Journals4 min read

Recipe: A Djamu Tonic to Keep You in Balance


Familiarise yourself with this ancient Indonesian healing method based on the medicinal properties of plants.

Preparation time: 1 hour, cooking time: 30 minutes

Djamu is a method of plant-based healing that originated in Central Java some 1,200 years ago. It spans oils, powders, pills and salves, but it’s most commonly consumed in a liquid form – potent, punchy drinks and shots designed to cure everything from skin problems to low energy to the common cold.

There are thousands of djamu formulas across the kitchens and herbal apothecaries of Indonesia. Serat Centhini, a 300-year-old healing manuscript from Surakarta, Central Java, contains 1,734 recipes alone. The defining factor across the board is the natural ingredients that make up each remedy. Djamu leans on the likes of turmeric, cloves, nutmeg and various types of ginger to help strengthen the body and ward off disease.

“There is no doubt that [a] huge number of medicinal plants were selected for their effective healing powers,” writes author Susan-Jane Beers in her book Jamu: The Ancient Indonesian Art of Herbal Healing (Tuttle Publishing, 2001). “others may have been used because of similarities between the characteristics of the plant and the ailment, as dictated by the popular doctrine of signatures or similarities.”

So, “hair-like plants are supposed to make hair grow”, heart-shaped plants naturally boost heart health, and “red blooms are effective against bleeding”.

Potato Head’s djamu recipes are crafted by our head mixologist Hary Wahyudi with the help of a local djamu consultant. “The situation that we’re in at the moment pushes and reminds everyone to keep and stay healthy,” Wahyudi says. “Djamu is one of the best and one of the most ancient health remedies from Indonesia. [It] detoxifies and boosts our energy and immune systems.”

The recipe below is designed to balance.

BEFORE YOU START Organisation is the key to good djamu making. Start by washing and peeling your ingredients where necessary. You’ll need a large pot for boiling and a blender, but don’t worry if you can’t access one. “You can easily use the traditional method,” says Wahyudi, “just use a grater to crush ginger, turmeric or galangal.”

FIRST, WE EXTRACT Djamu ingredients need to be extracted before they’re combined. Make each extraction separately and then store them in glass bottles – labelled and in the fridge – for up to 5 days. Fresher is, of course, always better, so if you’re not planning on consuming large amounts of djamu, adjust the quantities to suit your needs.

You’ll need 1.5 kg red ginger 1.5 kg turmeric 500 g aromatic ginger 500 g lemongrass 100 g pandan

100 g cinnamon 50 g cloves 1kg coconut sugar Filtered water

To extract red ginger, blend with 3.5 L filtered water until well combined, strain and store. For turmeric, blend with 3.5 L filtered water, strain and store. Blend aromatic ginger with 2 L filtered water, strain and store. For lemongrass, boil in 3.5 L filtered water with the lid on for 30 minutes, set aside to cool. Boil pandan leaves in 1 L filtered water with the lid on. Set aside to cool. Boil dried cinnamon in 2 L filtered water with the lid on for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. For cloves, boil in 1 L filtered water with the lid on for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. Boil 1 kg coconut sugar in 1 L filtered water with the lid on for 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.

DJAMU BALANCE Ingredients 50 ml red ginger extract 75 ml turmeric extract 50 ml aromatic ginger extract 75 ml lemongrass water 50 ml pandan water

10 ml cinnamon water 20 ml clove water 15 ml lime juice 50 ml coconut sugar syrup

Method Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan or pot. Simmer at a low temperature with the lid on for 30 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool before serving.

We serve our Djamu chilled, but it also can be enjoyed warm. Just simmer it again for a couple of minutes until the liquid heats up.

Disclaimer: this article and its recipes are not intended to replace the advice and treatment of a professional medical practitioner. Please seek advice from a registered practitioner before incorporating them into your health routine. These recipes belong to Potato Head and may not be republished in any form without written permission from the owner.

Published on 27/03/2024 by Potato Head