus and economic uses.
Perilla 2985 rbgs11jan.jpg
P. frutescens var. crispa
forma discolor Makino
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Perilla
Species: P. frutescens
Binomial name
Perilla frutescens
(L.) Britton
  • Dentidia nankinensis Lour.
  • Dentidia purpurascens Pers.
  • Dentidia purpurea Poir.
  • Melissa cretica Lour.
  • Melissa maxima Ard.
  • Mentha perilloides Lam.
  • Ocimum acutum Thunb.
  • Ocimum crispum Thunb.
  • Ocimum frutescens L.
  • Perilla acuta (Thunb.) Nakai
  • Perilla albiflora Odash.
  • Perilla arguta Benth.
  • Perilla avium Dunn
  • Perilla citriodora (Makino) Nakai
  • Perilla crispa (Thunb.) Tanaka
  • Perilla hirtella Nakai
  • Perilla nankinensis (Lour.) Decne.
  • Perilla ocymoides L.
  • Perilla shimadae Kudô
  • Perilla urticifolia Salisb.

Perilla frutescens is a perennial plant [2] in the mint family, Lamiaceae. This species encompasses two distinct varieties [3] of a traditional crop from East Asia:

  1. ) P. frutescens var. crispa is the aromatic leafy herb called by its Korean name jasoyup, 자소엽, and its Japanese name shiso, which in turn is a loan word from Chinese: 紫蘇; pinyin: zĭsū; Wade–Giles: tsu-su.[4] The plant occurs in red (purple-leaved) or green-leaved forms. It also has a less fashionable translated name "beefsteak plant", but starting around the 1980s, with the rise of popularity of Japanese cuisine, it has become increasingly more chic for the mass media to refer to it as shiso[5]
  2. ) P. frutescens var. frutescens, the oilseed crop, is the source of perilla oil. This variety is used as an ingredient in Korean cuisine, both "wild sesame (seeds)'" (deulggae), and "sesame leaves" (Ggaennip), which are green with a purplish coloration underside. It is known in Japan as egoma. (

The genus name Perilla is also a frequently employed common name ("perilla"),[6][7] applicable to both varieties.


Green shiso leaves

Though now lumped into a single species of polytypic character, the two cultigens continue to be regarded as two distinct commodities in the Asian countries where they are most exploited. While they are morphologically similar, the modern strains are readily distinguishable. Accordingly, the description is used separately or comparatively for the cultivars.


As a case in point, both varieties have foliage that outwardly looks the same: broad ovate leaves which are serrated, arranged oppositely,[8] but the green shiso leaf (pictured left) is easily differentiated from "sesame leaf" of the same color (Korean: Hangul들깨; RRdeulggae; MRkkaenip) by taste and fragrance. The shiso's distinctive flavor comes from its perillaldehyde component,[9] present only in low concentration in the wild sesame foliage. Korean investigators in recent years found that in the Korean perilla, the most active aroma compounds were perilla ketone, (Z)-3-hexenal (green), egoma ketone, and isoegoma ketone.[10]

The red (purple) forms of the shiso (forma purpurea and crispa) come from its pigment, called "perilla anthocyanin " or shisonin.[11] The color is present in both sides of the leaves, as well as the entire stalk, and flower buds (calyces).

The red crinkly-leafed version (called chirimenjiso in Japan) was the form of shiso first examined by Western botany, and Thunberg named it P. crispa (the name meaning "wavy or curly"). That Latin name was later retained when the shiso was reclassed as a variety.

Also, bicolored cultivars (var. Crispa forma discolor Makino; カタメンジソ (katamenjiso?)[12]) are red on the underside of the leaf (see pictured, top right). Green crinkly-leafed cultivars (called chirimenaojiso, forma viridi-crispa) are seen.

