A member of the mint family, perilla is used in a variety of Asian foods to add both flavor and color. It is also grown ornamentally in gardens.

The stem of the plant is used in Chinese medicine for treatment of morning sickness. The leaves are said to be helpful for asthma, colds and flus, and other lung problems.

Recently, extracts of perilla have undergone study as a treatment for allergic rhinitis(hay fever). Perilla contains high levels of the substance rosmarinic acid (also found in the herb rosemary and many other plants). Rosmarinic acid appears to have anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic actions.1 In a 3-week double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 29 people with seasonal allergic rhinitis, participants were given one of three treatments: placebo, Perilla frutescensextract enriched to contain 50 mg of rosmarinic acid, or an extract enhanced to contain 200 mg of rosmarinic acid.2 The results showed that both perilla products reduced symptoms to a greater extent than placebo.

Animal studies hint that perilla might also be useful for a different type of allergy: the severe, rapid reaction known as anaphylaxis, commonly associated with shellfish, peanut, and bee-sting allergies.3,4

Very weak evidence suggests that rosmarinic acid and/or perilla may have anti-cancer effects 5,6 and might also have benefits for rheumatoid arthritis and other autoimmune diseases 7,8 as well as depression.9