Saturday, April 30, 2016
Jamu, The Art of Health and Beauty in Indonesia
Havana (Prensa Latina) Seating among small pots containing boiling water, Indonesian Sucri is preparing a medicinal herb potion for her 10-year-old granddaughter to go to school under protection.
At the age of 44, Sucri treasures a traditional medicine background worthy of an encyclopedia and like her mother did in her times, she shows her granddaughter Warni how to make jamu and the property of every plant, seed and flower.
The woman is one more than 25,000 sellers in the island of Java, an exclusively women's profession.
She has been waking up at two o'clock in the morning to select the basic ingredients, cook them and bottle them. Then, she goes out, just at dawn to sell the aromatic liquid.
Her sister Hani explained that she always prepares more cooking at noon and sells it door to door until the time for the Maghrib, the Muslim prayer, prayed just after sunset, as all women in her family have done for several generations.
They make from three to six US dollars a day and it is really difficult to survive with such low income in the capital city, Jakarta, with a 650-square-kilometer surface and 18.6 million residents in the metropolitan area.
Most of them have large families, a situation that forces them to work long hours, including holidays.
It is a very hard work, but we drink kunir asem, a thick yellow beverage made with curcuma and lemon. It is energetic, cleans the body of toxins and leaves a softer skin, she said.
She reiterated that men were inclined to remedies aimed at increasing virility, while women prefer weight-loss or beauty remedies.
More than 60 percent of the Javanese population turns to jamu. However, the future of the beverage is threatened by professionalization of the job and the proliferation of pills, tee bags and instantaneous compounds sold at any supermarket or drug store.
To Hani, the Indonesian traditional medicine seeks balance among the different forces, symbolically represented by opposite cold and hot, inner peace and connection between the universe and nature.
The beverage keeps a tight relation with the care of the skin, hair, massage and baths, the meaning of which go beyond beauty and entail highly symbolic and religious rites.
For centuries, natives have used the flowers, spices, woods and scent oils they find in their rich natural environment to make true welfare rituals.
Jamu consists of a series of treatments (tonic beverages and natural bodily cosmetic products that help us keep balance in and out of our bodies.
This art does not age. It is good to relieve either children, young or elderly people, according to their specific needs. It does not distinguish social classes. It is extensively used by the population in towns and cities.
It proposes a turn to nature and natural products that help keep the human organism healthy and in perfect balance.
Some of the mainly used products are roots, such as curcuma or ginger, spices such as clove or cinnamon, all leaves from trees and plants from the region, the tamarind fruit or calamansi, jasmine flowers and gramineas
Indonesian elderly people say that a zip of jamu at dawn cleans your body of toxins, another at noon allows good digestion and just at dusk, it gives you the possibility to live spiritual and bed pleasures.