Jamu: Traditional Herbal Drink from Indonesia

Most asian country has their own herbal drink. India has Ayurvedha. China has Zhongyi. Indonesia has jamu.


The Jamu word came from jampi and usodo. Both are high javanese languange, jampi means mantra and usodo means cure. Jamu means cure with mantra. There is no evidence who made it first but it already written on the Borobudur relics in 722 that Jamu is common use in society.

Basically, to make jamu we need to get the extraction from the ingredients. The most common ones are grated/mashed ingredients that squeeze out. But other than that sometimes it can be extracted by boiled. It depends on what kind ingredients that you will use.

To make the high level or advance jamu, we need to be careful during the process. Factors like temperature, composition, pairing ingredients, and how long it needs to be cooked have high impact on the result. If you get the wrong formula, it can be poisonous.

Indonesian and Jamu

Long before modern pharmacology come to Indonesia, Indonesian traditional healer rely on Jamu. It is herbal drink that made from roots, bark, leaves, fruits, and seeds to cure or simply prevent from many disease. As sweetener, it can use honey, palm/coconut sugar, and rock sugar. Some people also like to add extra raw eggs inside their jamu (it won’t be smelly, I promise)

During colonialism era, Indonesian still relied on jamu. While local meets western it, information traded. Western people start to wrote books about jamu with information from locals and combined with modern botany. Actually, it is sad there were none locals documented the information in books. Some of books are Boekeo Obat-obat voor Orang Toewa dan Anak-anak (1875) by Emellie van Gent de Telle, Doekoen Djawa (1885) by Nyonya van Blokland, and Indische Planten en Haar Geneeskracht (1970) by Jans Kloppenburg-Versteegh.

Most of the traditional jamu seller are woman. Like other artisan, one seller to another has their own marks, their own signature that they only kept for themself. Indonesian belief that everyone’s hand has different impact to the result of jamu. I believe so. because everyone has their own temperature, right?

In 1974-1990’s jamu factories was established. Thank you for marketing, the jamu become so popular and be more handy since it comes in pills, powder, and ready to drink in a bottle. Some people open jamu shop in a tiny space with various modern brand and mixed. Some people also has their own cart on the wheel and roaming around the high populous area to sell jamu. This small cart always comes with super loud speaker with campursari song.

The traditional jamu seller who carried jamu on her back or with the bike that use traditional preparation method became less and less during that time because many people choose the cheaper ones. Actually their jamu much more fresh and authentic.

Surprisingly, nowadays in the new medical journal mentioned that plenty herbs that usually used in Jamu has spesific natural remedies properties. Let’s say turmeric can againts allergies and menstrual haematometra (read). How about tamarind? It says that it has for antibacterial, cough, and immunity booster.

Indonesian consumed jamu since a kid. During my elementary school, it is common for me to get jamu beras kencur as refreshing drinks, like have soda but it has positive benefit like boost your appetite. When I get older, it also common to get kunir asem or sinom because it helps for teenager with acnes and menstrual cramps.

When you visit jamu shop/jamu seller you need to tell ‘the barista’ what you feel/want. You can say have diarrhea, or low immune system. Usually, they will ask you some question like what do you prefer, thick or light, sweet or bitter etc. No worries, they will offer light and sweet drinks after your jamu to normalize your pallate.


Since it is passed generation to generation, we had plenty recipe of Jamu. One of the most common is Kunir Asem aka turmeric and tamarind. Turmeric and tamarind is one of the best duo since their properties are completed each other. Jamu kunir asem as mentrual remedies, high antioxidants from curcumin with anti-inflammatory properties, and make the skin brighter.

I personally thought making jamu is complicated process until Mbak Kiki, shared her signature Kunir Asem to me few months ago. It taste amazing and super fresh. The composition between each ingredients are perfect. It is beginner recipe. Luckly, she shared the recipe here.


  • 100gr turmeric, washed
  • 10gr tamarind
  • 40gr cutchery, washed
  • 10gr ginger, washed
  • 1tbsp rice
  • 200gr palm/coconut sugar
  • 1L water
  • 2 pandan
  • pinch of salt

How to make it

  1. Wash the turmeric, cutchery, and ginger. Make sure it is completely clean. Set aside.
  2. Soak the clean rice with some water. Let it sit for 3 hours. It will be soften and easily to grind.
  3. In the pot, add the water, pandan, tamarind, and coconut sugar. Add pinch of salt. Bring it to boil and stir it evenly. Let it cool in the room temperature.
  4. Grate the turmeric, cutchery, and ginger. Put the grated mixture to the sugar water.
  5. Strain the sugar mix grated mixture and squeeze out all the extract. Add the lime juice.
  6. Enjoy. It will taste better if you put it in the fridge for 5 hours. The jamu itself will be good in three days when you store in the fridge or 1 day in room temperature.

Mbak Kiki is even nicer because she helped me to make the video! Check this out 🙂

Enjoy! ‎🍻