Ancient Healing, Modern Practice

Writer Karen Fong | September 25, 2014

Another important point to note about Jamu is its close relation to the reproductive system. Explains Professor Bodeker, “It is important to understand that the reproductive system is of central importance in Malay and Indonesian traditional medicine theory. It is viewed as the source of life. And as such is the focus of health-promoting natural treatments. A healthy body is naturally more vital and energetic and this includes sexually. Used in the context of family life and reproductive health, they have always been valued.” So while Jamu has sometimes gotten a slightly seedier reputation for having Viagra-like effects, Bodeker says, “This is not the context for which Jamu has been evolved over centuries of tradition.”


Most Jamu ingredients are readily available throughout Southeast Asia and can be made fresh, effectively and inexpensively into tonics and treatments. The Jamu drink is a popular pre and post treatment ritual. Says Luisa Anderson, Regional Director of Spa for Four Seasons Resorts Bali, Maldives and Langkawi, “We want to keep the tradition and introduce its natural healing properties that have proven to keep our inner health and balance, along with yoga and meditation.” At the Four Seasons Resort Sayan, two Jamu drinks are available to guests; one designed for men is for stamina and features clove, red ginseng and black pepper, the other for women is made of licorice, betel pepper and Indian long pepper. “These are part of the Balinese Usada Ritual. Depending what Jamu is given, it will help to strengthen and boost the energy also to cleanse the inner organ,” explains Anderson. The Jamu is prepared in the resort and its ingredients are grown in the resort itself. Guests can also have a chance to experience it at the buffet station during breakfast one day a week.

At V Integrated Wellness, part of The Andaman, A Luxury Collection Resort hotel in Langkawi, guests can use herbs grown in the resort’s own garden to make jamu kunyit, a health tonic rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory benefits. “This sweet- sour drink tastes really good and is easy to prepare. The main ingredient is turmeric boiled with tamarind juice, lemongrass, ginger, pandanus, kaffir lime, galangal and kencur (another species of ginger),” explains Spa Manager Niwayan Sukayani.

Other Jamu treatments that have been popularly incorporated into the spa experience include the lulur and boreh. An exfoliating scrub designed to soften and revitalise skin, lulur was popular with the royal families and was administered to brides by expert masseuses 40 days prior to their wedding to soften and revitalise skin.

Boreh is a herbal wrap treatment made with a combination of rice flour, freshly pounded ginger, galangal, turmeric root, powdered clove, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, star anise, shredded coconut and salt. After applying the paste, a banana leaf wrap covers the body to allow it to ‘cook’ in its own heat and absorb the nourishing elements of the ingredients. It was typically used in Balinese farming communities. Spa-goers can experience some of these treatments at the Banyan Tree Bintan, where lulur is incorporated into the Javanese Lulur package that also includes a massage and bath.

Jamu crosses the line between a healthy tonic for prevention of illness, and a cure taken for specific problems
~ Susan Jane Beers