Best known for its ginger drink of the same name, jamu is an herbal medicine that dates back to the 13th century. Etymologically, researchers have identified it in two ancient Javanese words: pocketwhich can be interpreted as “herbal medicine” and oesodo, which has simply been translated as “health” —and its use is just as wide. Historically designed as both a health precaution and a cure for chronic pain and inflammatory diseases, jamu is an empirical tradition, says Metta Murdaya, founder of the jamu-inspired Juara skincare line and author of a recent release. Jamu Lifestyle: Indonesian Botanical Wellness Tradition. “It just means that it has been passed down from generation to generation for many generations and is not so much based on a specific set of rules or writings,” he says.
Now, in the midst of a pandemic, this word-of-mouth process is expanding rapidly across Indonesia’s borders, with sales among the country’s top herbalists rising and exports of jamu beverages rising as well. But for Murdaya – who split her childhood between Jakarta, where she was born, and San Francisco – this trend comes as no surprise. “There is this almost intuitive approach [to health and immunity] “when an unknown virus enters the picture,” he says. “It is this natural desire to strengthen our body so that it is able to fight anything that may come.”
“In Indonesia, it is common to have the idea of feeling good or feeling good as your northern star.” —Metta Murdaya, its author Jamu Lifestyle
But what differentiates jamu from immunosuppressants, say, is that it stems from Indonesia’s perception of well-being, which Murdaya describes as a huge departure from the glorification of the United States’s noisy culture and the consequent practice of dealing with it. damage. “In the United States, for whatever reason, we tend to forget or ignore the signs that we are not focused or balanced because of this need to push ourselves. “It’s a culture of hard work that revolves around two weeks of vacation,” says Murdaya. “But in Indonesia, it’s common to have the idea of feeling good or feeling good as your northern star.”
This is why many Indonesians usually do not wait to get sick before grabbing a glass of glass. Rather, they drink it daily, says Murdaya: “The idea is that if something works once to make you feel good, you have good reason to believe it will work again and again.” But given the simplicity of this case, it also turns out that the recipe for jamu and the way it is consumed can vary greatly depending on the individual and the place.
Throughout Indonesia and beyond, jamu takes many different forms
Unlike many other holistic medicine systems, jamu (as an herbal medicine and as a drink) does not have a single set of guidelines. “Liquidity is largely part of the jamu tradition,” says Murdaya. Generally, however, the most common ingredients in the drink include various forms of ginger, turmeric and cinnamon (all of which have anti-inflammatory properties), along with potassium-rich coconut water.
Variations on this recipe have emerged over time both because of Indonesia’s economy focused on the spice trade – which has introduced the influences of China, India and Saudi Arabia into jamu – and because of its geographical diversity. of the country. “Indonesia has about 17,000 islands, so jamu varies based on the herbs and roots that are inherent in each other,” says Shanley Suganda, an Indonesian-born New York-based graphic designer who launched her own jamu series, Djamu , during the pandemic. For example, Murdaya says, “Bali jamu tends to include more leaves and fresh herbs, while Javanese jam has more roots such as ginger and galangal, simply because it is available.” They are the only healing properties of the herbs and roots that are inherent in every island that make the resulting jam. jamu. In other words? The intention with which it is prepared and consumed has almost as much to do with what is characterized as jamu as the specific ingredients themselves.
The intention with which it is prepared and consumed has almost as much to do with what is characterized as jamu as the specific ingredients themselves.
To make her own recipe – mostly a mixture of local turmeric, ginger and tamarind – Suganda drew on her mother’s herbal jamu experience and adapted it a bit to a modern palate (as many current jam makers in Indonesia do). ). “Initially, it was not going to contain honey or lemon, but the result was a bit medical without, so I added a touch of both to balance the taste,” he says.
This approach was so popular with Indonesia’s relative Ochi Vongerichten that she recently started serving Suganda jamu at the New York restaurant she co-owns with Cedric Vongerichten’s husband, Wayan. “It simply came to our notice then [in 2019]”I saw turmeric and drinks everywhere like kombucha, which reminded me of how I drank glass every day as a child,” says Vongerichten. “Well, we thought, ‘We should serve glass – but in a modern way.’ Across Indonesia, the same thinking has led to increasingly modern, creative spins on glass, including bottled and flavored jams, and even latte glass with coconut milk, turmeric and ginger, according to Murdaya.
Even so, the common denominator between these modern depictions of jamu is the same as in the original: an herbal drink developed to promote holistic health.
Jamu has its roots in community and family care
To fully understand jamu, it is helpful to visualize how it was originally consumed – not just as a drink but as part of a common daily ritual. Before it was ever sold in shops or cafes, jamu was distributed through jamu gendongs (which literally translates to jamu carriers). “These are older women tying a bamboo basket full of glass bottles on their backs and walking around the neighborhoods, selling different windows to people passing by,” said Suganda. (And in some parts of Indonesia, jamu is still sold, although the drink is becoming more and more commercialized.)
As a result, the glass tradition has its roots in people helping other people – even complete strangers. “There is this cultural term in Indonesia called gotong royong, which means, “We do it together,” says Murdaya. “And jamu traditionally includes this shared experience of supporting each other.”
While warning that there are now many personalized jams, created by trained herbalists to help relieve pain caused by certain ailments, such as digestive problems or menstrual cramps, Murdaya says the idea of jamu sounds more like with the American idea of making chicken. noodle soup for a loved one who is not feeling well. “Think about why Campbell advertises saying that their soup is just like mom’s,” she says. “There is a strong narrative around this because you associate it with being sick and having your mom do what she can to help you get well.”
With jamu, this idea extends to any relative, friend or community member who offers you the drink because he really wants something good for you, says Murdaya: “This kind of intentional care becomes part of the healing process.”
At its core, jamu has more to do with preventing disease than curing it
Derived from a food mentality as a medicine for a healthy life, jamu is holistic in its approach. “It is designed to help the whole person, not to cure a specific disease,” says Murdaya, describing how it differs from the clinical-medical style of offering solutions to specific conditions, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.
“The practice of jamu and the drink itself must be something we say kokok in Indonesia, which basically means that it has to feel that it suits you or suits your needs. ” —Mourdaya
As a result, part of the natural differentiation between the types of jam stems from the personal nature of herbal medicine. “The practice of jamu and the drink itself must be something we say kokok in Indonesia, which basically means that he has to feel that it suits you or suits your needs “, says Murdaya. “Since we all have different situations and conditions, the jamu that works for one person may not be the best for another.”
Over the centuries, local Indonesian jam makers have begun to differentiate their recipes from others in order to satisfy these unique tastes. And as these jamu recipes were passed down, they were also shaped by each successive generation based on what felt kokok to them.
Today, in the US, you will also find a variety of different bottled jam and jam recipes, many of which have the essential anti-inflammatory ingredients of ginger and turmeric. Determining who it will be kokok for you is to return to your senses, says Murdaya. The basic question to ask is deceptively simple: Do you feel good about drinking? “There is a level of inner self-reflection, intuition, conscious awareness of jamu,” says Murdaya.
Therefore, consuming glass can – and should – bring some joy in the moment. “There is a common misconception that jam is a tonic that helps burn the throat,” says Suganda. But because the tradition of jamu is, in essence, more about feeling good overall than anything else, the right jamu for you will usually not make you feel uncomfortable drinking. “When people try mine, they usually say, ‘Oh, I can try ginger, but it’s not medicinal. And it’s really refreshing, “says Suganda. So instead of throwing it back (as you might be tempted to do with a shot of turmeric), the idea is to taste the glass slowly, carefully. And this act is as well as the benefits that come from herbs that you will surely reap.
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