Perilla leaf oil, also called shiso leaf oil, is the oil extracted from the leaves of the perilla plant (Perilla frutescens). Unlike the seeds, the leaves yield much less oil and boast different properties but are nonetheless surprisingly nutritious. The oil obtained from them is just as aromatic as the volatile oils in the leaves that are transferred into it. The principal constituents in perilla leaf oil are limonene, perillene, beta-caryophyllene, myristicin, linalool, citral, beta-farnesene, perilla ketone, l-perillaldehyde, perillyl alcohol, rosmarinic acid and more.
The leaves of the red-purple perrila varieties contain antioxidant pigments in the form of anthocyanins and flavones. While perilla seeds may contain anywhere from 35 to 45% oil, the leaves yield less than 1% oil. Unlike the seed oil, which is extremely rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and specific anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, the leaf oil is rich in volatile compounds with antiallergic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anticarcinogenic, anxyolitic, and antidepressive effects. However, some of these compounds may also possess mildly toxic properties in certain circumstances.
Despite its many health benefits, perilla leaf oil should not be consumed in the same manner as the seed oil. Certain compounds in the leaves hold mildly toxic properties and ingesting large amounts may prove harmful. Eating the leaves doesn’t pose the same health risks because the amount one can ingest in normal conditions is too little for the special compounds in them to produce visible effects (see Properties and Benefits of Shiso or Perilla Leaves). However, cattle and other grazing animals may ingest large enough amounts of perilla leaves growing freely in the wild and exhibit symptoms of toxicity.
What does perilla leaf oil smell like? The leaf oil has a mild, green, peppery, minty fresh, but overall pleasant, herbal, slightly woody fragrance. Because of the volatile compounds in the leaves, the plant is quite famous for its leaf oil which is used in cosmetics and the perfume industry. Perilla leaf oil derives its health effects from the properties of its specific compounds, particularly volatile oils, terpenes, and rosmarinic acid. According to research, the oil boasts the following health effects:
1) Decreases sensitivity to certain allergens. Perilla leaf oil is has been considered as a good natural substitute for traditional antihistamines for seasonal allergies. Regular antihistamine medication may cause a wide range of side effects some people might experience at a more intense level than others (such as excessive drowsiness). Perilla leaf oil has been found to be a great substitute for them, having natural antihistamine properties in the sense that it decreases sensitivity to certain allergens by reducing the body’s production of specific mediators that engender inflammatory responses.
Perilla leaf extract and perilla seed oil hold similarly potent effects which can be attributed primarily to the compound rosmarinic acid. Professional medical advice is required before pursuing this form of alternative treatment.
2) Strong antioxidant properties. Various compounds in perilla leaf oil boast antioxidant properties. Antioxidants scavenge free radicals, reactive oxygen molecules which cause oxidative stress in the body. Oxidative stress engenders inflammation and encourages the development of degenerative chronic diseases. By limiting free radical damage, antioxidants in perilla leaf oil help ward off chronic diseases such as cancer, neurodegenerative conditions, cardiovascular disease, diabetes etc.
3) Anticancer action. Luteolin and rosmarinic acid, two compounds found in perilla leaves, exhibit anticancer effects, with studies revealing they can induce apoptosis (a sort of programmed cell death) in tumour cells. Luteolin also inhibits angiogenesis, the process that favors tumour growth and cancer cell proliferation (Comparative study of anti-angiogenic activities of luteolin, lectin and lupeol biomolecules). The anticarcinogenic effects of perilla and its oils and extract have been studied on kidney, lung and skin carcinogenesis.
4) Reduces inflammation. Perilla seed and leaf oil both exhibit anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation has been found to contribute to the development of many types of chronic, degenerative diseases and learning to keep it under control can prove important both for life quality and life expectancy in the long run. The anti-inflammatory action of the oil is also responsible for the antiallergic effects it exhibits, inhibiting histamine production in the body.
5) Helps with anxiety and stress relief. Beta-caryophyllene is a compound in perilla leaves and leaf oil that boasts anxiolytic, antidepressant and neuroprotective effects. Apigenin, another component of perilla leaf oil, exhibits antidepressant properties. In other words, the oil is said to help improve anxiety and depression, but medical advice is in order before pursuing it as a form of alternative treatment. Perilla leaf oil can also be successfully used for aromatherapy to reduce stress and improve anxiety.
6) Beneficial for the nervous system. According to research, certain compounds in perilla leaf oil exhibit neuroprotective effects, meaning they offer protection against degenerative neurological disorders, notably Parkinson’s disease. The stress relieving properties of the oil may further contribute to brain health and improve brain function.
Also see Properties and Benefits of Perilla Seed Oil.
Conclusion. Despite being less popular than the seed oil, perilla leaf oil boasts several rather impressive health properties, provided it is taken according to the recommendations of a medical professional. Its most prominent compounds boast antioxidant, anticancer, antiallergy, anxiolytic, antidepressant and anti-inflammatory properties.