I spent an hour this morning, finally giving in to what I’ve been called to do for quite some time now. Making this gorgeous healing jamu!
In Indonesia, the use of healing modalities is normal. Growing up, I learned things from my mother and grandmother that my Western friends frowned upon.
At home, we ate different things with lots herbs and spices. Where all my friends would eat potatoes and bland tasting vegetables, we ate rice and flavourful meat & veggies. Even the thought of having garlic in your food, was something that many found weird. Ugh, Gross! Just stay away from me, please!
We learned about the presence of spirits and how to honour them properly. How to guide the spirit of a deceased one home. That there is a huge difference between those from the upper and lower realms. And that beings (good and bad) can be attached to everyday items, including all the stories of the (in)famous keris or kris dagger.
But I also learned about the medicinal traits of herbs, with one favourite of mine, namely ginger.
Having a cold? Ginger.
Blocked sinuses? Ginger.
Throat issues? Ginger.
Upset stomach? Ginger.
Feeling cold? Ginger.
Internal inflammation? Ginger.
But even though I grew up with so much knowledge about all of this, I kept pushing it away. Yes, it was always a part of me and I used it for myself and my family. But other than that?
“Nope… I don’t want to talk about it, let alone share it with others or gain more knowledge about it all.”
Until the nudge becomes so strong that you can only do one thing and that’s to give in.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years, it’s that the nudge can be pushed aside. Sure. But it will always come back. It will always keep coming back, stronger and stronger, until there’s nothing left for you to do than to just give in and do the damn thing.
I guess it’s safe to say the journey has begun long ago, for me to share this knowledge with the world.
To BE that spirit loving, herb knowing, crystal hugging & jamu making shaman that’s always been inside me. So for anyone here wanting to learn the secrets of making this immune boosting & anti-inflammatory jamu, I’ll share the recipe below.
What is Jamu?
Quite possibly, you may have never heard of jamu before, since it is little used or known outside Indonesia. But this traditional Indonesian concoction has a rich history of over 1200 years!
Jamu (or jamu juice) is a herbal drink that is made of various plants and spices. These herbs and spices used to grow in the tropical forests of Indonesia, making it an affordable and easy to make drink. Indonesians drink it to maintain health, to prevent and even to cure disease. It has been part of the culture for generations. Today, jamu is produced on a larger scale in the form of tablets, capsules, sachets or bottled drinks. But there’s also the more traditional way, that is still being practised by jamu healers who sell these drinks at local food stalls called warungs or women roaming the streets selling their home-made jamu.
Traditionally, jamu healers held their family recipes a secret and would only pass on recipes to the next generation. Various recipes were created to aid in all sorts of physical and spiritual wellbeing. Some were used to keep the skin healthy and glowing, Other jamu recipes were used to prevent illness and detoxify the body for overall health and wellbeing. And then there would be recipes specifically used for treating ailments such as stomach aches, headaches, skin conditions or to give the immune system a boost.
It is said that Jamu originated on the island of Java. When the Islam was becoming more common on Java in the late 15th century, many jamu healers fled to Bali. With the majority of the jamu healers moving away from Java, so did their culture, knowledge and customs. It was in the 1940s that healers finally opened up their life’s work for scientific studies, after the ongoing pressure from the government and medical community. And as it turned out, these traditional herbal drinks were often found to have actual healing and immune boosting abilities. Till this very day, jamu is still officially recognizes as a medicinal practice with its own set of FDA regulations. In fact, jamu is still mostly used on a daily basis by the Balinese as a health tonic.
What does jamu taste like?
Obviously, this depends strongly on which ingredients are used in a recipe. But the one thing they all have in common, is that it can be very strong tasting. You’re not drinking a fruity juice, you’re drinking a herbal juice and you can taste that. The Jamu drink most widely available and easiest to make for everyone around the world (due to availability of the herbs) is the jamu made of turmeric, ginger and tamarind juice. It’s also known as jamu kunyit jahe asam and I’ll share my super easy jamu recipe further below.
What herbs & spices are commonly used in Jamu recipes?
