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 Perilla frutescens

Other Names: Ao Shiso, Beefsteak plant, Ji Soo, Perilla, Purple Perilla, Shiso, Wild basil, Wild red basil, Chinese basil, Purple mint, Rattlesnake weed, Summer coleus

Annual herb of the mint family native to E. Asia, it is a traditional crop of China, India, Japan, Korea, Thailand, and other Asian countries. Perilla was brought to the United States in the late 1800s by Asian immigrants. It has quickly naturalized and become a common weed of pastures and roadsides in the southeastern United States. Found growing in sunny open fields, roadsides, waste places and open woodlands. Cultivation is very easy Perilla prefers light to medium moist well-drained and rich soil in full sun. Perilla is a very attractive plant for the garden and attracts butterflies. It’s deep purple stems and purple to red tinted leaves last all summer and fall. It is a very aromatic plant, with a strong minty smell. Growing up to 4 feet tall when in bloom, the stems are square, reddish-purple and branching. The leaves are large, up to 6 in. in diameter, petioled, opposite, ovate and serrate, edges ruffled or curly, dark green tinted red to purple (especially on the underside) and hairy. Sometimes the leaves are so large and red that they remind one of a slice of raw beef, hence the name beefsteak plant. The flower spikes are long, up to 10 in. and born in the leaf axils. Flowers are small about 1/4-inch long and tubular, pink to lavender and numerous. After blooming from July to October, they leave their calyx on the spike to cover the seed pod, shake the dry seed stalks and it rattles like a rattlesnake. That's how the plant got one of its common names (rattlesnake weed). Perilla is often confused with purple Basil and used for the same purposes. Gather the edible tender leaves from the plant tops anytime. Gather entire plant in bloom and dry for later use.

Perilla is edible and medicinal. The leaves have a very pleasant sweet taste and are used as a spice, cooked as potherbs or fried, and combined with fish, rice, vegetables and soups. It is also chopped and combined with gingerroot, then added to stir-fries, tempuras and salads in many Asian countries. The plant also supplies a nutritious cooking oil from the seed, as well as giving color and flavor to many pickled dishes. In the United States the essential oil of the plant is used as a food flavoring in candies and sauces. It is used as a flavoring in dental products and at one time, it was one of the main ingredients in sarsaparilla. The entire plant is very nutritious, packed with vitamins and minerals, and one of the aldehyde isomers found in Perilla is 2,000 times as sweet as sugar. There are many scientifically proven medicinal uses for Perilla. It has been used for centuries in Oriental medicine as an antiasthmatic, antibacterial, antidote, antimicrobial, antipyretic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antitussive, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, emollient, expectorant, pectoral, restorative, stomachic and tonic. The plant constituents confirm these uses in alternative medicine and ongoing studies have revealed that this plant is useful in curing many cancers as well as various other diseases and disorders. Further research has isolated such constituents as apigenin, ascorbic-acid, beta-carotene, caffeic-acid, citral, dillapiol, elemicin, limonene, luteolin, myristicin, perillaldehyde, protocatechuic-acid, quercetin, rosmarinic-acid, and more, to numerous to mention. It is a pungent, aromatic, warming herb. An infusion of the plant is useful in the treatment of asthma, colds, cough and lung afflictions, influenza prevention, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, food poisoning and allergic reactions (especially from seafood), and to restore health and balance. The stems are a traditional Chinese remedy for morning sickness and restless fetus in pregnancy, though some say the herb should be avoided by pregnant women. Perilla seed oil has been used in paints, varnishes, linoleum, printing ink, lacquers, and for protective waterproof coatings on cloth. Volatile oils of the plant are also used in aroma therapy and for perfume. The seed heads can be collected and dried for use in arrangements, potpourris and wreaths. The crushed plant also makes an effective insecticide.

In Asia, centuries ago, ceremonies were conducted before harvesting the plant, it was considered to be alive and was held as sacred, sent by God as food and medicine to treat all ailments of man. Disrespect for the plant meant death, anyone caught stepping on the plant would himself be trampled to death!

