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Traditional Balinese Herbal Medicine: Jamu

Bali is famous for its long history of traditional treatments, known as Bali Usada. Balinese healing therapies uses herbs and spices, specialized medicines and ancient wisdom to cure physical and mental illnesses. Natural remedies are common in Balinese culture today, which include herbal, curative and functional remedies. This ancient tradition continues in this small Indonesian island despite the rural exodus, the development of tourism and the arrival of synthetic medicines.

What is Jamu?

Jamu is a holistic approach with the concept of harmony and balance between a person and their environment or balance between hot and cold elements which means that the elements of disease and treatment are separated into categories.

It’s a traditional herbal medicine that uses many roots, plants and spices.

In jamu all the concoctions are simple, practical and cheap. Many Indonesians are returning to traditional medicinal methods because they believe that the ingredients are much better and without side effects than today’s medicines.

Like herbal medicines used in other countries jamu is used as a preventive medicine rather than a cure, it has the benefit of giving good health and purifying the blood.

History of Jamu:

Like its big sister, the island of Java, Bali has preserved its herbal medicine (Jamu). In rural areas such as Penglipuran and Bayung Gede, where large portions of tropical forest remain, the inhabitants know how to make the most of the Flora malesiana, one of the world’s largest reservoirs of biodiversity.

Like a cultural heritage, Jamu has been handed down from mother to daughter since the time of the Javanese kingdom of Mataram about 1300 years ago. The beverage has become a popular drink for many Indonesians and has become part of their daily routine.

In concrete terms, jamu covers therapeutic drinks based on plants. This knowledge, ranging from harvesting methods to their therapeutic applications.

In rural areas, where jamu remain an easily accessible and cheap alternative to allopathic medicines, even for the younger generations, women are often responsible for their preparation.

Fun fact:

In the 19th century many European doctors and scientists faced health problems and discovered the effectiveness of jamu. In 1829 a German physicist even published a book on jamu and in 1911 a Dutch woman wrote a book on how to make this traditional drink. In the 20th century jamu usines began to appear in Java such as “Jamu Iboe” in 1910 in Surabaya, “Jamoe Cap Djago” in 1918 in Semarang. Currently there are over 1,000 registered jamu companies producing a variety of products for the local and export markets.

Jamu Gendong

The term Gendong means to carry something on your back. It is the jamu that is unlabelled, prepared from fresh ingredients without preservatives and sold like this on the market stalls or in the street. Gendong jamu can also be prepared instantly for those who order it. The seller, who is often a woman, goes door-to-door or sells it at her usual point in the street, carrying her herbal preparations in bottles placed in a bamboo or rattan basket which is carried on the back with a long scarf.

Some jamu vendors sell jamu only for men’s virility, it is believed that jamu is the remedy for many health problems, for example for women when they have menstrual pains, infertility etc. Some women after giving birth use jamu to restore their health or their after-pregnancy body.

But nothing beats jamu gendong, as customers are truly advised by the seller to have the right jamu for their ailments. It is estimated that 75% of Indonesians consume jamu on a daily basis and nowadays it is found in trendy cafés where lighter, taste-acceptable jams are being offered for the new generation.

Some types of Jamu and their benefits:

It is said that there are about 300 recipes for jamu, and each one has its own benefits.

A qualified herbalist (usually the womens that sells jamu in local markets or in the street) will give you the correct jamu for the disease that you have.

There are 3 categories in jamu: main ingredients, secondary ingredients and those added to improve the taste because jamu has a strong taste. Usually after drinking jamu people drink another drink to get rid of the bitter taste of jamu because there is no other artificial sweeteners to mask the taste!

You’ll find below the most known and used jamu:

Beras kencur: It is the most consumed jamu and is intended to stimulate the immune system and provide energy. Children and adults alike will appreciate this type of herbal drink. Made from white rice, Kaempferia galanga, ginger, tamarind, turmeric and palm sugar, beras kencur is not only tasty, it also gives the body a feeling of freshness. In addition to these benefits, beras kencur helps to reduce acne, lighten the skin and stop excessive sebum production.

Loloh cemcem: Loloh in the Balinese language also means jamu. Loloh Cemcem have a different taste from Jamu. This drink actually contains 4 unique flavours: spicy, sour, salty and sweet. It is made from wild mango leaves, cinnamon, betel leaves, jatropha leaves, dhadhap leaves, coconut water, as well as some palm sugar and coconut. It is believed that loloh cemcem helps reduce blood pressure, digestion. You can easily buy it in the village of Penglipuran where it is made as well as in the Kintamani area.

Pahitan Jamu: Unlike other herbal drinks, pahitan has a unique taste. Pahitan is an herbal drink with a very bitter taste, based on green chirette, which helps to prevent unpleasant odours, reduce the risk of diabetes, eliminate dizziness and control excess gas. Other ingredients such as guduchi leaf (herbs that have a bitter taste after cooking) and fennel help reduce acne.

