This article is about a variety of perilla. For a wider survey that covers deulkkae, see Perilla. For in-depth botany and biochemistry, see Perilla frutescens. For the city in Japan, see Shisō, Hyōgo.
Red shiso
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Lamiales
Family: Lamiaceae
Genus: Perilla
Species: Perilla frutescens
Variety: P. frutescens var. crispa
Trinomial name
Perilla frutescens var. crispa
(Thunb.) H.Deane
Dab of wasabi on a green shiso leaf, possibly at a sushi-bar counter
A green shiso leaf used as receptacle to hold grated wasabi

Shiso (/ˈʃs/,[1] Japanese: 紫蘇 or シソ, Japanese pronunciation: [ɕiso̞]) is the more widely used name[2] of the Asian culinary herb Perilla frutescens var. crispa, belonging to the mint family. In Vietnam, the plant is called tía tô(Vietnamese pronunciation: [tiɜ˧ˀ˦ to˧˧]).[3]

This herb was previously known as the "beefsteak plant", a mostly obsolete name.[2] It is also sometimes referred to by its genus name "Perilla", which is ambiguous, as it is also inclusive of the so-called "wild sesame" variety, P. frutescens var. frutescens, which is devoid of the distinctive shiso fragrance.


Shiso is a perennial plant that may be cultivated as an annual in temperate climates, and occurs in both red- (or purple-) leaved and green forms. There are also frilly, ruffled-leaved forms called chirimen-jiso and forms that are red only on top, called katamen-jiso.

The Japanese name shiso (紫蘇?, シソ) and the Vietnamese tía tô are cognates, both a loan word from zǐsū(simplified Chinese: 紫苏; traditional Chinese: 紫蘇; pinyin: zǐsū; Wade–Giles: tsu-su),[4] which means Perilla frustescens in Chinese. The first character 「紫(shi, murasaki)」 means "purple",[5] and the second「蘇(so, yomigaeru)」 means "to be resurrected, revived, rehabilitated". Traditionally in Japan shiso denoted the purple-red form.[6] In recent years green is considered typical, and red considered atypical.

The plant occurs in red (purple-leaved) or green-leaved forms. It also has a less fashionable translated name "beefsteak plant", but starting around the 1980s, with the rise of popularity of Japanese cuisine, it has become increasingly more chic for the mass media to refer to it as shiso.[7] Shiso is called soyeop(소엽) or chajogi(차조기) in Korean, and huíhuísū(回回苏) in Chinese.

Red shiso

The purple-red type may be known as akajiso (赤ジソ/紅ジソ "red shiso"). The quintessential use is for coloring the pickled plum, or umeboshi. The shiso leaf turns bright red when it reacts with the umezu, the vinegary brine that wells up from the plums after being pickled in their vats.[5][8] The red pigment is identified as the Perilla anthocyanin, aka shisonin.[9] The mature red leaves are not very amenable to use as a raw salad leaf. But germinated sprouts me-jiso (芽ジソ) have been used for years as garnish to accent a Japanese dish such as a plate of sashimi.[5][10] Also used are the hanaho (花穂 flower cluster) or hojiso, which are sprigs or stalks studded with tiny-cupped flowers and forming seeds.[5] The tiny pellets of buds and seed pods can be scraped off using the chopstick or fingers and mixed into the soy sauce dip to add the distinct spicy flavor.[10] The sprouts and flowerheads of the green variety are also used the same way.

