Zi Su Ye – Perilla Leaf – “Purple Relaxing Leaf”

Nature: acrid, warm

Enters: Lung, Spleen

Actions: Releases exterior syndromes by dispersing cold (mild); eases distention of the chest and epigastrium; promotes Qi circulation, expands the chest; alleviates seafood poisoning; calms a restless fetus, alleviates morning sickness.


• Wind-cold: fever, aversion to cold, headache, nasal congestion, cough, chest discomfort or stifling sensation in the chest.
• Spleen and stomach Qi stagnation: distended chest, vomiting, morning sickness, poor appetite, nausea, bloating.
• Seafood poisoning: abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea.
• Morning sickness: best to use the stem (Zi su geng) rather than the leaf.
• Its ability to release the exterior is mild compared to Ma huang and Gui zhi, but it is stronger than Jing jie and Fang feng at dispersing cold.
• Excellent for treating turbidity.
• Short cook.
Hsu: Extract prolongs duration of sleep.
HF: A San Du, scattering toxin medicinal, typically found in Gu Zheng (Gu parasites) formulas (key herb in Su He Tang).
Li Dong Yuan: Upbears Yang Qi.
DY: Zi su (the leaves [Zi su ye] and stems [Zi su geng] of Perilla) can be combined with Huang lian to clear stomach heat, dry dampness, rectify the Qi, and stop vomiting. For the following indications, ginger mix-fried Huang lian should be used:
– 1. Vomiting and nausea due to stomach heat or damp-heat in the middle burner along with Qi stagnation in the middle burner.
– 2. Vomiting during pregnancy due to heat or damp-heat along with Qi stagnation in the middle burner.
Zi su geng (the stem) moves the Qi, opens the center, rectifies the Qi, quiets the fetus, and particularly treats vomiting due to pregnancy, threatened miscarriage, and epigastric or abdominal distention.
Zi su ye and Zi su geng are often combined and added to formulas to treat plum pit sensation or wind-cold attacks with food stagnation or vomiting.
BF: The contemporary standard description of Perilla is that it is acrid and warm, it enters the Lungs and spleen, and its functions are to effuse the exterior, scatter cold, rectify the Qi, and harmonize the constructive. It treats wind-cold flu, aversion to cold, emission of heat, cough, qi panting, chest and abdominal distention and fullness, and restless stirring of the fetus.
While all the sources quoted in the Zhong Yao Da Ci Dian (Large Dictionary of Chinese Medicinals) say that this medicinal is acrid and warm, the Ben Cao Yan Yi (Amplified Meaning Materia Medica) says that Perilla is only slightly acrid and also sweet. The Ben Cao Jing Shu (Oversights in the Materia Medica Classic) says its enters the hand Shaoyin and Taiyin and the foot Yangming, while the Ben Cao Jing Jie (Explaining the Materia Medica Classic) says it enters the foot Jueyin and hand Taiyin. In terms of functions and indications, the Ri Hua Zi Ben Cao (Ri Hua-zi’s Materia Medica) says it supplements the center and boosts the Qi as well as frees the flow of the large and small intestines. The Ben Cao Tu Jing (Illustrated Materia Medica Classic) says it frees the flow of the heart channel and boosts the spleen and stomach. These other historical opinions suggest there is more to Perilla than its just resolving the exterior and downbearing upwardly counterflowing Lung and stomach Qi.
Restless fetal stirring refers to lower abdominal pain with leakage of blood from the vaginal meatus and low back pain during pregnancy. These are symptoms of threatened miscarriage. Most threatened and/or unstoppable miscarriages in my practice are due to insufficient production of progesterone. This usually goes hand in hand with a luteal phase deficiency and is, in my opinion, commonly due to autoimmune ovaritis. Such luteal phase deficiencies and progesterone insufficiencies in 35-50 year old Western women are overwhelmingly accompanied by signs and symptoms of spleen Qi-kidney Yang vacuity complicated by liver depression and possible damp heat, depressive heat, and/or blood stasis, and it is very interesting to me that Perilla is accepted as an empirically effective Chinese medicinal for quieting the fetus – something one would not expect from an exterior-resolving herb.
The Ben Cao Tong Xuan (The Mystery-penetrating Materia Medica) says that Perilla may discharge (drain) a person’s true Qi if administered for a long period of time. Resolving the exterior means to promote sweating and sweating always results in a loss of true Yin and Yang Qi.
However, when combined with Mume, this medicinal’s negative effects of discharging and draining are counterbalanced. As an exterior-resolving medicinal, Perilla is contraindicated in Yin vacuity patterns for fear of further damaging Yin fluids, but Mume engenders fluids. Likewise, over-effusing and out-thrusting can damage the Yang qi, but Mume’s astringing and securing of the Lung Qi prevents this.

Dose: 3-9g

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *