Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Perilla - A Garden Favorite for Tummy Trouble

A photo of Perilla that I took at Bastyr University in Seattle. 

Perilla is one herb that I always have growing in the garden.  It is simple to grow from seed and once it gets started is self sows easily.  It doesn't need any special attention.  The scientific name is Perilla frutesces, but other names include Beef Steak Plant and Shiso.  The Chinese name for the plant is Zi Su, or purple fish-smell.  It does have an odd smell and mild pungent flavor.  Different parts of the plant are used in Chinese Medicine, the leaves Zi Su Ye, the seeds Zi Su Zi and the stems Zi Su Geng.  It is used traditionally to relieve nausea and vomiting, for morning sickess, and seafood poisoning.  I use the leaves exclusively.  

Perilla leaf up close under the microscope.

The first time I used fresh perilla leaf was when my daughter Moira was a baby or toddler.    I forget exactly how old she was, but she had been vomiting.  It is so sad to see little kids sick like that when they are so young.  What I did was just take a new leaf of Perilla and chew it up a bit first and then give it to her.  It really cleared up the vomiting right away.  I know that there was at least one other occasion to use it.  The perilla is very safe for pregnant women with vomiting also.  I have also tinctured perilla to have on hand to use in the winter when no fresh herb is available.  

Here we were on a day when she was feeling her normal happy self.  This picture is from our old house on Palmetto Ave in Daytona.

It had been a while since I had needed to use any Perilla, but this week Tessa had an upset stomach too.  She threw up before bed, then again in the morning.  I was so glad that I have always let this 'weed' go to seed.  Tessa is an avid gardener and always happy to try new vegetables or edible weeds in the garden.  She even likes tasting my herbal tinctures by the drop.   Her she is watering my Rosemary bush that she likes to take little bites of.

Tessa watering the plants.

But after being so sick and throwing up, Tessa was not her usual self.  She was scared to try a new leaf or a new tincture.  Luckily for me I was able to reason with her.  She is such a smart little girl.  I told her that when her sister Moira was a baby, I gave her the Perilla leaf to eat when she was sick and it made her feel better.  Tessa looked at me very seriously and took 3 very small bite of a quarter-sized new Perilla leaf.  After that there was no more vomiting, so I was very happy.  I put 3-5 drops of tincture in her milk the rest of the day just to be cautious.

Perilla is such a common herb.  I found seeds easily for my Perilla on a Garden Swap Forum.

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