Green shiso

Bunches of green shiso leaves packaged in styrofoam trays are now familiar sights on the supermarket shelves in Japan, as well as in Japanese food markets in the West. But production in earnest as leafy herb did not begin until the 1960s.[11]

One anecdote is that around 1961, a certain cooperative or guild of tsuma (ツマ "garnish") commodities based in Shizuoka Prefecture picked large-sized green leaves of shiso and shipped them out to the Osaka market, and gained popularity, so that ōba (大葉 "big leaf") became the trade name for bunches of picked green leaves forever after.[12]

A dissenting account places its origin in the city of Toyohashi, Aichi, the foremost ōba-producer in the country,[13] and claims Toyohashi's Greenhouse Horticultural Agricultural Cooperative (豊橋園芸農協) experimented with planting c. 1955, and around 1962 started merchandizing the leaf part as Ōba, and in 1963 organized "cooperative sorting and sales" of the crop (kyōsen kyōhan (共選・共販), analogous to cranberry cooperatives in the US). By c. 1970, they achieved year-round production.[14]

English common names

The scarlet-leaved form of shiso was introduced into the West around the 1850s,[15] when the ornamental variety was usually referred to as P. nankinensis. This red-leafed border plant eventually earned the English-language name "beefsteak plant".[16] This was the English equivalent name was in standard usage over a period, authoritative Kenkyūsha's New Japanese-English Dictionary.[17] Due to that legacy, the old-fashioned name remains in circulation today.[18]

Other common names, "perilla mint",[19] "Chinese basil",[18][20][21] or "wild basil"[18] are in use, as well.

The alias "wild coleus"[22] or "summer coleus"[18] probably describe ornamental varieties.

The red shiso or su tzu types are called purple mint[18] or purple mint plant.[19]

It is also called rattlesnake weed[18] in the Ozarks, because the sound the dried stalks make when disturbed along the footpath is reminiscent of the rattlesnake rattling sound.[23]

Origins and distribution

Suggested native origins are mountainous terrains of India and China,[24] although some books say Southeast Asia.[25]

It spread throughout China some time in remote antiquity. One of the early mentions on record occurs in Renown Physician's Extra Records (Chinese: 名醫別錄; pinyin: Míng Yī Bié Lù), around 500 AD,[26] where it is listed as su (蘇), and some of its uses are described.

The perilla was introduced into Japan around the eighth to ninth centuries.[27]

The species was introduced into the Western horticulture as an ornamental, and in the United States became naturalized and established in a widespread area, and may be considered weedy or invasive.


Though now lumped into a single species of polytypic character, the two cultigens continue to be regarded as two distinct commodities in the Asian countries where they are most exploited. While they are morphologically similar, the modern strains are readily distinguishable. Accordingly, the description is used separately or comparatively for the cultivars.

Shiso grows to 40–100 centimetres (16–39 in) tall.[28] Shiso has broad ovate leaves with pointy ends and serrated margins, arranged oppositely with long leafstalks.[29] Shiso's distinctive flavor comes from its perillaldehyde component,[30] which present only in low concentration in other perilla varieties.

The red (purple) forms of the shiso (forma purpurea and crispa) come from its pigment, called "perilla anthocyanin " or shisonin.[31] The color is present in both sides of the leaves, as well as the entire stalk, and flower buds (calyces).

The red crinkly-leafed version (called chirimenjiso in Japan) was the form of shiso first examined by Western botany, and Thunberg named it P. crispa (the name meaning "wavy or curly"). That Latin name was later retained when the shiso was reclassed as a variety.

Also, bicolored cultivars (var. Crispa forma discolor Makino; カタメンジソ (katamenjiso)[32]) are red on the underside of the leaf (see pictured, top right). Green crinkly-leafed cultivars (called chirimenaojiso, forma viridi-crispa) are seen.

Shiso produces harder, smaller seeds compared to other perilla varieties.[33][34] Shiso seeds weigh about 1.5 g per 1000 seeds.[35]

Chemical composition

Shiso contain only about 25.2-25.7% lipid,[36] but still contains a comparable 60% ratio of ALA.[37][38]

The plant produces the natural product perilloxin, which is built around a 3-benzoxepin moiety. Perilloxin inhibits the enzyme cyclooxygenase with an IC50 of 23.2 μM.[39] Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen also work by inhibiting the cyclooxygenase enzyme family.

Culinary use

See under Perilla for a survey of the herbal and spice uses of the species in different countries


A whole leaf of green shiso is often used as a receptacle to hold wasabi, or various tsuma (garnishes) and ken (daikon radishes, etc., sliced into fine threads). It seems to have superseded baran, the serrated green plastic film, named after the Aspidistra plant, that graced takeout sushi boxes in bygone days.

Green leaves
A white bowl of spaghetti in red sauce, ganished with minced nori and julienned shiso leaves
Spaghetti topped with a shiso chiffonade

The green leaf can be chopped up and used as herb or condiments for an assortment of cold dishes such as:

Chopped leaves can be used to flavor any number of fillings or batter to be cooked, for use in warm dishes. A whole leaf battered only on the obverse side is made into tempura.[40] Whole leaves are often combined with shrimp or other fried items.

Red leaves

Red leaves are used for making pickled plum (umeboshi) as mentioned, but this is no longer a yearly chore undertaken by the average household. Red shiso is used to color shiba-zuke, a type of pickled eggplant (also cucumber, myoga, shiso seeds may be used),[41] Kyoto specialty.


The seed pods or berries of the shiso are also salted and preserved as a sort of spice.[42] They can be combined with fine slivers of daikon, for instance, to make a simple salad.

One source from the 1960s says that oil expressed from shiso seeds was once used for deep-frying purposes.[5]


The germinated sprouts (cotyledons)[43] used as garnish are known as mejiso (芽ジソ). Another reference refers to the me-jiso as the moyashi (sprout) of the shiso.[5]

Any time it is mentioned that shiso "buds" are used, there is reason to suspect this is a mistranslation for "sprouts" since the word me () can mean either.[44]

Though young buds or shoots are not usually used in restaurants, the me-jiso used could be microgreen size.[45] People engaged in growing their own shiso in planters, will also refer to the plucked seedlings they have thinned as mejiso.[46]


The name yukari refers to dried and pulverized red-shiso flakes,[47] and has passed into the common tongue as a generic term,[48] even though Mishima Foods Co. insists it is the proprietary name for its products.[49] The term yukari-no-iro has signified the color purple since the olden days, based on a poem in the Kokin Wakashū about a murasaki or gromwell blooming in Musashino (old name for Tokyo area).[50] Moreover, the term Murasaki-no-yukari has long been used as an alias for Lady Murasaki's famous romance of the shining prince.


Other than the yukari variety, there are many commercial brand furikake type sprinkle-seasoning products that contain shiso as well. They can be sprinkled on rice or mixed into musubi. They are often sprinkled on pasta.

The shiso pasta can be made from fresh chopped leaves, sometimes combined with the crumbled roe of tarako,[51] and the trick to success is not to cook the cod roe on the stove top, but to just to toss the hot pasta into it.


Tía tô is a Vietnamese version of shiso, with slightly smaller leaves but much stronger aromatic flavor, native to Southeast Asia .[52][53] Unlike the Perilla frutescens counterpart, the leaves on the Vietnamese perilla have green color on the top side and purplish red on the bottom side.

In North and South Vietnam, the Vietnamese perilla are eaten raw or used in Vietnamese salads, soups, or stir fried dishes. The strong flavors are perfect for cooking seafoods such as shrimp and fish dishes. Aromatic leaves are also widely used in pickling. Plants can be grown in open field or container as a wonderful ornamental plant in the backyard.


Bactericidal and preservative effects of the shiso, due to the presence of terpenes such as perilla alcohol, have been noted.[40]

Further etymology

The word ōba was originally a trade name and was not entered into the Shin Meikai kokugo jiten until its 5th edition (Kindaichi 1997), and is not found in 4th edition (1989). This dictionary is more progressive the Kojien cited previously, as Kindaichi's dictionary, from the 1st ed. (1972), and definitely in the 2nd ed. (1974) defined shiso as a plant with leaves of "purple(green) color".[54]

Statistical data

Change in annual shiso production
Growth year Production in Tons

The bar graph shows the trend in total production of shiso in Japan. (Source:Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Japan) statistics. For green shiso, cumuative figures for shiso as vegetable is used.)[14][55]

Raw data start from year 1960, but for the shiso, the production figure was either negligible (far less than 1000t) or unavailable until the year 1976, as shown.

