Panic buying of herbs takes toll on ‘jamu’ vendors

As Jakartans flocked to pharmacies and drug stores to stock up on medical supplies after the announcement of the country’s first coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases, people in rural areas reacted by hoarding herbs and medicinal plants that supposedly help prevent viral infections. However, the panic buying has taken a toll on jamu (traditional herbal medicine) vendors, who have complained of the soaring prices of the main ingredients used for their drinks, such as red ginger. Sumini, a jamu vendor in Colomadu, Karanganyar regency, Central Java, bemoaned the recent price surge. “The price of red ginger has been the most affected, rising from Rp 30,000 [US$2.10] per kilogram to Rp 50,000 per kg. The price for kencur [aromatic ginger] rose from Rp 35,000 per kg to Rp 42,000 per kg. And then temulawak [Javanese ginger], which was previously sold for Rp 4,000 per kg, now sells for Rp 12,000 per kg,” Sumini said on Tuesday as quoted by kompas.com.

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“Drink jamu routinely and exercise. Your body will be healthy and it won’t be easily attacked by viruses.”

______ She said the plants were the main ingredients of empon-empon (packaged spices used to make a drink). The drink became highly popular following a recent study by Chairul Anwar Nidom from Airlangga University in East Java, which claimed that consuming the traditional beverage could increase one’s immune system. Chairul said empon-empon contained curcumin, a substance commonly found in turmeric, and might, therefore, help prevent a cytokine storm — the overproduction of immune cells and their activating compounds — in the lungs. “The cytokine actually serves a positive purpose, but it has a negative side effect that may inflict damage on its surrounding cells. The cytokine is what causes the body to warm up when an individual is infected with germs,” he said. The traditional beverage was discovered to have potent m