Friday, May 4, 2012

Pharmacy Friday - Perilla Mint... I had no idea!

  Perilla Mint -  Perilla frutescens . Shiso : It is an annual wild mint that now grows abundantly here in the US. In other countries, it is cultivated and grown as a food crop, but here, it is regarded as a weed and grows quite prolifically, especially in shady, wooded areas.

Until I moved out here in the woods nearly 15 years ago, I don't recall having ever seen it. I had no idea what it was. When I first moved here, as I was pulling weeds from around wanted plants, I kept noticing that something smelled like mint. I finally realized it was the pretty green plant with the square stems and purple highlights. But I didn't know what it was called.  I left a few to grow because I thought they were so pretty, then pulled the rest. But from just those few that I left, they really took off! It now grows all over my front acre nearly as abundantly as my wild spinach (lambs quarters).

Over the years I simply regarded it as a weed because I didn't know what it was. I just knew it was taking over and I kept pulling it up and, I hate to admit it, but I sprayed it a lot, too (that was before I became so conscience of the dangers of weed killers). 

Then a couple of years ago, on a day this stuff was especially strong and wonderfully fragrant, I decided to do some deep research and see if I could find out what it was. My results, of course, turned up that it was Perilla Mint, without any doubt. But everything that I read on it said that it was a nuisance because it was highly toxic to many animals, especially livestock such as cattle, horses, goats, etc. It appears it is very deadly to them with little chance for recovery or remedy. I have to wonder now how many of my goats over the years that were fine one day and gone the next, had eaten that stuff!  Here are some links on its toxicity in livestock:

   Poisonous Plants of the Southern United States
   What is Perilla Mint?
   Perilla Mint Toxicosis
   Farmer Loses 6 Cows

So for the past 2 years I have worked harder than ever to pull up and thin out this dangerous, yet beautiful and wonderful smelling plant. The results? This year it seemed to be thriving better than ever! It even survived last summers extreme heat and drought with no problem. So this spring, once again, I found myself fighting a losing battle as I fervently worked to pull it up by the bushels and discard it. Fortunately, though, I haven't seen any in my rocky goat yard, but you never know when a sprig will pop up and get eaten before you ever see it.

But the other day, as I was working in my yard picking wild edibles and pulling up and discarding the Perilla Mint, it was smelling extra wonderful that day. It got me to thinking... "How can such a beautiful and wonderfully fragrant plant be so completely horrible. It HAS to have some good purpose." So when I took a break, I came in here to the computer and decided to do a little deeper researching on it. What I found was AMAZING!  I had no idea the Perilla Mint has so many good uses, too!

 In Japan, it is also called Shiso and is actually the most important part of their diet and cuisine!  Too bad I can't ship all of mine over there to them. It would definitely be an easy farm to get started, here, and maybe even pay for itself, lol.  HERE  and HERE is what Wikipedia has to say about its culinary uses in several different countries. I especially like the way it is used to serve Wasabi on.

This site (  says that it has shown antioxidant, anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, and tumor-preventing properties. I have seen several places where it is known for its cancer fighting abilities against several different cancers. If you can keep it away from your livestock, this plant is WONDERFUL!!!

At LIVESTRONG they talk about how great it is to alleviate nausea, allergies, sunstroke, asthma, muscle spasms, and other ails. And to think that I have been pulling up and throwing away the very thing that could be helping with my asthma and allergies! It also fascinates me that it can prevent some food poisonings. Maybe I should sip a cup of Perilla Mint tea before I go out to eat the next time! HERE is the nutrition information for Perilla Mint from LiveStrong.

According to Local Harvest, Perilla Mint seeds were brought to the USA in the early 1800s by Asian immigrants. They give several great cooking uses for this great herb and also says that it is great for relief of colds, flu, sore throats, congestion, and that breathing in the steam from a boiled pot of it can clear the sinuses! Sheesh! I have been battling this blasted sinus infection and was throwing away the very thing that might help it. Ugh!!! 

So now, as I walk through my yard, I view this most interesting plant from a totally different point of view. I view it with a smile and thoughts running through my head as to how much of it I want to dry and put away for winter's use; while at the same time, I am contemplating how I am going to let some of it grow while keeping it away from the livestock. I think the best defense will be to make sure they have plenty to eat so that they won't even be tempted to take a nibble of it.

I will post a picture of my Perilla Mint sometime this weekend. By the time I realized this evening that I hadn't taken a pic yet, then cleared out some pics so I could take one, it was too dark. Thank you for taking the time to read my post. If you know of any more uses for this most interesting herb, we would love to hear them.

On the right, you can see the turned over leaf to show the slight purple coloring on the backside of the leaves.The amount of purple on the leaves/plants will vary greatly. Sometimes there will be no purple at all.


  1. Interesting. We have it here too, away from livestock! Dearest has burned it anywhere near where they are.It spreads terribly.

  2. I have never heard of perilla mint but am glad to know about it since it grows in my part of the country. It doesn't look familiar (fortunately), but I'll have to keep an eye out.

  3. Burning it is a great idea! It would be much better than toxic weed killers. What does he use to burn it with? I saw someone once use a small torch he had fashioned out of a small propane bottle. No telling what I would end up burning with something like that, though!

    Leigh, I don't remember ever seeing it until I moved out here. It amazes me how, even just a few miles away, growing conditions can be so different that one type of plant will flourish in one place and not be able to survive in another. After doing some further research, it appears mine is the most common of the CULTIVATED varieties. Although I don't want it getting near my goats, nor my chickens eating it, I feel I really should find a way to market and use what I have because it is growing so well and I always feel we should really use and appreciate what the Good Lord so generously blesses us with.

  4. Growing wild in my backwoods spreading like wildfire but I don't mind since I prefer it any day to poison ivy. No life stock near my patch. Just wondering if its bad for dogs??? I use the leaves for pesto and its great.

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