Sizes and seeds[edit]

The wild plant grows taller (60 to 150 cm[13] ) and yields larger, softer seeds, while the shiso is shorter (40 to 100 cm) and produces harder, smaller seeds.[3][14][15]

Citable source for diameter difference is wanting, but comparison of seeds by mass shows shiso to weigh about 1.5 g per 1000 seeds,[16] whereas the oilseed weighs 4 g per 1000 seeds.[17]

The flawed assertion that "the seeds are difficult to distinguish even by scanning electron microscope" is taken out of context, since the original source [18] actually discusses the carbonized grain lodged in crumbs of breadlike food excavated from Yayoi period or even Jomon period strata.[19]

Origins and distribution[edit]

Suggested native origins are mountainous terrains of India and China,[20] although some books say Southeast Asia.[21]

It spread throughout China some time in remote antiquity. One of the early mentions on record occurs in Renown Physician's Extra Records (Chinese: 名醫別錄; pinyin: Míng Yī Bié Lù), around 500 AD,[22] where it is listed as su (蘇), and some of its uses are described.

The perilla was introduced into Japan around the eighth to ninth centuries.[23]

The species was introduced into the Western horticulture as an ornamental,[8] and in the United States became naturalized and established in a widespread area,[8] and may be considered weedy or invasive.

Taxa and synonyma[edit]

The classification of Perilla is confused,[24][25] partly because botanists struggled with distinguishing the two distinct cultigens (as different species or variations).

An early example of dividing the two cultigens into different species is found in Matsumura's nomenclature book in 1884,[26] where the synonym P. arguta Benth.[20][27] is applied to shiso, and the synonym P. ocymoides L.[21][20] was applied to the oilseed perilla.

The species name P. ocymoides or P. ocimoides has been used to denote the oilseed variety for a long time, especially by the Japanese,[28] so it should not be considered a synonym for either cultigen interchangeably.

It is well-established that the two varieties are cross-fertile.[3] The desired essential oil yield will be compromised if the seed for sowing becomes hybridized, and "it is very difficult to distinguish genuine perilla seed from hybrid seed".[29] The escaped types no longer retain the distinctive shiso fragance and are not fit for consumption.

English common names[edit]

The scarlet-leaved form of shiso was introduced into the West around the 1850s,[30] when the ornamental variety was usually referred to as P. nankinensis. This red-leafed border plant eventually earned the English-language name "beefsteak plant".[31] This was the English equivalent name was in standard usage over a period, authoritative Kenkyūsha's New Japanese-English Dictionary.[32][clarification needed] Due to that legacy, the old-fashioned name remains in circulation today.[6]

Other common names, "perilla mint",[33] "Chinese basil",[6][27][34] or "wild basil"[6] are in use, as well.

The alias "wild coleus"[35] or "summer coleus"[6] probably describe ornamental varieties.

The red shiso or su tzu types are called purple mint[6] or purple mint plant.[33]

It is also called rattlesnake weed[6] in the Ozarks, because the sound the dried stalks make when disturbed along the footpath is reminiscent of the rattlesnake rattling sound.[36]

Culinary use[edit]

The red perilla has red leaves and used mostly in fish stews in China. Koreans make pickled "wild sesame" perilla leaves with red chili powder and soy sauce. Oil extracted from P. frutescens var. frutescens "is still used to cover cookies in rural areas of Korea".[18] Sometimes, the seeds are ground and added to soup for seasoning in Korea.

The Japanese shiso leaves grow in green, red, and bicolored forms, and crinkly (chirimen-jiso) varieties, as noted. Parts of the plants eaten are the leaves, flower and buds from the flower stalks, fruits and seeds, and sprouts.

Japanese use green shiso leaves raw with sashimi. Dried leaves are also infused to make tea.[citation needed] The red shiso leaf is not normally consumed fresh, but needs to be e.g. cured in salt. The pigment in the leaves turns from purple to bright red color when steeped in umezu, and is used to color and flavor umeboshi.

Industrial use of oil[edit]

Until around the Sengoku period (early 16th century) in Japan, perilla oil was important for fueling oil lamps,[37] until it was overtaken by rapeseed oil.

The oilseed contains drying oil elements and imported in bulk as a substitute for linseed oil into the United States from Japan, until the supply was interrupted by war.[38]

Ornamental use[edit]

The red-leaved shiso, in earlier literature referred to as Perilla nankinensis, became available to gardening enthusiasts in England circa 1855.[30] By 1862, the English were reporting overuse of this plant, and proposing Coleus vershaeffeltii [39] or Amaranthus melancholicus var. ruber made available by J. G. Veitch [40] as an alternative.

It was introduced later in the United States, perhaps in the 1860s.[41][42]

Chemical composition[edit]

The oilseed variety contains about 38-45% lipid.[43] Expressed from these seeds, the perilla oil exhibits one of the highest proportions of omega-3 (α-linolenic acid (ALA)[6] fatty acids of any seed oil, at 54-64% and only 14% linoleic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid. This unusual n6:n3 ratio gives this crop potential for an alternative to other seed oils.[44]

The Japanese type (shiso) contain only about 25.2-25.7% lipid,[45] but still contains a comparable 60% ratio of ALA.[46][47]

The acuta variant produces the natural product perilloxin, which is built around a 3-benzoxepin moiety. Perilloxin inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase with an IC50 of 23.2 μM.[48] Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen also work by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase enzyme family.


  1. ^ The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species, retrieved 21 September 2016 
  2. ^ "Perilla frutescens". Plants for a Future. Retrieved 2 August 2015. 
  3. ^ a b c Nitta, Lee & Ohnishi 2003, p.245-
  4. ^ Hu 2005, p.651
  5. ^ Evidence abounds in restaurant reviews and food sections. In the NY Times archives, Burros, Marian (October 21, 1983). "Restaurants". Retrieved March 29, 2012. , review of Gyosai restaurant, seems to be the earliest instance among hundreds of usage that have amassed over the years.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Vaughan & Geissler 2009
  7. ^ Staples 1999,p.82
  8. ^ a b c Boning 2010, p. 149
  9. ^ Tucker & DeBaggio 2009, p. 389
  10. ^ Seo & Baek 2009, J. Agric. Food Chem., 2009, 57 (24), pp 11537–11542
  11. ^ He, Kosuna & Haga 1997 p.151
  12. ^ Heibonsha 1964 encyc.
  13. ^ 農文協. "エゴマ(egoma)". 農業技術体系野菜編第12巻. Retrieved 2012-03-30. 
  14. ^ Heibonsha 1964 Encycl. states egoma seeds are about 1.2 mm, slightly larger than shiso seeds. However, egoma seeds being grown currently can be much larger.
  15. ^ Oikawa & Toyama 2008, p. 5, egoma, sometimes classed P.frutescens var. Japonica, exhibited sizes of 1.4 mm < sieve caliber <2.0 mm for black seeds and 1.6 mm < sieve caliber <2.0 mm for white seeds.
  16. ^ This is based on 650 seeds/gram reported by a purveyor Nicky's seeds; this is in ballpark with "The ABCs of Seed Importation into Canada". Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Retrieved 2012-03-31.  also quotes 635 per gram, though it is made unclear which variety
  17. ^ "Minor oil crops". Food and Agriculture Org of UN. Retrieved 2012-03-31. 
  18. ^ a b Imamura 1996, pp. 107–8
  19. ^ 松谷 暁子. "植物遺残の識別と保存について". Ouroboros. The University Museum, The University of Tokyo. Retrieved 2012-03-31.  carries SEM photos of such perilla in paleo-bread (two photos at top right).
  20. ^ a b c Roecklein & Leung 1987, p. 349
  21. ^ a b Blaschek, Hänsel & Keller 1998, vol.3, p.328
  22. ^ He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p. 37
  23. ^ He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p. 3, citing:Tanaka, K. (1993), "Effects of Periilla", My Health (8): 152–153  (in Japanese).
  24. ^ Nitta, Lee & Ohnishi 2003,p.245 "..taxonomically confused because of their morphological similarity."
  25. ^ He, Kosuna & Haga 1997 p.1 "nomenclature of P. is confusing..", similar assessments are made by other works, and here as elwhere Zeevaart 1969 is cited for the comprehensive taxonomical study.
  26. ^ Matsumura 1884, p.136
  27. ^ a b Kays 2011, p.677-8
  28. ^ e.g. occurs in Heibonsha 1964 Encyclopedia, though the genus name is misspelt
  29. ^ Guenther 1949,p.687-
  30. ^ a b anonymous (March 1855), "List of Select and New Florists' Flowers" (google), The Floricultural cabinet, and florists' magazine, London: Simpkin,Marshall, & Co., 23: 62  "Perilla Nankinesnsis, a new and curious plant with crimsn leaves.."; An earlier issue (Vol. 21, Oct. 1853) , p.240, describe it being grown among the "New Annuals in the Horticultural Society's Garden"
  31. ^ Tucker & DeBaggio 2009, p. 389, "name beefsteak plant.. from the bloody purple-red color.."
  32. ^ Kenkyusha's (1954 edition) was verified.
  33. ^ a b He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.1 after Wilson et al., 1977
  34. ^ He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.3
  35. ^ He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.1 after Duke, 1988
  36. ^ Foster & Yue 1992,p.306-8
  37. ^ Gay, Suzanne (2009). The Lamp-Oil Merchants of Iwashimizu Shrine: Transregional Commerce in Medieval Japan. Monumenta Nipponica, 64:1, 1–51. p. 14
  38. ^ Brenner 1993, etc.
  39. ^ Dombrain, H. H. (1862), Floral Magazine (google), 2, London: Lovell Reeve , Pl. 96
  40. ^ Dombrain, H. H. (1862), "New or rare plants" (google), The Gardener's Monthly and Horticultural Adviser, London: Lovell Reeve, 4: 181 
  41. ^ Maloy, Bridget (1867), "The Horticultural Department:The Culture of Flowers" (google), The Cultivator & Country Gentleman, Alban, NY: Luther Tucker & Son, 29: 222 , "Perilla nankinensis was one of the first of the many ormanental foliaged plants brought into the gardens and greenhouses of this country within few years. "
  42. ^ Foster & Yue 1992,p.306-8 gives mid-19th century as introductory period into the US.
  43. ^ Hyo-Sun Shin, "Ch. 9 Lipid Composition," in He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.93-, citing Sonntag 1979, Vaugham, 1970.
  44. ^ Asif, M (2011), "Health effects of omega-3,6,9 fatty acids: Perilla frutescens is a good example of plant oils", Oriental pharmacy and experimental medicine, 11 (1): 51–59, doi:10.1007/s13596-011-0002-x, PMC 3167467free to read, PMID 21909287 
  45. ^ Hyo-Sun Shin, in He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.93-, citing Tsuyuki et al., 1978
  46. ^ Esaki, Osamu(江崎治) (2006), "生活習慣病予防のための食事・運動療法の作用機序に関する研究", 日本栄養 食糧学会誌 (Proceedings of the JSNFS), 59 (5): 326  gives 58%
  47. ^ Hiroi 2009, p. 35,[clarification needed] gives 62.3% red, 65.4% green shiso
  48. ^ Liu, J.-H.; Steigel, A.; Reininger, E.; Bauer, R. (2000). "Two new prenylated 3-benzoxepin derivatives as cyclooxygenase inhibitors from Perilla frutescens var. acuta". J. Nat. Prod. 63 (3): 403–405. doi:10.1021/np990362o. 

