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Muña can vary in size, depending on the variety, and is a shrub that grows many fibrous stems with small green leaves and white flowers. The woody stems are light brown to pale yellow, and the pinnate leaves are bright green and smooth with flat, curved edges. There is also a prominent, light green vein with many smaller veins spanning across the center of the leaves. Muña leaves are highly fragrant, and when crushed, they release an intense, invigorating, mint-like aroma. The leaves also share a minty taste and are crisp with an earthy, green, and herbal flavor.
Muña is available year-round.
Muña, botanically classified as Minthostachys mollis, is a woody shrub native to South America that belongs to the Lamiaceae family along with mint, oregano, and rosemary. Typically found growing along hillsides in high altitudes between 2500-3500 meters above sea level, there are many different varieties of Muña that can grow up to one meter in height. The three most prevalent varieties of Muña include Common Muña, Goto Muña, and Pacha Muña, and each variety varies in size and shape. Also known as Andean Mint, Poleo, Tipo, and Tipollo, Muña has been harvested from the highlands since the age of the Inca Empire and is one of the few plants that remain green in the cold temperatures. Peruvians favor muña for its medicinal properties, and the leaves are predominately utilized as a tea.
Muña is an excellent source of calcium, iron, and phosphorus.
Muña can be used in both fresh and dried form to make a medicinal tea. Steeped in boiling water, the leaves have a minty, earthy taste and the tea is traditionally served with meals or is used as an herbal remedy for sickness. The leaves can also be used to make essential oils that are believed to help calm the stomach. In culinary preparations, Muña can be tossed into soups, stews, and sauces. In Peru, the traditional shihuayro incorporates Muña leaves with ground corn, beans, peas, or meat and is mixed with spices and herbs for added flavor. Muña leaves are also used in chupes, which is a creamy stew that has many different variations, including shrimp, meats, eggs, a spicy broth, Muña, and cooked vegetables. Muña pairs well with peas, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, oregano, queso fresco, rice, and beans. The leaves, when fresh, should be used within 1-2 days and stored in the refrigerator. Dried leaves can be stored for one year when kept in a sealed container in a cool, dry, and dark place.
Muña has been passed down for generations in Peru as a healing remedy and is believed to help purify the body. Harvested from the mountains, tied into small bundles, and sold at the market, Muña is used to help calm stomach pain, increase digestion, and reduce the symptoms associated with colds. The herb is also sold in small bundles known as asnapa with herbs such as huacatay, parsley, and cilantro and are used for cooking. In addition to medicinal uses, Muña is grown in home gardens as a plant to repel bugs and is commonly hung in households to prevent fleas and flies. Farmers also plant the herb next to potato crops as a natural bug repellent and the leaves can help prevent germination in the tubers.
Muña is native to the Andes mountains of South America and has been growing wild since ancient times. Today the plant is still localized to the cold highlands and is also cultivated on a small scale in home gardens in Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, and Argentina.