Besides Ayurveda from India and Zhongyi from China, Indonesia has a variety of traditional medicines. This traditional medicine is called jamu. The tradition of drinking herbal medicine existed since 1300 during the Mataram Kingdom era. Jamu was mostly processed by women because men, at that time, had a greater role in finding herbal plants as the basic ingredients for herbal medicine. Although herbal medicine could also be used as a treatment, this tradition is more about maintaining health, preventing disease by adopting healthy habits. Because the variety of herbal plants was discoverable in Indonesia, each region has its own unique herbal medicine.
The herbal medicine keeps the drinker’s body from head to toe, from the outer skin to the innermost organs. Some types that are popular in the community are herbal remedies that overcome male and female problems. Besides, herbal medicine warms the body, strengthens joints, and increases stamina is also quite attractive to maintain endurance while working. For appearance, several herbs can maintain healthy hair, maintain skin softness, and reduce body odor.
The most commonly used herbal ingredients are ginger, galangal, turmeric, galangal, ginger, secang leaves, and cinnamon. Tamarind, lime and palm sugar or rock sugar are also used to add a fresh or sweet taste to herbs which tend to be bitter. So, there are types of herbs that are allowed to be bitter. According to belief, the bitter taste is a significant part of the efficacy of these herbs.
Processing the ingredients for herbal medicine is not too complicated. Most of the herbal water is the extract of the juice of herbal plants. Several ingredients are finely ground and mixed with water or boiled until the essence containing the properties is mixed with the cooking water. Considered things are the dose of each ingredient, the temperature, and the boiling duration. Without proper processing, those ingredients will lose their properties. Those ingredients can even turn out to be harmful to the body.
The first time modern medical science entered Indonesia, the tradition of drinking herbal medicine decreased. Apart from the problem of hygiene standards in herbal medicine processing, herbal medicine efficacy is questionable. During the Japanese colonial period in 1944, herbal medicine became popular again by the Indonesian herbal medicine committee. Along with the development of technology, much herbal medicine has packages in pills, tablets, or instant powders that are easy to brew at home, like soft drinks.
Perhaps the image that is still lingering in society, especially the Javanese community, when they hear about herbal medicine is a woman carrying a basket filled with glass bottles on her back, tied with a scarf. Even so, the original tradition of carrying herbal medicine is becoming rare. Like most other Indonesian traditions, the recipe for jamu gendong has never been recorded and taught from generation to generation to younger generations. Nowadays, there are fewer and fewer young people who want to learn to make herbal medicine. The figure of a woman wearing a kebaya while carrying a basket of herbs is also becoming increasingly rare.