Jamu: Indonesian turmeric health tonic

When i was in Bali earlier this month I noticed turmeric jamu on the menu of many of the places we ate. Usually served chilled, it’s a bright marigold coloured drink, intensely flavoured with turmeric, ginger and lime. It’s potent stuff with a strong flavour that I quickly acquired a taste for. I find it uniquely refreshing, and of course the knowledge that it’s incredibly good for you helps the medicine go down too.

I found myself ordering jamu at every opportunity. Some were better than others and it was obvious when dried turmeric had been used instead of fresh turmeric root. Regardless of its relative deliciousness, it always left me feeling refreshed and with a sense of wellbeing. I resolved to make some as soon as we were back home in Koh Samui, and to make it regularly.

Traditional Indonesian jamu

Jamu is traditional Indonesian medicine, predominantly made from natural ingredients including roots, bark, flowers, seeds, leaves and fruits. It dates back thousands of years and has some similarities to Ayurveda. In Indonesia jamu is used to address a wide range of ailments, depending on the ingredients used.

Widely available from cafes and restaurants across Bali, turmeric jamu seems to be the most commonplace. A Balinese cook told me that women traditionally drink it two or three times a week for beauty, and men drink it mixed with raw egg yolk for strength.

I also tried tamarind jamu (rather lovely in its sharpness), and have since discovered that turmeric and tamarind is a common combination in jamu.

The health benefits of turmeric

One of the most powerful healing herbs, turmeric is a rhizome or root (similar in form to ginger) that can be used fresh, or in dried powder form. Besides being a powerful anti-inflammatory, natural liver detoxifier and kidney cleanser, it’s also thought to have a host of health benefits including antioxidant, digestive, antiplatelet (decreases clotting), cholesterol lowering and anti-carcinogenic properties.

Turmeric’s health benefits come from curcumin, the active ingredient now being studied around the world for its potential health benefits in warding off dementia and cancer.

So just how much turmeric is good for you? The jury is out. Recommended dosages vary widely, depending on how it’s consumed and whether it’s a preventative or curative dose. I can’t tell you how much is in a glass of jamu, but I can tell you that many people drink it daily, and especially if they’re suffering from any type of illness.

Me? I am drinking turmeric jamu every morning in a shooter to boost my immunity and help ward off cold and flu, and upping my consumption any time I’m feeling a bit run down

It is also Blood cleaner, health tonic and is said to aid in slimming.

Excellent source of enzymes and curcumin. Anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, assists in reducing cholesterol… the list goes on and on. Jamu can be drunk as often, and as much as you like because unlike western medicine, Jamu is completely safe and it’s near impossible to overdose on. For general health and well being a single glass serve a day is sufficient.

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