Sweet and medicinal uses for Japanese shiso

February 26, 2016

Shiso is a herb essential for Japanese cuisine. The volatile oil extracted from its leaves contains a substance 20,000 times sweeter than sugar, and is also used as a sweetener in Japan. To learn more about the possible uses of shiso, read on.

Sweet and medicinal uses for Japanese shiso

Using shiso in the kitchen

  • Fresh shiso leaves can be used raw in salad, as a garnish and in condiments.
  • Red shiso contains coloured substances that are used to colour the food pink and also act as preservatives.
  • The seeds and leaves have antibacterial properties that help protect against food poisoning by seafood or raw fish (sashimi).
  • The green flowering shoots can be cooked in soups or tempura, while the sprouting seeds can be added to salads or savoury condiments.
  • In Japan, shiso leaves are used to wrap some specialties, such as sushi. They are also used to add colour and flavour to pickled plums and Japanese ginger.
  • Red shiso is more commonly used to cook with than green, but green shiso is more often used as a garnish.
  • There are different varieties of shiso used in Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese and Korean cuisine.
  • Warning: Do not exceed the quantities used in cooking if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Herbal medecine

  • Parts used: leaves, seeds.
  • Shiso has been used in traditional Japanese medecine (kampo), and Chinese herbal medecine for centuries. It is often prescribed in combination with other herbs to treat colds, flu and coughs, and to stimulate appetite, and relieve nausea and bloating.
  • It is also effective against hayfever and dermatitis. It is an essential ingredient in saiboku-to, a Japanese herbal preparation used to treat allergy problems. Laboratory tests have confirmed the anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory properties of shiso extract.

Clinical trials have given promising results of taking shiso orally to fight the symptoms of hayfever, including watery and irritated eyes. Improvements were also seen in cases of allergic dermatitis, after topical application of a cream containing shiso.

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