Zi Su Ye

English: Perilla leaves

Chinese: 紫苏叶

Parts used: Dried leaf (or bearing young branches)

TCM category: Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Lung Spleen

Scientific name: Perilla frutescens

Other names: Korean perilla, Japanese sweet basil, Shiso

Use of Zi Su Ye (perilla leaves) in TCM

Please note that you should never self-prescribe TCM ingredients. A TCM ingredient is almost never eaten on its own but as part of a formula containing several ingredients that act together. Please consult a professional TCM practitioner, they will be best able to guide you.

Preparation: Remove impurities, wash, cut into sections and dry.

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Relieves the Exterior and disperses Cold. Promotes the circulation of Spleen and Stomach Qi. Calms a restless fetus. Detoxifies seafood poisoning

Primary conditions or symptoms for which Zi Su Ye may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Food poisoning from seafood Morning sickness Common cold Loss of appetite Vomiting

Contraindications*: This herb should not be used by those who have External diseases where there is already sweating nor by those who have a Damp Heat condition.

Common TCM formulas in which Zi Su Ye is used*

Xing Su San

Source date: 1798 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Dry-Cold. Disseminates the Lung Qi and relieves cough. Transforms thin mucus.

Conditions targeted*: Common coldBronchitis and others

Zi Su Ye is a king ingredient in Xing Su San. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Xing Su San, Zi Su Ye releases the Exterior Cold by promoting moderate sweating.

Read more about Xing Su San

Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Source date: 220 AD

Number of ingredients: 5 herbs

Formula key actions: Regulates the flow of Qi, treats esophageal spasm. Clears Phlegm.

Conditions targeted*: Globus hystericusNeurosis and others

Zi Su Ye is a deputy ingredient in Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang, Zi Su Ye reinforces the ability of Houpu Magnolia bark (Hou Po), one of the key herbs in this formula, to regulate the Qi and break up Stagnation.

Entering the Lungs, which govern the throat, the place where the main symptom of Qi-Phlegm is located, this herb also serves as the envoy. It also helps focus the action of the formula on the Lungs Channel and relieves coughing, should it occur.

Read more about Ban Xia Hou Pu Tang

Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San

Source date: 1107 AD

Number of ingredients: 11 herbs

Formula key actions: Releases the Exterior. Transforms Dampness. Regulates Qi. Harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Conditions targeted*: GastroenteritisStomach flu and others

Zi Su Ye is a deputy ingredient in Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San. This means it helps the king ingredient(s) treat the main pattern or it serves to treat a coexisting pattern.

In Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San, Zi Su Ye is a strong, Exterior-releasing herb that also harmonizes the Middle Burner.

Read more about Huo Xiang Zheng Qi San

Key TCM concepts behind Zi Su Ye's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Zi Su Ye belongs to the 'Warm/Acrid herbs that release the Exterior' category. Herbs that release the Exterior aim to to treat the early stages of diseases that affect the upper respiratory tract, the eyes, the ears, the nose, the throat or the skin. TCM believes that External diseases such as colds or allergies can only invade the body if the External environment overwhelms our Wei Qi (the TCM version of the immune system). In order to counteract this invasion Warm/Acrid herbs aim to induce sweating by increasing the flow of sweat to our capillary pores. The belief is that this will expel the disease from the body and stop it from invading further.

As suggested by its category Zi Su Ye is Warm in nature. This means that Zi Su Ye tends to help people who have too much 'Cold' in their body, although with less effect than a plant that would be Hot in nature. Balance between Yin and Yang is a key health concept in TCM. Those who have too much Cold in their body are said to either have a Yin Excess (because Yin is Cold in nature) or a Yang Deficiency (Yang is Hot in Nature). Depending on your condition Zi Su Ye can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Zi Su Ye also tastes Pungent. The so-called 'Five Phases' theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like Zi Su Ye tends to promote the circulations of Qi and Body Fluids. That's why for instance someone tends to sweat a lot when they eat spicy/pungent food.

The tastes of ingredients in TCM also determine what Organs and Meridians they target. As such Zi Su Ye is thought to target the Lung and the Spleen. In addition to performing respiration, the Lungs are thought in TCM to be a key part of the production chain for Qi and the Body Fluids that nourish the body. The Spleen on the other hand assists with digestion, Blood coagulation and Fluids metabolism in the body.

Research on Zi Su Ye

Histopathological examination of the rat livers showed that Perilla frutescens extract reduced the incidence of liver lesion.1

Triterpene acids extracted from the leaves of Perilla frutescens all showed a marked anti-inflammatory effect and one compound exhibited strong antitumor-promoting activity in an in vivo two-stage carcinogenesis test of mouse tumor.2

Perilla leaves extract significantly suppressed the PCA‐reaction, which was brought about by rosmarinic acid with a partial contribution from some macromolecular compounds. The anti‐allergic titer of rosmarinic acid was more effective than tranilast, which is a modern anti‐allergic drug. Perilla and rosmarinic acid are potentially promising agents for the treatment of allergic diseases.3


1. Kim M, Lee H, Kim E, Won N, Chi Y, Kim B, Lee K. (2007) Protective effect of aqueous of Perilla frutescens on tert-butyl hydroperoxide-induced oxidative hypatotoxicity in rats. Food Chem Toxicol. 45(9):1738-44.

2. N Banno, T Akihisa, H Tokuda, K Yasukawa et al. (2004). Triterpene Acids from the Leaves of Perilla frutescens and Their Anti-inflammatory and Antitumor-promoting Effects. Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Biochemistry, 68(1), p. 85-90. https://doi.org/10.1271/bbb.68.85

3. Makino, T. , Furuta, Y. , Wakushima, H. , Fujii, H. , Saito, K. and Kano, Y. (2003), Anti‐allergic effect of Perilla frutescens and its active constituents. Phytother. Res., 17: 240-243. doi:10.1002/ptr.1115

Use of Zi Su Ye as food

Zi Su Ye is also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Marinated Perilla Leaves or Kkaennip-jeon (Pan-fried perilla leaves with fillings).