Jamu uses hundreds of fruits, herbs, and spices. It is said that it goes up to a total of 213 medicinal plants, almost all of which are grown natively in Indonesia. A handful of species are the undisputed superstars and they belong to the ginger and turmeric family. In jamu, all concoctions are simple, practical and rarely expensive. The plants used for medicinal purposes in Indonesia date back to prehistoric times. Here’s a list with ingredients that are most used in jamu recipes:
1. Turmeric (Kunyit in Indonesian)
Tumeric is most famous for it’s anti-inflammatory properties. Its most active compound curcumin has many scientifically-proven health benefits, such as the potential to prevent heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even cancer. It’s highly antioxidant and may also help improve symptoms of depression and arthritis.
2. Ginger (Jahe in Indonesian)
My all-time fave herbs is ginger and I always have fresh ginger in our fridge. Ginger is rich in antioxidants, compounds that prevent stress and damage to your body’s DNA. They may help your body fight off chronic diseases like high blood pressure, heart disease, and lung diseases. It helps digestion, promotes weight loss, relieves nausea and morning sickness, cold and flu relief and reduces cholesterol.
3. Galangal or laos (Lengkuas in Indonesian)
galangal encompasses myriad beneficial phytonutrients and antioxidants, that lower inflammation in the body and fight free radical damage to prevent cancers. It is also rich in dietary fibers, vitamin A and vitamin C, for enhanced digestion, optimal eyesight and bolstered immunity. It’s often used as anti-microbial, anti-fungal, anti-parasite, analgesic, wound disinfectant, blood pressure regulator & hearth tonic, helps with arthritis & rheumatism.
4. Kaemferia Galangal or Aromatic Galangal (Kencur in Indonesian)
Helps relieve cold & cough, headaches and migraine, influenza, treats rheumatic diseases, asthma cure and helps to get rid of acne.
5. Javanese Curcuma or Giant Curcuma (Temulawak in Indonesian)
Also known as Curcuma zanthorrhiza (and here often sold for it’s gorgeous flowers) is traditionally used to treat stomach diseases, liver disorders, constipation, bloody diarrhea, dysentery, children’s fevers, hemorrhoid, and skin eruptions. It is believed to improve kidney & liver function, is anti-inflammatory and rich in anti-oxidants, helps in cancer prevention and may even be used treat anemia.
6. Lemon grass (Sereh in Indonesian)
The lemongrass essential oil featured in the coconut scrub has astringent and disinfectant qualities. It’s also detoxing and energizing for your skin. Lemongrass is used for treating digestive tract spasms, stomach ache, high blood pressure, convulsions, pain, vomiting, cough, achy joints (rheumatism), fever, the common cold, and exhaustion. It is also used to kill germs and as a mild astringent. Lemongrass reportedly has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It has traditionally been used as a pain reliever and fever reducer. Lemongrass contains citral, a natural plant compound with anti-inflammatory effects
Cinnamon has been used as a medicine in traditional Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine for centuries. It is loaded with antioxidants, has anti-inflammatory properties, reduces cholesterol levels, heart diseases and blood pressure, lowers blood sugar level and has powerful anti-diabetic effects. Plus, cinnamon has long been used as a home remedy for heartburn, indigestion, and nausea.
Indonesia produces the majority of the world’s nutmeg. Nutmeg is a rich source of antioxidants, which help protect against the signs of aging and serious conditions such as heart disease and liver disease. It promotes healthy sleep, reduces inflammation on the skin including acne, helps with Alzheimer and dementia, detoxifies the organs and relieves kidney stones.
This sour fruit is not only used in Asian cuisine, but also often used for its medicinal properties. The polyphenols in tamarind have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. These can protect against diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes. The seed extract may also help lower blood sugar, while the pulp extract may help you lose body weight and reverse fatty liver disease. It is said to reduce blood sugar level, and is high in vitamins and minerals such as potassium. In addition, it’s anti-inflammatory and helps reduce pain in the joints and connective tissues.
