English: Perilla seeds

Chinese: 紫苏子

Parts used: Dried ripe fruit

TCM category: Warm herbs that transform Phlegm and stop Cough

TCM nature: Warm

TCM taste(s): Pungent

Organ affinity: Lung

Scientific name: Perilla frutescens

Other names: Korean perilla, Japanese sweet basil, Shiso

Use of Zi Su Zi (perilla seeds) 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 Zi Su Zi 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 Zi Su Zi is used*

San Zi Yang Qin Tang

Source date: 1856 AD

Number of ingredients: 3 herbs

Formula key actions: Directs the Qi downward. Transforms Phlegm. Reduces harbored food.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisBronchial asthma and others

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

In San Zi Yang Qin Tang, Zi Su Zi directs the Lung Qi downward and thereby stops the coughing and wheezing.

Read more about San Zi Yang Qin Tang

Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang

Source date: 650 AD

Number of ingredients: 8 herbs

Formula key actions: Directs rebellious Qi downward. Arrests wheezing. Stops coughing. Warms and transforms Phlegm-Cold.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisEmphysema and others

Zi Su Zi is a king ingredient in Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang. Like the name indicates, it means it has more power than other ingredients in the formula.

In Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang, Zi Su Zi is a primary herb for controlling Rebellious Qi of the Lungs. It directs it downward, expels phlegm, stops the coughing, and arrests the wheezing.

Read more about Su Zi Jiang Qi Tang

Ding Chuan Tang

Source date: 1550 AD

Number of ingredients: 9 herbs

Formula key actions: Clears Lung Heat. Expectorant for asthma.

Conditions targeted*: Chronic bronchitisAsthma and others

Zi Su Zi is an assistant ingredient in Ding Chuan Tang. This means that it either serves to reinforces the effect of other ingredients or it moderates their toxicity.

In Ding Chuan Tang, Zi Su Zi works together with Crow-dipper rhizome (Ban Xia) and Coltsfoot flower (Kuan Dong Hua) to support the key and deputy herbs in directing the Rebellious Qi downward, arresting the wheezing, and expelling Phlegm

Read more about Ding Chuan Tang

Key TCM concepts behind Zi Su Zi's properties

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Zi Su Zi belongs 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 Zi Su Zi is Warm in nature. This means that Zi Su Zi 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 Zi can help restore a harmonious balance between Yin and Yang.

Zi Su Zi 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 Zi 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 Zi is 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 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. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.foodchem.2012.08.057

Use of Zi Su Zi as food

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