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


“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 medicinal effects on alleviating the symptoms of bird flu. The university will conduct further research to determine whether the beverage has similar effects on the novel coronavirus. In a related development, jamu producers in the Wonolopo jamu village in Semarang, Central Java, have started producing a drink they claim can provide protection against COVID-19. Called Jamu Corona, the drink was concocted based on doctors’ suggestions for herbal recipes that can help strengthen the body’s immune system against viruses, they said. Titi, a 60-year-old jamu brewer, explained that the drink was a mixture of brewed ginger, curcuma, turmeric and lemongrass, which she said would increase one’s stamina as well as boost the immune system. “Drink jamu routinely and exercise. Your body will be healthy and it won’t be easily attacked by viruses,” Titi said on Saturday. Another jamu maker, Supriyanto, told The Jakarta Post the benefits of each ingredient. “Ginger keeps us warm. Curcuma is good for stamina. Turmeric is good for digestion, so it can be consumed for weight loss. It is also good to increase blood flow during menstruation,” Supriyanto said. The village drew the attention of Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranowo, who visited last month to see the jamu-making process. (rfa)

Source: The Jakarta Post

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