"Medicinal" tea: To cup dry herb add 1 pint of boiling water, allow to steep 10 to 15 min. Drink throughout the day for colds, flu, sore throat, and congestion. Also can be boiled and the steam inhaled to clear the sinuses.

Herb Garden

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Garden Jungle

My garden begins with a patch of grass, in front, which is the only grass you will see.

The rest is paths and small garden beds, including all size trees, bushes, perennial flowers.

On the west side of the drive in front is a catalpa tree entertwined by a trumpet vine and surrounded by horehound and apple mint.

On the east side of the drive os a patch of black eyed susans (domestic and wild), phlox, snow on the mountain, euchanesia (cone flower), and lemon balm and a small mulberry tree that has been bonsaied.

In front along the east side are fur trees, mulberry trees, maple trees, forsythia bush, yucci plant, bushes, day lilies.

In front along the west side is a maple tree english ivy, lily of the valley, fire bush, iris, day lilies,phlox, rudbedkia, bee balm, holly, crab apple tree, peach tree, foam bush, foam plant , pink spirea,

Across the front is row of azaleas entertwined with English ivy, bishops weed (also known as snow on the mountain). Eynonymous plants, adjuga, silver king or queen artemesia.

In the center of the yard are two fur trees, chocolate mint, pineapple mint, lemon balm, hostas, japanese maple.

In the back are several mints, mugwort, perilla and on the west side is a scarlet hawthorne tree, ginkgo tree, and purple smoke tree.

Lemon Balm

Lemon Balm-In 1696 ‘The London Dispensary’, reported that ‘balm in
wine, taken every morning, would renew youth, strengthen
the brain, relieve languishing nature and prevent baldness’.
The wine was also taken for headaches, nervous disorders, to
reduce fevers, prevent nightmares, as a tonic, and a remedy
for impotence. The Arabs revered balm for its healing,
soothing, calming powers; and as a remedy for heart
palpitations, eye ailments, nervousness, prevent miscarriages,
to strengthen the memory, and prolong the life of man. They
believed it also gave intelligence to all animals that fed on it.
Several handfuls were fed to animals morning and night.
For anyone who drinks lemon balm regularly, they will
know the calming, relaxing and refreshing benefits. Students
studying for exams have shared with me, how drinking the
tea, has helped to clear the head, sharpen the memory, and
calmed their butterflies before and during exams.

Chocolate Mint

Chocolate Mint


Artemisia vulgaris

  Mugwort is a slightly different species than Wormwood, but of the same genus (and oils).  Mugwort has an irritant which limits the ability for deep sleep.  Hence, it’s use as a “Dream Pillow” ingredient (allowing only low alphoid activity).

From a chemistry point-of-view,  there is very little difference in where this crop is harvested.   It does like a drier and hotter climate, but the herb grows in almost every state.  It is like Catnip, with no real cultivar variations.

This irritant, when combined with other specific chemistries, may also act as a light depressant.  This is especially true when combined with Passion Flower and Lobelia.   Tinctured, other fatty oils become involved, making it a light euphoric or aphrodisiac. 
For pet lovers this herb used along with wormwood (southernwood; shown below) makes a good remedy for heart worm in dogs.

Wormwood - Southernwood


Recipe For Horehound Candy:

1. Make a strong horehound infusion: Boil one cup of fresh leaves with two cups of water for ten minutes. Let steep for five minutes and then strain.

2. To make horehound candy: Use one cup of horehound infusion to two cups of white sugar. Place sugar in small saucepan and stir in 1/8th teaspoon cream of tartar, then add the horehound infusion. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then cook over low heat until it reaches 290 Fahrenheit degrees on a candy thermometer. [Or until a drop of the cooked infusion in cold water becomes a hard, glossy ball.] Pour on a buttered plate and score into cough drop sizes when it is semi-hardened. When cool, break apart into sections and store in a cool place until used.
Apple Mint
Pineapple Mint

German Chamomile

Please get in touch with any comments or reactions to my site.
Converse, Indiana
Herbs $1.00 and ounce

to be continued