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Drinking Jamu – The Forgotten Culture

Drinking Jamu – The Forgotten Culture

My Mom Drinking Jamu

Approximately fifty years ago, I still remember my mom was in labor delivering her third child at home.  She was in pain and sweating and asked our lady neighbor to pass her the “obat” which was prepared by a local bidan (i.e., mid-wife) who was a very old lady.  It was apparently concoctions of herbs prepared for woman in labor by the mid-wife.

I wasn’t sure for what purpose it was, but not long after that my mother safely delivered my second sister.  Post-delivery, there are list of taboos for a period of 40 days that includes drinking herbal drinks on daily basis days and nights.  It also includes post-delivery massages which includes rolling hot stones across her abdomen and followed with drinking herbal drinks.

It was only years later that I understood that my mother was consuming various JAMU at different stages of her pregnancy, delivery and post-delivery.  And the hot-stone massage using huge round boulder is what is now known as “bertunku” in our Malay language.

Well, my contextual discussion here today is about JAMU consumption that was widely practiced in our Malaysian culture in the past, but somehow is forgotten and slowly disappearing in our daily life.  

President of Indonesia Joko Widodo (JOKOWI) is promoting drinking JAMU

How I Started Drinking Jamu

Personally, I never consume Jamu in my life until about 20 years ago during my business trip to Jakarta where I was offered a cup of hot “jahe” after a massage session.  Instantly I burb and looked at my masseur.

She explained that it is a JAMU made from Red Ginger and mixed with Gula Aren (Coconut Sugar), meant to remove “angin” (air) from your body and a natural detoxication agent.  The taste is quite nice though and I felt refreshed.

Well, apparently drinking JAMU is a culture in Indonesia where peoples drinking JAMU daily for detoxication and to improve their body immune system. In some families, “jahe” is served every morning for kids and adults before going to school or work.

In summary, JAMU is widely consumed in Indonesia for health maintenance to prevent illness. 

In contrary, JAMU in Malaysia is consumed to address health issues like lethargy, constipation, menstrual disorder, diabetes, and others.   My wife (with Javanese origin), for instance would boil concoctions of turmeric, red ginger, tamarind, and palm sugar whenever she had irregular period.

Upon consumption, the problem immediately disappeared, and she would stop consuming and share the leftover with friends and neighbors.  This is what I meant by drinking JAMU as remedy to your health issues.

I never tried any of her home made JAMU as I was unsure of its effectiveness.  Furthermore, like many other Malaysians, I prefer to look for medical remedies at pharmacies since the products sold at drug store are well regulated by the Ministry of Health.

It was not until Covid-19 pandemic that opened-up my eyes on the miracles of drinking JAMU.  I watched on TV as well as social media that the President of Indonesia himself, Mr. Jokowi repeatedly reminding his fellow Indonesian citizens to stay healthy by consuming JAMU and fights the virus in a natural way (while waiting for vaccines that were yet to be made available for 270+ million population!).

Not just him, but also by other ministers, provincial leaders, teachers and even doctors encouraging their fellow Indonesian to increase the immune system by consuming JAMU.  

Poster issued by the Government of Indonesia depicting the President as JAMU Ambassador

Well, despite low vaccination rates and the challenges in getting its people to comply to SOP, Indonesia managed to keep their Covid-19 infection rates much lower than Malaysia (in relative to population size) as well as lower death rates. 

We might argue on the transparency of reporting Covid-19 cases in Indonesia, but the fact remains that Indonesia managed to stand tall upon the pandemic recovery without seeing millions of dead bodies piling on the street its cities.

It’s a miracle on how Indonesia managed to pull out from the pandemic much better than what we might expect due to their shortfalls. Impressed on this miracle herbal drinks, we have embarked on a project to revive drinking jamu in Malaysia as a culture rather than remedy.

Our research found a few key issues on why Jamu drinking is not popular within our Malaysian societies.   The major reason is the lack of knowledge on its content with fear that the concoctions might comprise dangerous substances that could be harmful to our health and life. 

In specific, many respondents worry of the impact on our kidneys that could lead into renal failure. And quite a few respondents also dislike the taste which is generally bitter with extreme tanginess.

At Entropy, we have researched the recipes of Jamu and altered its content to ensure it tastes good.  Our first product line, Jamu Kraton Asli, comprised of all herbal based concoctions without the usage of any preservative, coloring or flavoring agents. 

The bitterness and tanginess of herbs are much reduced with the introduction of sinom, tamarind juice, palm nectar, honey and mango juice.  The taste ends up very nice and refreshing especially when it is chilled. 

Since Jamu Kraton Asli is a plant-based concoctions, it is classified under Food and Beverages by KKM (Ministry of Health, Malaysia).  Therefore, it may consume without regulated quantity and can be consumed like another juice.

The credibility of this Jamu as Immune Booster with antioxidants, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-coagulant, etc. properties is certified by SIRIM that conducted chemical tests on its samples. 

The results of SIRIM tests are published at our website for cross references.  We look forward for the journey of reviving Drinking Jamu As Culture in Malaysia for the current and future generations.

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