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 frutescens extract 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
A typical dosage of perilla should supply 50–200 mg of rosmarinic acid daily. Perilla also contains luteolin, a substance that may also have anti-allergic actions.10,11 For this reason perilla products are often enriched with luteolin as well, typically providing 5–10 mg daily.
In the small clinical trials and animal studies conducted thus far, use of perilla and/or rosmarinic acid has not been associated with significant adverse effects. Due to the wide use of perilla in Asian cooking, as well as the prevalence of rosmarinic acid in many spices, these substances are assumed to have a relatively high level of safety. However, comprehensive safety testing has not been reported. Safety in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease has not been established.
Osakabe N, Takano H, Sanbongi C, et al. Anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic effect of rosmarinic acid (RA); inhibition of seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis (SAR) and its mechanism. Biofactors. 2005;21:127–31.
Takano H, Osakabe N, Sanbongi C, et al. Extract of Perilla frutescens enriched for rosmarinic acid, a polyphenolic phytochemical, inhibits seasonal allergic rhinoconjunctivitis in humans. Exp Biol Med (Maywood). 2004;229:247–54.
Makino T, Furuta Y, Wakushima H, et al. Anti-allergic effect of Perilla frutescens and its active constituents. Phytother Res. 2003;17:240–3.
Makino T, Furuta A, Fujii H, et al. Effect of oral treatment of Perilla frutescens and its constituents on type-I allergy in mice. Biol Pharm Bull. 2001;24:1206–9.
Renzulli C, Galvano F, Pierdomenico L, et al. Effects of rosmarinic acid against aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin-A-induced cell damage in a human hepatoma cell line (Hep G2). J Appl Toxicol. 2004;24:289–96.
Osakabe N, Yasuda A, Natsume M, et al. Rosmarinic acid inhibits epidermal inflammatory responses: anticarcinogenic effect of Perilla frutescens extract in the murine two-stage skin model. Carcinogenesis. 2004;25:549–57.
Youn J, Lee KH, Won J, et al. Beneficial effects of rosmarinic acid on suppression of collagen induced arthritis. J Rheumatol. 2003;30:1203–7.
Makino T, Ono T, Matsuyama K, et al. Suppressive effects of Perilla frutescens on IgA nephropathy in HIGA mice. Nephrol Dial Transplant. 2003;18:484–90.
Takeda H, Tsuji M, Inazu M, et al. Rosmarinic acid and caffeic acid produce antidepressive-like effect in the forced swimming test in mice. Eur J Pharmacol. 2002;449:261–7.
Baolin L, Weiwei W, Ning T. Topical application of luteolin inhibits scratching behavior associated with allergic cutaneous reaction in mice. Planta Med. 2005;71:424–8.
Ueda H, Yamazaki C. Luteolin as an anti-inflammatory and antiallergic constituent of Perilla frutescens. BiolPharm Bull. 2002;25:1197–202.
Last reviewed September 2014 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.