How to make Jamu, immune booster tonic from Java

The seasons are changing here in the Tropics of Cancer, from the dry season to the rainy season, and in the Northern hemisphere from Summer to Autumn.  Some of us might have the need to get cozy between the blankets – to slow down and have a cup of warm tea more often. 

Autumn is a predominantly cool season, when our Vata dosha dominates the inside and outside of our bodies. Vata is the dominant element of air and space, containing cold, light, dry, rough, and moving qualities. This quality of movement makes Vata the most powerful dosha, capable of aggravating Pitta and Kapha when unbalanced. 

Considering Autumn is a time when we are especially vulnerable to aggravating our Vata dosha, we must take more care. Signs of imbalance include bloating and gas, dry skin, constipation, irregular appetite, lack of sleep, stress and tiredness. To balance our Vata, we require grounding, warming and routine.

One of my favourite routines during the changing of seasons is drinking Jamu, a traditional herbal concoction from Java. I discovered Jamu while on the island of Bali, and this tonic has been my go to medicine for various ailments, such as the sniffles, colds, tummy aches, low energy, painful muscles and joints, tiredness, digestion issues, blocked nose, and headaches. It’s a perfect immune system and mood booster.

Jamu is like our much loved Croatian Rakija (Grappa),it is believed that it can heal everything. Although Indonesian Jamu is alcohol free, so you can safely drive home after numerous Jamu shots!

Jamu is the name for a traditional herbal tonic created in Indonesia, expertly prepared by Jamu ladies using traditional ingredients sourced from nature. 

The World Health Organisation estimates that approximately 70% of all Indonesians use Jamu on a daily basis to enhance their health, to treat various misbalances, and to prevent others. 

Every morning throughout the local neighbourhoods women can be seen carrying baskets on their backs containing bottles filled with various concoctions. These women are known as Jamu Gendong, which translates to ‘carrying on the back’. 

As is traditional, Jamu Gendong cover their route with precise timing, calling out the tonic ‘Jamu’ as they pass along. Their customers emerge from houses, from behind kaki-lima (food carts), or seemingly out of nowhere to receive their daily tonic. This transaction normally involves some friendly gossip and conversation regarding individual health issues, assisting the Jamu lady to select and prepare the most appropriate recipe for their customer.

According to some authors, Jamu originated in the Mataram Kingdom some 1300 years ago. The Mataram (or Medang Kingdom) was a Javanese Hindu–Buddhist kingdom which existed between the 8th and 10th Centuries. The Mataram Kingdom was originally based in Central Java, though later extended into parts of East Java.

Different regions of the Indonesian archipelago use different Jamu recipes, which are seldom written down.  Instead these valued recipes are passed down by word of mouth from generation to generation.

The dense and abundant tropical forests of the Indonesian archipelago provided the original healers with a diverse range of ingredients from the local indigenous flowers, leaves, roots and barks. Ginger, turmeric, tamarind, galangal and cardamom, are the most popular ingredients in Jamu.

I was fortunate enough to enjoy fresh home made Jamu from many local Jamu ladies, with each Gendong having their own signature spin. Like a magic potions. 

This is a recipe that my dear Balinese friend was kind enough to share with me, and I want to share it with you.  To warm up your body and heart during these changing seasons and challenging times!

You can experiment with various spices like cinnamon, cayenne pepper, tamarind or chilly. Using fresh turmeric is highly recommended.  The actual root tastes fresher and cleaner than the pre packaged powder. 

Jamu can stay in the refrigerator for up to 7 days.  You can drink it warm or over ice cubes in Summer. Add a dash of coconut or almond milk and turn Jamu into a yummy golden latte. 

Oh, and forget the hand modelling jobs for two days after making preparation. The turmeric leaves yellow stains everywhere!

INGREDIENTS

  • fresh turmeric root  3/4 cup, roughly chopped)
  • fresh ginger root (a large finger sized piece)
  • 2-4 tbsp fresh lime/ lemon juice
  • 1-2 tbsp honey 
  • 3 cups of water 
  • pinch of sea salt
  • pinch of black pepper 

METHOD

Roughly chop ginger and turmeric roots.

Put them in blender, add lime, honey, spices and water. 

blend until smooth. 

Keep Jamu in the fridge for a few hours, preferably over night. 

Strain through a very fine sieve (nut milk bag or muslin cloth works, though remember it will stain).  

Pour into a glass bottle or jar and refrigerate. 

Jamu Recepie

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