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Perilla Seed (su zi)

What is perillal seed? What is it used for?

The perilla is a purplish plant that grows throughout east Asia, especially in the hills and mountains of China and Japan. It can reach a height of approximately two feet, with scented flowers that bloom in July and August.

Different parts of the perilla are used for different conditions. This article discusses the use of perilla seed; perilla stem and perilla leaf are discussed elsewhere.

Perilla seeds are oval or globe-shaped, and just over a millimeter in size. Externally, they are grayish-brown, with purple striations. The outer covering of a perilla seed is thin and fragile, and breaks easily. The seeds themselves are yellowish-white and have a slightly pungent taste. They are usually harvested in autumn when the fruit ripens, then dried in the sun. They can be used either raw or after being parched, and are crushed or finely ground into powder.

Based on traditional Chinese medicine principles, perilla seed has pungent and warm properties, and is associated with the Lung and Large Intestine channels. Its functions are to keep qi flowing downward, prevent coughing and resolve difficult breathing, and relax the bowels. The seeds contain a fatty oil (consisting of linoleic and linolenic acid), along with vitamins and amino acids. They are used to treat coughs and phlegmy obstructions, and to aid in constipation. Perilla seed is often used in combination with apricot kernels and hemp seeds.

How much perilla seed should I take?

The typical dose of perilla seed is 5 to 10 grams, powdered and decocted in water, to be taken orally. Perilla seeds are also used as a component of larger herbal formulas.

What forms of perilla seed are available?

Perilla seed is most often available as a powder. Some shops also sell perilla seed decoctions and infusions. Perilla is also found in many herbal formulas.

What can happen if I take too much perilla seed? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Perilla seed should not be used by patients who have difficulty breathing and coughs due to yin deficiency, nor should it be used by anyone with loose stools due to spleen deficiency. It should be avoided by women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. As of this writing, there are no known drug interactions with perilla seed. As always, make sure to consult with a licensed health care provider before taking perilla seeds or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.


  • Ihara M, Umekawa H, Takahashi T, et al. Comparative effects of short- and long-term feeding of safflower oil and perilla oil on lipid metabolism in rats. Comp Biochem Physiol B Biochem Mol Biol October 1998;121(2):223-31.
  • Nagatsu A, Tenmaru K, Matsuura H, et al. Novel antioxidants from roasted perilla seed. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) May 1995;43(5):887-9.
  • Narisawa T, Fukaura Y, Yazawa K, et al. Colon cancer prevention with a small amount of dietary perilla oil high in alpha-linolenic acid in an animal model. Cancer April 15, 1994;73(8):2069-75.
  • Okuno M, Kajiwara K, Imai S, et al. Perilla oil prevents the excessive growth of visceral adipose tissue in rats by down-regulating adipocyte differentiation. J Nutr September 1997;127(9):1752-7.
  • Suzuki H, Ishigaki A, Hara Y. Long-term effect of a trace amount of tea catechins with perilla oil on the plasma lipids in mice. Int J Vitam Nutr Res 1998;68(4):272-4.
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