Peru Herb: Muña
No exploration of Peruvian herbs and herbal medicine would be complete without looking at the abundant and aromatic plant Muña, Minthostachys mollis, also known as tipo, tipollo, poleo, Muña muña, La Muña, Arash muña, uña, Huaycho, and Andean mint. Muña is a woody shrub that grows from .8 to 1.2 m high, the stem is branched from the base and and has small leaves with white flowers gathered in short clusters at the tip. It can be found at 2,700-3,400 m and is widespread in the Andean region. It can be harvested in the mountains around Pisac as shown in the picture.
Muña is known for the following medicinal properties – digestive aid, anti-septic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, carminative, anthelmintic, aphrodisiac, antispasmodic and anti-phlegm. As a digestive aid, Muña can be taken as a tea to help with stomach spasms, gastric issues, indigestion, colic and bacterial diarrhea. Muña can help to heal intestinal problems, bad breath, reduce inflammation, reduce excess stomach acid, calm digestion, fight parasites and stop diarrhea. To make a cup of tea add a handful of the fresh leaves and flowers or a rounded teaspoonful of the the dried crushed leaves to 10 to 12 ounces of boiling hot water, cover and let steep for 10 minutes. Strain and enjoy as desired.
Muña can also help reduce the symptoms of a cold or fever, especially when there is involvement of the respiratory system. It is said that the Incas consumed Muña tea and honey regularly to treat respiratory problems. The active constituents in Muña help by dilating the bronchial tracts and acting as an expectorant. Traditionally the local people use it to treat asthma and pulmonary infections. Muña is also used to treat menstrual irregularities, reduce nervous trembling, improve eyesight, for gastritis, flatulence, stomach upset, stomach pain from altitude sickness and to treat liver infections.
Muña essential oil is extracted through steam distillation. It contains anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-septic, digestive, anti-parasitic, anti-bacterial and insecticidal properties. The essential oil promotes skin health, prevents premature wrinkles, counteracts the harmful effects of free radical, oxidative damage from environmental stress, is used traditionally to treat gastritis and bone fractures. Apply the diluted oil to bone ailments, rheumatic joints, sore muscles, skin fungus and chronic respiratory ailments.
Muña is used by farmers to protect their potatoes because it has a strong repellent effect on the worms that eat the tubers, stems and leaves of the potato plant. It can be used as an insecticide and to fumigate against flies and mosquitoes. Branches tied together are used in households in South America to sweep the floors to avoid fleas in the house.
In conclusion, one can say that Muña might be the one herb to have around (if you are forced to choose only)!