The 1970s was when refrigerated storage and refrigerated transport came online for shiso;[14] but the same technology was bringing fresh produce and seafood to meal tables of ever-remoter parts away from farms or seaports. So foods like sashimi which was not daily fare for every Japanese was becoming exactly that, and the green shiso leaves, developed as a garnish for sashimi, quickly began to gain ground.

The no. 1 producer of produce type shiso among the 47 todofuken in Japan is Aichi Prefecture, boasting 3,852 tons, representing 37.0% of national production (based on latest available FY2008 data).[56] Another source uses greenhouse-grown production of 3,528 tons as the figure better representation actual ōba production, and according to this, the prefecture has a 56% share.[14][57] The difference in percentage is an indicator that in Aichi, the leaves are 90% greenhouse produced, whereas nationwide, the ratio is just 60:40 in favor of indoors over open fields.[58]

As aforestated, Toyohashi, Aichi is the city which produces the most shiso vegetable in Japan.[13][59] They are followed in ranking by Namegata, Ibaraki.

There seems to be a growth spurt for shiso crops grown for industrial use. The data shows the following trend for crops targeted for oil and perfumery.[60]


  1. Oxford English Dictionary, 2008, "shiso". WordReference. Retrieved April 1, 2012., "shiso n. ... chiefly used as a herb in Japanese cookery"
  2. 1 2 query in the New York Times archives shows that "shiso" since 1981 had had 251 hits, and during 1990s - current, 243 , with 172 definitely in "+Japanese" context. Since 1981, perilla has 52 hits winnowed to only 12 in "+Japanese" context. Since 1981, occurrence of "beefsteak plant" scored 3 hits.
  3. Grbic, Nikolina; Pinker, Ina; Böhme, Michael (2016). "The Nutritional Treasure of Leafy Vegetables-Perilla frutescens" (PDF). Conference on International Research on Food Security, Natural Resource Management and Rural Development. Vienna, Austria. According to scientific nomenclature of Perilla two varieties are described: variety frutescens - mainly used in Korea as fresh vegetable or for making pickles, and variety crispa - a strongly branching crop mainly used in Japan and Vietnam, with smaller curly leaves rich in anthocyanins.
  4. Hu 2005, p.651
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Heibonsha 1969
  6. Shinmura 1976, Kōjien 2nd ed. revised. (1st ed. 1955, the linguist who edited the dictionary died 1967). Definition of shiso translates to: "Annual of mint family. Native to China. Grows to 60cm. Stalk is rectangular, leaves are purple-red and fragrant.. (description of flower and fruit).. Leaves and fruit..used as an edible aromatic, and to color umeboshi. Occurs in green and chirimen (ruffle-leaved) forms."
  7. Evidence abounds in restaurant reviews and food sections. In the NY Times archives, Burros, Marian (October 21, 1983). "Restaurants". Retrieved March 29, 2012., review of Gyosai restaurant, seems to be the earliest instance among hundreds of usage that have amassed over the years.
  8. Shimbo 2001, pp. 142-
  9. Yu, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.151, "Kondo (1931) and Kuroda and Wada (1935) isolated an anthocyanin pigment from purple Perilla leaves and gave it the name shisonin"
  10. 1 2 Tsuji & Fisher 2007,p.89
  11. Shimbo 2001,p.58
  12. 川上行蔵; 西村元三朗 (1990). 日本料理由来事典. . 朋舎出版. ISBN 978-4-8104-9116-6. ISBN 4-8104-9116-1., quoted by "ことばの話1249「大葉と紫蘇」". 道浦俊彦の平成ことば事情(Toshihiko Michiura's Heisei kotoba jijo. 2003-06-26. Retrieved April 2012. Check date values in: |access-date= (help): "..一九六一(昭和三十六)年ごろ、静岡県の、あるツマ物生産組合が、青大葉ジソの葉を摘んでオオバの名で大阪の市場に出荷.."
  13. 1 2 "JA豊橋ブランド(JA Toyohashi brand)". 2012. Retrieved April 2012. Check date values in: |access-date= (help), under heading "Tsumamono nippon-ichi"(つまもの生産日本一) states Toyhashi is Japan's no. 1 producer of both edible chrysanthemums and shiso
  14. 1 2 3 4 Okashin 2012 website pdf, p.174
  15. anonymous (March 1855), "List of Select and New Florists' Flowers" (google), The Floricultural cabinet, and florists' magazine, London: Simpkin,Marshall, & Co., 23: 62 "Perilla Nankinesnsis, a new and curious plant with crimsn leaves.."; An earlier issue (Vol. 21, Oct. 1853) , p.240, describe it being grown among the "New Annuals in the Horticultural Society's Garden"
