September 7, 2015
Story & Photography by Gail G. Collins
Indonesia’s traditional healing through plants is called jamu. Myth and closely-guarded recipes cloud what has been standard, holistic care since prehistory. The theory is based in the idea that if disease comes from nature, then the cure must come from there as well. Today’s pharmaceuticals are synthetic compounds based in medicinal plants, and slowly, research is confirming what generations have long believed: jamu heals the body. A U.S. 2011 study by Virginia Tech’s Department of Food Science and Technology confirmed the soursop tree’s preventative properties, related to breast cancer.
Jamu comes in an array of forms: creams, powders, juices, teas and tonics that provide pro-active nourishment or restore health. Leaves, barks, flowers and roots contain properties that claim to overcome anything from diarrhea to arthritis. The ingredients are inexpensive, simple and widely available. Jamu’s longstanding black, bitter health drink earned a bad reputation, but women sell updated, creative tonics in the street today. Turmeric is a common ingredient and reduces inflammation.
Martha Tilaar Jamu Gardens, or Kampoeng Djamoe Organik, is an interactive education on jamu. Marginal land in the Cikarang area, approximately 30 kilometers from Jakarta, was rehabilitated to create a fertile plot. Dr. Martha Tilaar founded the company in 1977 to produce jamu products for health and beauty. Senior Manager and horticultural specialist Pak Heru Wardana said, “The gardens contain 650 species of the 7,000 used for health in Indonesia.” Growth is swift with two temperate seasons, and plant parts are harvested, sorted, washed in a cascade system, and dried on trays and in a 55-degree centigrade ovens in preparation for use. Farmers, who are contracted to provide crops for manufacturing aromatic, medicinal and cosmetic products, learn organic farming methods necessary for jamu.
Seniors to school children are invited to visit the grounds and learn about herbal remedies. A quick tour introduces: bloodleaf for hemoglobin, broken bone tree bark for fractures and sap for eczema, hibiscus for skin lightening and ylang ylang for calming. Whether it is treatment for high cholesterol or slimming, jamu provides a holistic approach to guarding or improving health in Indonesia.
Learn more: http://www.marthatilaargroup.com/en
Gail G. Collins writers internationally for magazines and has co-written two books on expatriate life. She feels writing is the perfect excuse to talk to strangers and know the world around her better.