Jamu Kunyit Asam: Made with turmeric, tamarind, palm sugar and a small pinch of salt, this type of herbal drink is becoming one of the most popular herbal drinks offering many skin and health benefits. Kunyit asam, also known as turmeric tonic, helps to relieve menstrual pain, lose body fat, prevent unpleasant odors and increase endurance. Vitamins A and C have the potential to reduce acne.

Jamu Uyup-Uyup: Jamu uyup-uyup is  used to increase milk production for nursing mothers. It has other benefits as the elimination of body odor to to both the mother and the child .

Jamu Cabe Puyang: Cabe puyang tastes like pepper and gives a warm effect to the body. Long before pepper arrived in Indonesia this plant was used in Indonesian dishes to add spice. People drink Jamu cabe puyang to relieve sore muscles and reduce fever. For those suffering from anemia, this beverage also has the ability to increase the production of red blood cells.

Jamu Sirih: Having the same taste as pahitan jamu (herbal drink with a bitter taste), sirih, also known as betel leaves, has many health benefits, such as getting rid of black or brown menstrual blood. While you are drinking herbal drinks containing betel during your period, your black or brown color caused by stress, depression or medication will disappear. At the same time, this herbal drink also helps to prevent unpleasant odors, white stools and to lighten the skin naturally.

Jamu Temulawak: Turmeric zanthorrhiza, also known as Java ginger or Temulawak, has the substance name curcumin, an active property that increases your appetite. In addition to curcumin, this herbal drink also has other active properties such as Atsiri oil and an effective antioxidant to prevent arthritis and stomach ulcers.

Places you can try the Balinese Jamu:

Several choices are available to you if you want to try the Balinese jamu.  

Jamu Gendong:

The term Gendong means to carry something on your back. It is the jamu that is unlabelled, prepared from fresh ingredients without preservatives and sold like this on the market stalls or in the street. Gendong jamu can also be prepared instantly for those who order it. The seller, who is often a woman, goes door-to-door or sells it at her usual point in the street, carrying her herbal preparations in bottles placed in a bamboo or rattan basket which is carried on the back with a long scarf.

Some jamu vendors sell jamu only for men’s virility, it is believed that jamu is the remedy for many health problems, also for women when they have menstrual pains, infertility etc. Some women after giving birth use jamu to restore their health or their pre-pregnancy body.

As customers are truly advised by the seller to have the right jamu for their illness. It is estimated that 49% of Indonesians consume jamu on a daily basis. It’s by far the best choice for trying jamu.

 

Trying it in Balinese Cafes:

Nowadays it is found in trendy cafés where lighter, taste-acceptable jams are being offered for the new generation. You’ll find below our selection for you

  1. NADIS HERBAL STORE: Located in Ubud it is more of a wellness shop where they serve fresh jamus, besides you can even take a 2 to 3 hours course to learn how to make a jamu or a walk to learn how to identify medicinal plants. Jl. Suweta no. 15, Ubud
  1. AOM JAMU: A vegetarian restaurant in Canggu that offers some jamu in its menu. Jl. Raya Batu Bolong no. 49, Canggu
  1. WAYAN COCONUT & JUICE BAR: Located in Ubud, this juice bar also offers jams which are served in several sizes of bottles that can be taken to go. Jl. Raya Penestanan, Sayan, Ubud

 

Supermarkets:

Nowadays, many, if not all, supermarkets offer all kinds of jams with different tastes. Indeed, the jamu sector employs more than 15 million Indonesians and is a good business where there is strong competition. However, we don’t really recommend you to buy it in supermarkets because the benefits of jamu comes when you drink a fresh one.

Prepare your own jamu at home:

Traditionally, plants such as ginger, and turmeric which are known for their positive and diverse medicinal effects on many types of cancer and everyday illnesses, are cut and mixed with water, filtered through a muslin cloth and added to the pan and boiled over a low heat to the desired concentration.

Other whole herbs such as tamarind, cinnamon sticks and pandan leaves can be added at this stage. A little coconut palm sugar or honey is usually added if the ingredients are excessively bitter. The hot liquid is then filtered again and added to the glass bottles directly and sealed to keep them fresh and kept in the refrigerator if available. Some traditional preparation secrets involve knowing which additional herbs are specific to various health problems, as well as which herbs have an additional natural antioxidant and preservative effect to increase shelf life.

Jamu is traditionally sweetened with honey to taste and can be drunk hot or cold. It is interesting to note that many key jamu formulas require the addition of a fresh raw egg yolk (chicken or duck egg). Alternatively, for those who may not be able to drink raw egg yolk, mixing with virgin coconut oil can improve bio availability, as well as the antioxidant and anti-cancer effect.

We hope that this article helped you, if so don’t hesitate to share it!

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