Nearly 10 years ago, I began having serious issues with my wrists due to piano practice. What finally did one of my wrists in – the right one, unfortunately – was a stupid occupational hazard that just slightly twisted my wrist uncomfortably. Nothing was broken nor damaged, per se. But I soon had regular muscle pains in my right wrist – so bad sometimes that I could not turn a doorknob with that hand and, most of the time, had to be careful washing dishes or lifting a pot by its handle. This lasted for 1-2 months.
So, I tried Ben-gay, then those minty, sticky bandages that do wonders to relieve muscle pains – all to no avail. Finally, my mom – who believes there’s a tea for every ailment – suggested Perilla frutescens, which is also know as Shi So (in Japanese) or Zi Su (in Chinese). Perilla, a member of the mint family, grows as abundantly as the mint, easily filling your garden or your house with its wonderful aroma, fresh or cooked.
I tried Perilla for a week and fell in love with it. Then, for two weeks, and my right wrist was giving me less and less problems as I tried doing manual motions, like opening a door, turning the steering wheel, lifting a textbook or my laptop. Less than a month – when I couldn’t even pinpoint the exact moment when the pain all stopped – my right wrist was healed. I could twist my wrist around on its socket, and it caused me no problems. I could play the piano again. Then I stopped thinking of both of my wrists as fragile body parts – taking them for granted again – because there were no more pain.
I can also attest to its treatment for respiratory conditions (see below). For six or more months after I had a bad cold that affected my sinuses, the stuffiness would not go away. Once again, my mother suggested Perilla. After drinking the tea heavily for about six to eight weeks, the stuffiness finally cleared.
To make Perilla tea: Drop half a dozen to a dozen dried hawthorne berries – for a slightly tart flavor, among other benefits – in a small pot of water, filled up near the brim. Boil until the water fills up 2/3 of the pot. Drop half a dozen leaves of dried Perilla into the boiling water and let it boil, then simmer until the tea – now a deep crimson color – is reduced to 1/2 of the pot. Pour the tea – liquid only – into a cup, and add honey; you can use the remains to make one more cup of tea by adding fresh water to the brim and boiling. Yum! To this day, it’s my favorite tea.
Where to find it: In Japanese restaurants, umeboshi (plum pickled with perilla) is sometimes served as a garnish. Sometimes, leaves are wrapped around pickled plum or even sushi. In the United States, Perilla can be found growing wildly on roadsides. If you pick the seeds from the Perilla found on roadsides and bring it to your garden, you will have an unlimited crop in no time. Bring a photo of Perilla with you, just in case. Perilla comes in both green and red. The green Perilla tea tastes stronger, while the red Perilla tea is more aromatic. Otherwise, you can ask for it at your local Chinese grocery store – they usually come in the dried version, with leaves only.
What else: Perilla is also a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce cardiovascular problems. It has also been used to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma, stuffy chests, colds and coughs; used as an antidote to possible food poisoning; used to quell nausea and/or vomiting; used to prevent blood clots and tumors, to reduce cholesterol levels; used for its anti-inflammatory properties; among others. In addition, it has helped everyone in the family combat insomnia, at one point or another. We believe that its other healthy properties contribute to allowing a better (and deeper) night’s sleep
Who’s done the research:
- Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton contains natural substances that increase the activity of phagocytes in vivo and in vitro and stimulate phagocytosis. – Simoniene G, et al. The influence of common perilla (Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton) on non-specific cell-mediated immunity–phagocytosis activity. Medicina (Kaunas) 41(12):1042-7, 2005
- Perilla seed oil-rich supplementation is useful for the treatment of asthma in terms of suppression of LTB4 and LTC4 generation by leucocytes, and improvement of pulmonary function. – Okamoto M, et al. Effects of Dietary Supplementation with n-3 Fatty Acids Compared with n-6 Fatty Acids on Bronchial Asthma. Internal Medicine 39:107-111, 2000
- Perilla’s medicinal raw material and preparations produced of it are characterized by the variety of pharmacological effects: desensitizing, antimicrobial, antitumorous, and antioxidative. – Ragazinskiene O, et al. Common perilla as a perspective immunomodulator. Medicina (Kaunas) 40(3), 2004
- Considerable attention has recently been devoted to the anti-allergic, anti-inflammatory, and antitumor-promoting substances in perilla plants. Rosamirinic acid and α-linolenic acid have been reported as anti-inflammatory and anti-allergic substances, and luteolin as an anti-inflammatory and antitumor-promoting substance in perilla leaves and seeds. – Banno N, et al. Triterpene Acids from the Leaves of Perilla frutescens and Their Anti-inflammatory and Antitumor-promoting Effects. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem 68(1):85-90, 2004