AppearancePerilla is an annual plant growing 60–90 centimetres tall, with hairy square stalks.
The leaves are opposite, 7–12 centimetres long and 5–8 centimetres wide, with a broad oval shape, pointy ends, serrated margins, and long leafstalks. The leaves are green with occasional touches of purple on the underside.
The flowers bloom on racemes at the end of branches and the main stalk in late summer. The calyx, 3–4 millimetres long, consist of upper three sepals and the hairy lower two. The corolla is 4–5 millimetres long with its lower lip longer than the upper. Two of the four stamens are long.
The fruit is a schizocarp, 2 millimetres in diameter, and with reticulate pattern on the outside. Perilla seeds can be soft or hard, being white, grey, brown, and dark brown in colour and globular in shape. 1000 seeds weigh about 4 grams . Perilla seeds contain about 38-45% lipid.
NamingAlong with other plants in the genus ''Perilla'', the plant is commonly called "perilla". It is also referred to as "Korean perilla", due to its extensive cultivation in Korea and use in Korean cuisine. In Korean, the name ''kkae'' refers to both the plant and the seed of sesame and perilla. Sesame is called ''chamkkae'' , while perilla is called ''deulkkae'' . Because of this, ''deulkkae'' is sometimes mistranslated as "wild sesame". It is called ''egoma'' in Japanese, and ''sūzi'' or ''zĭsū'' in Chinese.
The leaves are called "perilla", "perilla leaves", or "Korean perilla leaves" in English, and ''kkaennip'' in Korean. It is called ''sūyè'' or ''sūziyè'' in Chinese.
In the USA, where the plant has become a weed, the plant is known by many names such as perilla mint, beefsteak plant, purple perilla, Chinese basil, wild basil, blueweed, Joseph's coat, wild coleus and rattlesnake weed.
DefenseVarious perilla varieties are used for traditional medicine in Southeast Asia. Leaves of ''P. frutescens'' var. ''crispa'' are more often used than var. ''frutescens'' in China for the supposed medicinal properties.
Characteristic aroma-active phytochemicals in perilla leaves include hydrocarbons, alcohols, aldehydes, furans, and ketones, particularly perilla ketone, egoma ketone, and isoegoma ketone. Other compounds include perillaldehyde, limonene, linalool, beta-caryophyllene, menthol, and alpha-pinene. The ''crispa'' variety is differentiated by leaf and stem colors, which vary from green to red to purple, indicating the presence of anthocyanins.
Although perilla is widely cultivated as an edible plant for humans, it is toxic to cattle and other ruminants, as well as horses. In grazing cattle, plant ketones cause acute respiratory distress syndrome, also called "panting disease".
UsesAn edible plant, perilla is a very attractive plant for the garden and attracts butterflies. It is an aromatic plant with a strong minty smell. Various perilla varieties are traditionally used by local people, the leaves are used as a vegetable and the seeds supply nutritious cooking oil. A variety of this plant, ''P. frutescens'' var. ''crispa'' or "shiso", is widely grown and is one of the most popular garnishes in Japan, used as an antidote for ﬁsh and crab meat allergy or as a food colorant. In the United States, perilla is a weed pest, toxic to cattle after ingestion.
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