The seeds, oils and extracts of cardamom are thought to have lots of medicinal properties and have been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It is said to enhance antioxidant activity in the body. It has antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, helps protect your heart from elevated cholesterol levels and high blood pressure. And it may also help manage diabetes and lower liver toxicity. In addition to that, it is used for digestive problems, nausea and vomiting. And it also has anti-depressant properties. Impressive, right?!
11. Betel leaves
These leaves are extremely popular thanks to the many ways it can be used. It is known to help improve digestion, reduce gastric pain, prevent body odor and nose bleeding, relieve cough and treat headaches. It can be used in alleviating pain caused due to cuts, bruises, rashes (when applied topically). Betel leaves are also an excellent cure for those suffering from chest, lung congestion and asthma. Betel leaves are bestowed with numerous antimicrobial agents, that effectively combat a host of bacteria dwelling in the mouth which trigger a distinctly bad smell.
Has strong digestive power thanks to an enzyme called papain. The possible health benefits of consuming papaya include a reduced risk of heart disease, heartburn, headaches, aiding in digestion, improving blood glucose control in people with diabetes, lowering blood pressure and improving wound healing. Boiled papaya leaves clean the blood, improve the taste and flow of mother’s milk, and the roots are used for tumours in the uterus, to help control excessive bleeding and remove kidney stones. It’s loaded with antioxidants that can reduce inflammation, fight disease and help keep you looking young.
13. Water spinach, morning glory (Kancun or Kangkung in Indonesian)
Yummy! Kangkung, water spinach or called Morning Glory in Thailand, is one of my favourite vegetables. It’s just so freaking good with lots of garlic and chillies in it! This leafy green is packed with vitamin C and vitamin E, magnesium, fibre, iron, potassium and calcium. It helps reduce cholesterol, useful in treating Anaemia, indigestion and constipation. And water spinach has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of jaundice and liver problems.
Unlike regular spinach, it’s important to thoroughly cook or stir fry water spinach as larval cysts from the Fasciolopsis buski live on water spinach. It could cause large intestinal parasites in your body.
14. Edible Camphor
This precious liquid is also accepted by Western medicine as a mild antiseptic and anaesthetic. It is known to be antibacterial, antifungal, and has anti-inflammatory properties. When applied topically, it is said to relieve pain and reduce itching. It can be used to treat skin conditions, improve respiratory function, and relieve pain. Camphor helps in treating the cold and a cough and relieves throat congestion. Nowadays, camphor is used in products such as Vicks VapoRub.
15. The Mind
And lastly, it’s all about the mind. Quite possibly the most powerful instrument that we all have access to. Because it controls the body, we as healers believe that many illnesses are created by mental imbalance alone. Stress, trauma, sadness and other unhealed parts of yourself play a big role in creating dis-ease within the body. As a healer, we pass positive thoughts on to the client, while visualising a happy and healthy client. This aids the healing process, together with the use of trance, meditation and energy work. All of these combined, have been an important part of the traditional healing work of shamans or healers in Indonesia. And obviously, this will remain important throughout the years, while more and more people are awakening to these magical healing modalities.
Please note that all of the herbs, spices and ingredients used in jamu recipes are based on what Indonesians believe. For some ingredients there’s already lots of scientific evidence to support these; for other ingredients there’s scientific studies still being conducted.
It is and remains important to always use medical assistance where it is needed. While we try to share as much essential information as possible focused on holistic living, it is never intended to exclude medical assistance. On the contrary! Always seek help from your doctor in case of complaints!
Recipe for turmeric, ginger and tamarind jamu
Learn how to easily make this traditional Indonesian jamu to help maintain overall health, reduce inflammation and boost your immune system.
Ingredients for immune boosting jamu
One thing that all jamu recipes have in common, is that jamu is made with fresh ingredients, such as fresh ginger and fresh turmeric. But finding these ingredients (especially fresh turmeric) might not be as easy for you, as it all depends on local availability. I recommend to check your local Asian supermarket for fresh or frozen turmeric. If all else fails, powdered turmeric will do just fine.
What do you need for this Jamu?
