Perilla seeds

Chinese: 紫苏子

Pinyin: Zǐ Sū Zǐ

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Meridian affinity: Lung

Scientific name: Perilla frutescens

Other names: Korean perilla, Japanese sweet basil, Shiso

Use of perilla seeds (Zi Su Zi) 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: Harvest when the fruit is mature, remove impurities and dry

Dosage: 3 - 9 grams

Main actions according to TCM*: Stops coughing and wheezing, expels Phlegm and redirects Rebellious Lung Qi. Lubricates the Intestines.

Primary conditions or symptoms for which perilla seeds may be prescribed by TCM doctors*: Constipation Dyspnea Phlegm Coughing Asthma Emphysema

Contraindications*: Should not be used when there is diarrhea.

Common TCM formulas in which perilla seeds are used*:

Key TCM concepts behind perilla seeds (Zi Su Zi)'s properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), perilla seeds are plants that belong to the 'Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough' category. In TCM Phlegm is a condition of Stagnation of Fluids which tends to start in the Spleen and then goes to the Lungs. If this overly accumulates it thickens and becomes pathological Phlegm. Phlegm, being a form of Stagnation, often starts as being Cool and transforms to Hot as the condition progresses. The herbs in this category are Warm in nature so they treat the early stages of the Stagnation: Cold-Phlegm and Wet-Phlegm with symptoms of wheezing, vomiting and nausea.

As suggested by its category perilla seeds are plants that are Warm in nature. This means that perilla seeds tend 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 perilla seeds can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Perilla seeds also taste Pungent. The so-called "five elements" theory in Chinese Medicine states that the taste of TCM ingredients is a key determinant of their action in the body. Pungent ingredients like perilla seeds tend 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 perilla seeds are thought to target the Lung. 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.

Research on perilla seeds(Zi Su Zi)

The seeds of Perilla frutescens have antioxidant properties, correlated with their phenolic compound content.1


1. JH Lee, KH Park, MH Lee, HT Kim, WD Seo, JY Kim et al. (2013) Identification, characterisation, and quantification of phenolic compounds in the antioxidant activity-containing fraction from the seeds of Korean perilla (Perilla frutescens) cultivars. Food Chemistry, 136(2), p. 843-852.

Use of perilla seeds (Zi Su Zi) as food

Perilla seeds are also eaten as food. It is used as an ingredient in dishes such as Deulkkae Soondubu Jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew with Perilla Seeds).