Jamu, a turmeric-centric drink that has been popular in Indonesia since ancient times, is revered for its wellness superpowers based on the idea that if our problems come from nature, so can our solutions.
During episode four of Chef’s Table set in Bali, chef Will Goldfarb says,“There’s about 5,000 years of oral and written history of the world's most advanced civilizations taking care of each other with food. ... Here in Bali, traditional remedies are very much still a way of life. The most commonly known one would be jamu kunyit, or yellow jamu. To hundreds of millions of Indonesians, jamu is just a part of waking up.”
When I was traveling to Indonesia in 2022, locals I met told me about the drink, saying that wisdom passed down from grandmothers spoke of how good jamu was for overall wellness.
Jamu roughly translates to "the concoction originating from Java," the island in Indonesia. However, there’s the more mystical theory that the term derives from the ancient Javanese word jampi, meaning “magic formula” or “spell,” because indigenous shamans used mantras while making the mixture.
The specifics of jamu vary from region to region, and family to family, with ingredients loosely including rhizomes like turmeric and ginger, various leaves native to the tropics, seeds such as fennel, fruits including key lime and tamarind, barks like cinnamon, flowers such as ylang-ylang and jasmine, and material from animals such as honey, royal jelly, milk or chicken eggs.
When brewing your own jamu, be sure to only use tools you don’t mind turning yellow: turmeric has been used as a dye for centuries for a reason.
Recipes for jamu abound online, but the gist is this:
Boil the ginger and turmeric in a pot with a bunch of water—or grab a scoop of MUD\WTR’s :balance Turmeric—and blend it up with some honey, tamarind, lime and any extra spices that suit your fancy. Some popular ones are fennel and cinnamon.
Bonus: add a pinch of black pepper to activate the turmeric. (Maybe speak some mantras while you stir—couldn’t hurt.) Then, strain, let it cool and sip on your cup of turmeric magic.
Sara Russell is a relationship coach, podcast host and Taoist practitioner who helps her clients analyze behaviors, relationships and systems to see where old habits are no longer serving them. Co-conspire with Sara on Instagram.
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