While the quality of modern medicine in Indonesia has improved drastically over the years, a majority of locals are still heavily dependent and keen on using traditional or unconventional healing methods – in conjunction to Western medicine – to recover from illnesses. Handed down through generations, some of these methods are believed to significantly improve health conditions and treat a variety of illnesses, from simple ones like a common cold to more complicated ones such as high blood pressure.

Below are a few of Indonesia’s favorite alternative healing options that the locals swear by:



Jamu is a range of traditional Indonesian medicine that takes advantage of the land’s incredible flora. With the help of ancient local wisdom, different types of jamu are made from secret recipes of herbs, flowers, seeds, spices, roots, and leaves to treat a host of illnesses. Most concoctions are simple, practical and rarely expensive with typical ingredients such as turmeric, ginger, brown sugar, cloves, garlic, honey, and tea leaves, to name a few.

Some of the most popular mixtures treat fatigue, body ache, high cholesterol, skin problems, rheumatic and indigestion. In fact, many teenage girls opt for jamu to treat their menstrual cramps, while older women relish it for beauty treatments such as slimming, whitening and hair growth. Many locals also drink a specific jamu mixture daily to help maintain a younger, stronger, healthier and more attractive self.

Many jamu concoctions are freshly made at home and sold on the streets by young women vendors using wicker baskets strapped to their sarongs or on a bicycle.


Rumour has it that one of the nation’s most miraculous treatment is only a coin away – and it goes by the name Kerok. Kerok uses a coin and an ointment to repetitively rub lines on an individual’s back so that the blood and oxygen circulation under the surface of the skin increases, which, in turn, releases wind from the body. This treatment leaves a trademark of red lines on the back, which disappears after a couple of days. It is believed that the sicker an individual is the darker the lines will be.

This unconventional folk cure, which literally translates to “scratching”, is often used to heal numerous ailments like headaches, fever, nausea, body aches, and/or masuk angin (a term Indonesians use to describe feeling under the weather). So the next time you have a change, keep it handy for one of the cheapest, quickest and almost painless treatment you will ever come across.


Urut is not just a traditional massage; it is focused on treating body aches, nerve entanglements, muscle pain and/or injuries in a designated area. Unlike gentle and rejuvenating massages, urut requires a skilled practitioner with a strong knowledge of the body’s anatomy and pressure points, known as tukang urut. Using a special technique and something else known as “inner power” healing, a tukang urut is able to cure these ailments through one or more sessions of skillful and careful massage.

Instead of going to a doctor and consuming pills, many Indonesians from all kinds of socio-economic backgrounds prefer seeking a tukang urut due to its accessibility and affordability. However, beware of practitioners that are inexperienced as it may cause more damage to your injury.


Photo: EPA

Dukun, or traditional healers, is one of the most unconventional healing methods that continue to play a very important role in Indonesia’s health care, especially in rural areas. When modern health care is too inaccessible or expensive, locals opt for these healers to help cure a variety of physical, mental and even spiritual ailments, with just a small fee. But what makes them unique is that these healers use extensive knowledge of herbal medicine and a combination of – believe it or not – supernatural means to treat their patients. However, be wary of those known as dukun santet, as they are rumored to use black magic for their practice.

Call us skeptical, but these healers exist amongst those who believe.

Tolak Angin

Photo: Hotel Tentrem Yogyakarta

Don’t forget to stock up on Indonesia’s most popular healing potion, Tolak Angin! Made with all natural herbs, locals truly believe that this concoction can eliminate all kinds of ailments, from a sore throat to a hangover and/or masuk angin. This little drops of magic come in an instant packet and can easily be found in any convenience stores and even pop-up stalls on the street.

Author: Divyha Bhojwani