JAMU, The Elixir of Life

If diseases come naturally, then so must the cure, hence, came along jamu – a traditional Indonesian medicine and holistic remedy that uses pure, unprocessed natural herbs that are simple, inexpensive and widely available in the region.

If diseases come naturally, then so must the cure, hence, came along jamu – a traditional Indonesian medicine and holistic remedy that uses pure, unprocessed natural herbs that are simple, inexpensive and widely available in the region.

INDONESIAN’s have been producing jamu for over five millenniums with about 300 or more concoctions available today.  Each and every herb is chosen carefully according to their significant health benefits and disease-fighting agents to cure or prevent any ailment imaginable. For example, consuming ginger to relieve digestive problems, nutmeg to treat insomnia, lime to promote weight loss and more.

One of the most conventional way of acquiring these potions is from ‘Jamu Gendong’ practice, where a Javanese woman wearing traditional kebaya,-mostly identified as ‘Mbok Jamu’ – carries a bamboo basket filled with bottles of mixtures on her back and roams around the neighborhoods everyday.

However, recently, in metropolises like Jakarta, the method of distributing jamu has upgraded from carrying bamboo baskets to hawking them on bicycles or establishing modest tents on the curb. Moreover, it can also be found in some modern settings; for example, the restaurant SATOO at Shangri-La Hotel offers a separate section to serve the alleviating herbal concoction.

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Although the Indonesian herbal medicine industry is thriving, nothing can lead off loyal customers from getting the Mbok Jamu’s natural and daily home-brewed jamu. Most of the blends are made from a traditional family recipes handed down through generations.

Here are five most common home-brewed jamu you can get from your local Mbok Jamu:

  1. Beras Kencur is one of the most sought out for remedies that is consumed by all ages. The mixture mainly consists of kaempferia galangal, rice, ginger and tamarind extract but it can also include other herbs or spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and palm sugar. This sweet jamu helps reduce muscle ache, increases appetite, improves stamina, cures cough and keeps you fresh all day.
  2. Kunir Asam is also a popular choice! It is made up of blended tamarind and turmeric, which is considered as nature’s antibiotic and is high in antioxidants. It also cleanses and cools the body internally, improves body odor, relieves inflammation, brightens the skin and especially for women to facilitate with their monthly cycle.
  3. Pahitan is one of the bitterest mixtures available and is highly popular with the elderlies. The main ingredient is a powerful Simboto leaf boiled with other local herbs. It is known to prevent diabetes, lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, increase the appetite, eliminate body odor and cure abdominal bloating or dizziness. It is also great for healing skin complications such as itching and acne, thus many youngsters also often consumes this mixture.
  4. Gula Jahe is simply made up of ginger and palm sugar, which works best to keep the body warm, cure digestive problems, promote healthy immune system and cure a stubborn cold.
  5. Kunci Sirih is specially brewed for women. It is made up of boiled betel leaves and finger root. Traditionally, women used to chew on betel leaves for it’s exceptional benefits, particularly to prevent or cure candidiasis, eliminate body odor, shrink the uterus and stomach, overall protection of their womanhood and is said to strengthen the teeth.

Written by Divya Pridhnani Photographs by Dennie Ramon August 26, 2016.

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