History of the Jamu massage

Jamu is a blend of herbs derived from the barks, roots, flowers and other parts of various medicinal plants.Used in massage, the ingredients in jamu range from the better known e.g lemongrass, nutmeg and jasmine flowers to be more obscure.

Urut was a way of life for the 16th century Indonesian royalty and the aristocracy and is a tradition maintained today by Indo-Malays for its therapeutic benefits.The technique of the Malay URUT is derived from a fusion of Chinese, European and Indian influences during the spic trade of the 1500s.

Recipes of Jamu originate in the 1500s in the palaces of central Java, where herbal remedies and massage were integrated as part of the holistic healthcare system. The benefits of Jamu were virtually unknown outside the Indo-Malay community until five years ago when the increasing influx of tourists to places like bali gave rise to jamu massage being offered at many spas and resorts.

Traditional Practices 

Before the modern healthcare system was established, antenatal care, labour and postnatal care of mother and baby were the responsibility of a bidan (midwife) The bidan's skill were usually handed down from generation to generation through hands-on-training.

Accordingly to the Malay tradition, the new mother was strictly home-bound after the delivery for 40 to 48 days. During this time she was restricted to light duties and encouraged to breastfeed until the child is 2 yrs old.The following procedures were carried out during the confinement period.

The bidan took a tuku (metal instrument with a sphere at the end of a long handle) heated it by fire, wrapped it in cloth or paper and gently rolled it over the woman's abdomen.The rolling movement gave a gentle massage and diffused the heat throughout the abdomen.

Starting with the head and neck, the bidan slowly massaged towards the lower limbs. Care was taken in massaging the abdomen.

A bengkung (a cloth approx 8 meter longs) was wrapped tightly around the woman's waist and pelvic to act as a brace.  It was usually worn in the morning after the body massage and during the night.

Jamu massage and wrap therapy today

The modern bidan is usually a certified masseuse who specializes in postnatal care and natural remedies. 

Today, with more mothers returning to the workforce soon after having a baby, the confinement period of 40 to 48 days has been shortened to suit the woman's schedule and budget.

Intensive postnatal jamu massage and wrap therapy is usually performed for 7 -14 days or longer.The techniques, as outlined below has been modified to meet modern standards.

A deep tissue massage is applied to the body.A variety of strokes are applied in the sessions e.g Friction (dry massage) Effleurage (with essential oil) etc...

The massage is believed to have many benefits:

  1. improved blood circulation
  2. elimination of toxins through better lymphatic circulation
  3. improved digestion
  4. easing of muscle aches and cramps
  5. improved respiratory system through deep breathing and relaxation
  6. improved sleep
  7. stress reduction

The eight meter long cloth known as a bengkung is then firmly wound around the woman's abdomen. The wrap is to be worn for a minimum of 6 hours up to the entire day.  The jamu are intended to work together to tighten the abdominal muscle and stretched skin and therefore reduce the after-birth bulge.The wrap is also believed to help the pelvis (which expands during childbirth) resumes its original girth.

who had a caesarean section are advised to wait till the wound heals, or at least 3 weeks after the operation, before using the wrap.

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Did you know?
FACT 2: In Malay tradition, the new mother was strictly home-bound after the delivery for 40 to 48 days.
FACT 1: Massage is a perfect way to relax the mind and body and to renew energy.