  16. Tucker & DeBaggio 2009, p. 389, "name beefsteak plant.. from the bloody purple-red color.."
  17. Kenkyusha's (1954 edition) was verified.
  18. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Vaughan & Geissler 2009
  19. 1 2 He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.1 after Wilson et al., 1977
  20. Kays 2011, p.677-8
  21. He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.3
  22. He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.1 after Duke, 1988
  23. Foster & Yue 1992,p.306-8
  24. Roecklein & Leung 1987, p. 349
  25. Blaschek, Hänsel & Keller 1998, vol.3, p.328
  26. He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p. 37
  27. He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p. 3, citing:Tanaka, K. (1993), "Effects of Periilla", My Health (8): 152–153 (in Japanese).
  28. Nitta, Lee & Ohnishi 2003, p.245-
  29. Boning 2010, p. 149
  30. Tucker & DeBaggio 2009, p. 389
  31. He, Kosuna & Haga 1997 p.151
  32. Heibonsha 1964 encyc.
  33. Heibonsha 1964 Encycl. states egoma seeds are about 1.2 mm, slightly larger than shiso seeds. However, egoma seeds being grown currently can be much larger.
  34. Oikawa & Toyama 2008, p. 5, egoma, sometimes classed P.frutescens var. Japonica, exhibited sizes of 1.4 mm < sieve caliber <2.0 mm for black seeds and 1.6 mm < sieve caliber <2.0 mm for white seeds.
  35. This is based on 650 seeds/gram reported by a purveyor Nicky's seeds; this is in ballpark with "The ABCs of Seed Importation into Canada". Canadian Food Inspection Agency. Retrieved 2012-03-31. also quotes 635 per gram, though it is made unclear which variety
  36. Hyo-Sun Shin, in He, Kosuna & Haga 1997, p.93-, citing Tsuyuki et al., 1978
  37. Esaki, Osamu(江崎治) (2006), "生活習慣病予防のための食事・運動療法の作用機序に関する研究", 日本栄養 食糧学会誌 (Proceedings of the JSNFS), 59 (5): 326 gives 58%
  38. Hiroi 2009, p. 35, gives 62.3% red, 65.4% green shiso
  39. Liu, J.-H.; Steigel, A.; Reininger, E.; Bauer, R. (2000). "Two new prenylated 3-benzoxepin derivatives as cyclooxygenase inhibitors from Perilla frutescens var. acuta". J. Nat. Prod. 63 (3): 403–405. doi:10.1021/np990362o.
  40. 1 2 Mouritsen 2009, pp. 110–112, Sushi book written by a Danish biophysicist
  41. Ogawa, Toshio(小川敏男 (1978). つけもの(tsukemono) (preview). Hoiku-sha (保育社). p. 115. ISBN 978-4-586-50423-7. ISBN an illustrated guide to making shibazuke (text Japanese)
  42. Larkcom 2007, Oriental Vegetables
  43. Fujita, Satoshi(藤田智) (2009). 体においしい野菜づくり (preview). PHP研究所. p. 78. ISBN 978-4-569-70610-8. ISBN 4-569-70610-X., written by a horticulture professor at Keisen University and well-known gardening tipster on TV. quote:"発芽した双葉「芽ジソ(青ジソのアオメ、赤ジソのムラメ)」"
  44. Tsuji & Fisher 2007, p.164, commits this error, even though the book explains elsewhere, under the section dedicated to shiso that the "tiny sprouts (mejiso)" are used (p.89).
  45. Ishikawa 1997, p.108 Photograph shows both green shiso sprouts (aome) and slightly larger red shiso sprouts (mura me) with true leaves
  46. Google search using keywords "芽ジソ"+"間引き" (Japanese for mejiso and thinning) turns up many examples, but mostly blogs, etc.
  47. Andoh & Beisch, pp. 12,26–7
  48. Used as such by Japanese-American author, Andoh & Beisch 2005pp.26-7
  49. "名前の由来 (origin to its name)". Mishima foods webpage.
  50. Shinmura 1976, Kōjien 2nd ed. revised
  51. Rutledge, Bruce. Kūhaku & Other Accounts from Japan (preface). pp. 218–9. ISBN 978-0-974199-50-4. ISBN 0-974199-50-8. gives this tarako and shiso spaghetti recipe
  53. "Vietnamese Perilla (Tia To)". Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  54. Kindaichi 1997; 2nd ed.:「紫蘇一畑に作る一年草。ぎざぎざのある葉は紫(緑)色..」
  55. MAFF-stat 2012b, FY2009, title: "Vegetables: Domestic Production Breakdown (野菜の国内生産量の内訳)" , Excel button (h001-21-071.xls)
  56. Aichi Prefecture (2011). "愛知の特産物(平成21年)". Retrieved April 2012. Check date values in: |access-date= (help), starred data is FY2008 data.
  57. Both these numbers square with MAFF-stat 2012a figures
  58. MAFF-stat 2012a
  59. This can be derived from MAFF-stat 2012a, with minimal data analysis. Aichi produces four times as much as the 2nd ranked Ibaraki Prefecture and Toyohashi grew 48% of it, so about double any other prefectural total.
  60. MAFF-stat 2012c


