What is it?, History, cultivation, nutritional value, uses, recipes, and more...
Muña, also known as Andean mint, is a woody shrub that is commonly brewed into an infusion. It is traditionally used for its analgesic, antispasmodic, antiseptic properties, as well as to alleviate rheumatism and respiratory ailments, among other uses.
What is Muña?
Muña (Minthostachys mollis) is an aromatic perennial shrub that grows on rocky slopes and stony terrain, ranging from 2,600 to 3,800 meters above sea level.
Under the generic name “muña,” species from at least three different genera are recognized, all belonging to the Lamiaceae family: Minthostachys, Clinopodium, and Hedeona (Campillo, 2003).
Muña is a shrubby plant that reaches a height of 0.9 to 1.5 meters. It has a leafy upper part with opposite and serrated leaves, featuring hairs on the petioles and the undersides of the leaves, where most of the essential oil is concentrated. The stem is branched, and its small, irregular or zygomorphic white flowers are clustered in short racemes (Cano, 2007).
History of Muña
Muña’s geographical origin extends from Colombia and northern Venezuela through Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia to the northwest and central regions of Argentina. It is also found in high and arid areas (Alkire et al., 1994 and Schmidt-Lebuhn, 2007).
Minthostachys was first described as a section of Bystropogon L’Herit by Bentham (1832) and elevated to the rank of genus by Spach (1840). The most recent taxonomic study of the entire genus was conducted by Epling (1936), who recognized 12 species and emphasized the difficulty of satisfactorily delimiting them (Schmidt-Lebuhn, 2007).
Muña has been known since precolonial times. The chronicler Bernabé Cobo, for instance, mentioned in the 17th century that muña “is the plant with the sharpest and most penetrating fragrance that I have encountered in these Indies.”
|Spanish||Menta de los andes|
|Aymara||Coa, Huaycha, ismuña|
|English||Andean mint, Inca mint|
Bystropogon canus Benth.
Bystropogon confertus Willd. ex Steud.
Bystropogon mollis Kunth basónimo
Bystropogon pavonianus Briq.
Bystropogon reticulatus Willd. ex Steud.
Bystropogon tomentosus Benth.
Mentha mollis Benth.
Minthostachys mollis var. mollis
Minthostachys tomentosa (Benth.) Epling
The scientific name Minthostachys derives from the Greek words “minthe” (mint) and “stachys” (spike). While the two genera are not related, the species in this genus resemble those of the Mentha genus due to the appearance of their flowers and the presence of essential oils.
The common name “muña” for Minthostachys mollis comes from the Quechua language. “Mollis” is the Latin epithet that refers to the word “soft” or “gentle.”
Habitat of Muña
Habitat of Muña
Muña grows between 2,700 and 3,400 meters above sea level and is widely cultivated in the Andean regions of the country, especially in the departments of Apurímac, Ayacucho, Huancayo, Pasco, Huancavelica, and Puno. It goes by various names such as huaycho, coa, or ismuña.
The cultivation period is typically from November to March, during the rainy season. Muña grows in high-altitude areas in the central, northern, and southern parts of the country, in temperate to cold climates. It requires soil with specific texture, compactness, organic matter, and salinity for proper growth.
Muña should be harvested from May to June when the plants store a significant amount of essential oils and have all their leaves (which fall off in August and before flowering in July, August, and September).
Geographical Distribution of Muña
Apurímac, Ayacucho, Huancayo, Pasco, Huancavelica, Puno
Seasonal Availability of Muña
Varieties of Muña
(Brako and Zarucchi (1993) affirm that 8 species of Minthostachys grow in Peru and are distributed as follows:
Nutritional Value of Muña
Muña contains two important minerals in its composition: calcium, which helps maintain the health of the skeletal system, and phosphorus, a substance that provides energy and contributes to kidney function while preventing muscle contractions. It also contains small amounts of iron to prevent anemia.
The use of muña differs among the various countries where it grows. In Argentina, an infusion of leaves and tender stems is used as a digestive, antispasmodic, and antidiarrheal. In Bolivia, the leaf infusion is employed for indigestion, gastritis, colic, flatulence, as a carminative, and to regulate menstruation. It is also used for nervous tremors and heart palpitations.
Muña also contains retinol, which improves skin appearance by promoting cell renewal, closing facial pores, and reversing damage caused by photoaging (Campillo, 2003).
Not to be forgotten, if you visit the Peruvian highlands and experience altitude sickness, a muña infusion will help alleviate the symptoms of this condition.
Muña offers an impressive array of health benefits, highlighted by its high content of calcium, phosphorus, and essential oils.
Health Benefits of Muña
Quinoa has a protein content (between 16 and 23%) that surpasses that of other grains. It is also rich in calcium, phosphorus, and iron. Additionally, its absence of gluten makes it more digestible and suitable for consumption by celiacs and wheat allergics.
Contraindications or Side Effects
The National Institute of Health (INS) has warned that frequent consumption of muña could lead to liver toxicity, and thus recommended that pregnant or lactating women avoid its consumption.
Furthermore, the aerial parts of Minthostachys mollis contain the essential oil eucalyptol, ingestion of which can be harmful to health.
|10 Porciones por Kilogramo|
|Tamaño de porción||100g|
|Cantidad por porción
|Cantidad por 100g|
|Grasa Total||2.8 g|
|Carbohidratos totales||66.3 g|
|Vitamina A||306 μg|
|Tiamina (B1)||0.35 mg|
|Riboflavina (B2)||1.81 mg|
|Niacina (B3)||6.85 mg|
|Vitamina C||0.00 mg|
|Acido Fólico (B9)||●|
|Fuente: Tablas peruanas de composición de alimentos – Centro Nacional de Alimentación y Nutrición – Ministerio de Salud – Perú|
Derived Products and Ways of Consuming Muña
Uses of Muña
The majority of uses associated with muña blend culinary and medicinal purposes, as this plant offers numerous health benefits.
Culinary Use of Muña
While muña's virtues are primarily harnessed through infusions, it also stands out as a star ingredient in chupes (stews), green soups, and broths in many highland areas. Its leaves add flavor and freshness to salads. One of its most interesting uses is in shihuayro, where several herbs are ground in a batán (mortar) with toasted maize, salt, and chili to form a paste that lasts several days and is used to prepare broth for highland arrieros or shepherds.
Additionally, due to its aromatic and medicinal properties, it is used as a condiment in many traditional dishes of the central highlands, especially the so-called sopa verde (green soup) in Junín (Cano, 2007).
Medicinal Use of Muña
Muña is especially known for its effectiveness against respiratory and digestive issues. It is also employed for its antibacterial properties in preserving stored foods.
Muña has been recognized since pre-Inca times for its medicinal properties and for preserving tubers from pests during storage. Even then, it was known that its leaves acted as resolvents for tumors, and when mixed with egg white, it was used for bone fractures. Its decoction was applied as an anti-inflammatory and antirheumatic agent, to reduce inflammation of phlegm in the chest and lung ulcers, as well as kidney and bladder issues.
Furthermore, muña is used in infusion to treat colic, diarrhea, wounds, tumors, ulcers, scabies, itching, and athlete's foot.