Modern Herbal Medicine in Indonesia


It is natural and organic as is made from plant-derived substances, without including any animal substances. The plants used for herbal medicine, such as plant leaves, roots, seeds, bark, and even flowers, have been extensively studied to meet safety and quality standards.

Archaeological evidence indicates that the utilisation of medicinal plants dates back to the Paleolithic age, or roughly 60,000 years ago. In addition, some ancient cultures detailed about plants and their clinical uses in books called herbals. Today, the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that around 80 percent of the population in Africa and Asia rely on herbal medicine for their primary health care.

The National Agency of Drug and Food Control of the Republic of Indonesia has classified herbal medicine into three sections. The first one is jamu, which has not been involved in any clinical trials, but the efficacy has still been trusted for years. Then, there is standardised herbal medicine, which has been involved in only pre-clinical trials. Meanwhile, phytopharmica is more complex as it has not only been involved in extensive pre-clinical trials, but also clinical trials.


Based on research performed by the Ministry of Health of Indonesia, jamu is one of the most popular herbal medicines in the country. In 2010, almost half of the population in Indonesia aged 45 and above consumed jamu. Around five percent of the consumers drank jamu daily while the rest only drank it once in a while. There are many forms of jamu too, but the most favoured one is the liquid jamu which is used by as many as 55.16 percent of people. The other forms are powdered jamu used by 43.99 percent of people, brewed jamu which is consumed by 20.43 percent of people, and the least favourite form is fabricated jamu in pills, tablets, or capsules which only 11.58 percent of people use.

Usually, jamu is sold by female street hawkers wearing kebaya, or Indonesian traditional clothes, carrying a bamboo basket filled with bottles of jamu on their backs. The taste of jamu is mostly bitter, but some are sweet too, if they have honey or palm sugar added. It’s best served chilled to give it a touch of freshness.

Ima, 48, is a housewife who told me that she consumes jamu on a daily basis to help maintain her health. She likes to make her own jamu for her family although sometimes she’ll also buy from street hawkers. Her husband who has suffered from chronic kidney disease also consumes jamu aside from the prescribed medicine to boost his recovery.

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Jennifer Leo
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Herbal Medicine: Open Access Journal
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