(Herb books)
  • Larkcom, Joy (2007). Oriental Vegetables (preview). Frances Lincoln. pp. 112–. ISBN 978-0-7112-2612-8. ISBN 0-7112-2612-1. 
(Nutrition and chemistry)
  • O'Brien-Nabors, Lyn (2011), Alternative Sweeteners (preview), CRC Press, p. 235, ISBN 978-1-4398-4614-8 
  • Yu, He-Ci; Kosuna, Kenichi; Haga, Megumi (1997), Perilla: the genus Perilla (preview), Medicinal and aromatic plants--industrial profiles, 2, CRC Press, ISBN 978-90-5702-171-8, ISBN 90-5702-171-4 , pp. 26–7
(Japanese dictionaries)
  • Shinmura, Izuru (1976). 広辞苑(Kōjien). Iwanami. . Japanese dictionary.
  • Heibonsha (1969) [1968], "しそ", 世界百科事典(Sekai hyakka jiten), Heibonsha, 10, pp. 246–7  (world encyclopedia, in Japanese). The botany section by Yoshisuke, Satake (佐竹義輔); agricultural and nutrition by Nishi, Sadao (西貞夫); culinary section by Motoyama,Tekishū (本山荻舟).
  • Kindaichi, Kyosuke(金田一京助) (1997), 新明解国語辞典(Shin Meikai Kokugo Jiten)(5th ed.), 三省堂, ISBN 978-4-385-13099-6 
(Japanese misc. sites)
  • Okashin; Okazaki Shinkni Bank(岡崎信用金庫). "あいちの地場産業". Retrieved April 2012.  Check date values in: |access-date= (help): right navbar "9 農業(野菜)"
(Ministry statistics)

External links

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