- 200 gr turmeric roots or 2 teaspoons turmeric powder
- 60 gr fresh ginger roots
- 10 Tbsp tamarind extracts or 100 gr seedless tamarind paste (or the juice of 2 limes as substitute)
- 4 gr black peppercorns or 1 tsp
- 8 cups water
- 100 gr palm sugar (Gula Djawa in Indonesian) or brown sugar as a substitute (can be more if you want it sweeter)
- 2 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp nutmeg powder
How to make jamu kunyit jahe asam?
1. Prepare the ingredients
Both ginger and turmeric are the roots of their plants, which means that these come strait out of soil and are often covered in dirt. Make sure to properly wash the roots (you may also want to use a small brush) to get rid of dirt. There is no need to peel the skin, unless you want to.
When you use seedless tamarind instead of ready-to-use tamarind extract, mix the tamarinds with 4-5 Tbsp of warm water and mash them with a spoon.
Chop the ginger in smaller pieces, so that your blender can easily handle it.
2. Blend until smooth
It’s especially helpful if you have a powerful blender. Put all ingredients – except for the sugar – in the blender and blend until the juice is smooth.
3. Strain and discard
Strain the juice through a sieve. Really make sure that you get out all of the fluids, as you don’t want to waste these precious healing liquids. Discard the solids.
4. Cook and sweeten
Now bring it all to a boil, until the juice becomes slightly brown in color (max 30 minutes). Meanwhile, add sugar to taste.
5. Serve jamu
Jamu is usually served warm in Indonesia. You can instantly pour yourself a cup and drink it right after making it. Or once, cooled down, simply heat it up briefly in the microwave or in a saucepan.
If you prefer it chilled, simply allow for it to cool down in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving.
However, in ancient healing modalities such as Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, it is believed that cold drinks aren’t that good for the digestive system. According to Ayurveda, the consumption of ice-cold foods and beverages disrupt the digestive fire called agni. When the digestive fire is not working properly, the body more easily stores Ama, which are toxins that accumulate from undigested food.
I drink my jamu warm (room temperature, warm or even steaming hot), as I prefer the overall sensation that it brings my body. But i suggest for you to try out different things and see what works best for you.
6. Storing jamu
Your healthy jamu ca be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Remember to give it a stir before pouring into a cup, as the good stuff tends to settle at the bottom of the bottle/jar. I don’t recommend freezing your jamu, because some nutrients and antioxidants may be lost.
- Be careful: turmeric stains everything that it comes in to contact with. Fingers, pots, jars, cups, clothing, you name it. Don’t want to have yellow fingers after preparing your jamu? Wear gloves! Also make sure that you wash all used tools, cups and your blender immediately after making the jamu, so that it won’t stain your kitchen items. And be careful with your clothes, as these stains can’t be removed from your clothes.
- If your jamu is too ‘spicy’, reduce the amount of fresh ginger accordingly.
- Don’t have or can’t find tamarind paste? Use lime juice instead. Don’t have limes? Use lemons instead.
- Think the taste is too much for your liking? In Indonesia, tourists often get served jamu with some orange juice added to it. It tastes great and still has plenty of those gorgeous healing properties.
WHEN TO DRINK JAMU
You can drink jamu at anytime of the day. I usually prefer it in the morning, after breaking my intermittent fast with some bone broth. A jamu just gives this nice, tingly and warm sensation that’s perfect to get the energy flowing. Drinking jamu in the afternoon, after lunch, is also wonderful as it can give you this gentle boost and helps with digesting your lunch. Turmeric is also known to induce sleep, so that might be handy for those struggling with sleep.
HOW MUCH JAMU TO DRINK
In Indonesia (Bali especially) jamu is used as a daily tonic to maintain overall health. One small cup of jamu each day, is more than enough. Don’t overdo it, you don’t need it.
Should you choose to drink jamu daily, I do recommend to make sure that you brush your teeth after drinking it. Since the turmeric leaves yellow stains on everything, you don’t want to take the risk of your teeth being stained from turmeric jamu. Right?!