Further reading[edit]

(herbs and food plant handbooks)
(monogram on species)
(nomenclature, taxonomy)
  • Blaschek, Wolfgang; Hänsel, Rudolf; Keller, Konstantin (1998), Hagers Handbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis (preview), 3 (L-Z), Gabler Wissenschaftsverlage, pp. 328–, ISBN 9783540616191 
  • Guenther, Ernest (1949), The Essential Oils (snippet), Cambridge and New York: D. Van Nostrand Co., pp. 687– 
  • Seo, Won Ho; Baek, Hyung Hee (2009), "Characteristic Aroma-Active Compounds of Korean Perilla (Perilla frutescens Britton) Leaf", Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry (browse), 57 (24): 11537–11542, doi:10.1021/jf902669d 
  • Channell, BJ; Garst, JE; Linnabary, RD; Channell, RB (5 August 1977), "Perilla ketone: a potent lung toxin from the mint plant, Perilla frutescens Britton", Science, 197 (4303): 573–574, Bibcode:1977Sci...197..573W, doi:10.1126/science.877573, PMID 877573 
(Chinese perspective)
  • Heibonsha (1964), 世界百科事典(Sekai hyakka jiten)  (world encyclopedia, in Japanese).
  • Oikawa, Kazushi; Toyama, Ryo (2008), "Analysis of Nutrition and the Functionality Elements in Perilla Seeds", 岩手県工業センター研究報告, 15  pdf (in Japanese except abstract)
  • Hiroi, Masaru (広井勝) (2010), "エゴマの成分と利用", 特産種苗, 5 [clarification needed] [ pdf] (in Japanese except abstract)

External links[edit]