Agustine Udayani, a handicraft artist, has been taking jamu or herbal drinks since she was a kid.
Besides getting used to the drink when she was younger, little Agustine did not like visiting the doctor and she hated injections.
Growing up, a herbal treatment became her first option against sickness. Agustine, who likes to cook nasi goreng with noni leaves, does not even remember when she last visited a doctor.
“I feel more secure with herbal treatment because it does not contain chemical ingredients that may have side effects. Herbal treatments often work fast,” she told The Jakarta Post.
When she feels some pain, for example, she tries to recall her food intake in recent days and analyzes it by herself. One day, she suspected that she might have gout because she felt pain a few days after eating melinjo or Gnetum gnemon crackers.
She was sure it was gout because she shared the same symptoms with a friend who suffered from gout.
Instead of having a medical check, she decided to try extracts of red fruit (Pandanus conoideus Lam), an indigenous plant from Papua.
“Every time I feel the pain, I consume some capsules of red fruit, which makes me better the next day,” she said.
There are plenty of success stories with herbal treatments. Cosmetic, spa and herbal businesswoman Martha Tilaar has some heartwarming stories about her connection with a traditional herbal drink.
The 75-year-old said she struggled to get pregnant for 16 years and was ready to let her husband have a second wife when she entered a pre-menopausal period. Her husband refused to get married again, saying that he already had books as a second wife.
“Four local and international medical doctors claimed that I was infertile. I was very sad at that time, until my grandmother, who was a jamu expert, decided to take care of me. I finally got pregnant when I was 41-years-old,” the mother of four told the Post.
After coming back from studying in the United States, Martha, accompanied by her grandmother, went to various villages to learn traditional herbal treatments from seasoned midwives. She tried her best not to listen to people who thought she was learning witchcraft.
Herbal treatments, including herbal drinks, are common in many parts of the country. The Health Ministry’s own basic health research shows that 59 percent of Indonesians above 15-years-old have consumed herbal drinks.
Of the figure, 96 percent report feeling benefits from the drinks. The research further notes that the habit of taking these drinks is very widespread in South Kalimantan and Jakarta.
Health Minister Nafsiah Mboi said the development of herbal drinks was not restricted in the medical herbal formulas as a complementary or alternative treatment. She said the more important thing was promoting herbal drinks as a way of life for Indonesians to prevent sickness.
“I think non-medical herbal drinks hold the biggest market share in herbalism. Jamu is used to treat light ailments such as colds, tiredness, lack of appetite and the like,” she said.
Martha said her products sold well because her company was strong in research and development, as is seen in the joint venture between her company and the Kalbe Farma pharmaceutical company.
“A scientific approach should be taken with jamu because we cannot rely on old wives’ tales,” she said.