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Bali’s Health Tonic: Jamu

August 26, 2019 Health and Wellness No Comments Email Email

Jamu, a healing potion containing roots, fruit, seeds and leaves is very much a part of daily life on the Indonesian island of Bali. Drank by many of the island’s inhabitants each morning, jamu is said to heal a huge range of ailments, including depression, infertility, hangovers and even diabetes. While traditionally the potion was purchased from a gedong (historically it was always women who prepared the health elixir), who would make the rounds from door to door each morning, today it can be bought at local markets and select cafes across the island. As many visitors to Bali are on organised wellness programs or personal health kicks, jamu is highly popular with tourists.

Jamu has been around for centuries—the herbal potion is mentioned in a fifth-century almanac as well as an inscription at the eighth-century Javanese temple of Candi Borobudur. Also spelled djamu, the word jamu has its origin in the ancient Javanese words, djampi and oesodo, or healing and health. By the 17th century, around 1,500 jamu recipes were being passed from generation to generation. Today, there are around 300 versions of this natural healing elixir in Indonesia, some of which are inscribed on utama, or palm leaves.

Most versions of jamu contain turmeric, a spice known for its medicinal properties, and ginger, which is often taken for nausea and gastrointestinal problems, says Joanne Williams from THEGOODESTATE. Often bitter tasting, jamu is usually sweetened with honey, which has been traditionally used as a source of antioxidants, as well as an antibacterial and antifungal. Lime is also often added to jamu to both improve its taste and as a source of vitamin C. If you are not currently on the island of the gods, here is one of the most popular jamu recipes.

Ingredients (one litre of jamu)

  • ½ cup washed turmeric, roughly chopped
  • 3 centimetres ginger, roughly chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons honey (preferably raw)
  • 1 lime (squeezed)

Photo: Wikimedia Commons


  • Blend turmeric, ginger and ½ cup water in a blender on high speed until the mixture turns into a fine paste.
  • Add honey and remaining water. Place in a pot and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for around 20 minutes.
  • Take off heat and add lemon juice.
  • Strain the mixture.
  • Keep in the fridge.

Things to Keep in Mind

While turmeric and ginger have numerous health benefits, they are not necessarily safe to consume in medicinal quantities. People with gallstones, or those susceptible to kidney stones, should limit their intake of jamu, as should pregnant women and children.

Depending on the ingredients and their quantity, jamu can differ in colour. However, as most concoctions contain turmeric, jamu is usually a shade of yellow.

Most jamu is still hand-prepared, but a large-scale industry has also started to develop around the concoction, which can now be found in sealed bottles sold at pharmacies and supermarkets.

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