Indonesian herbalism and the sacred surf pilgrimage

Grace Ockwell

Indonesian herbalism and the sacred surf pilgrimage.

 Steve's girls on the beach at sunset in Indonesia

Steve has been a practising herbalist for 25 years and recently began a PhD. Continuing the theme of health, his wife Ursula is in her 6th year of medicine. For Ursula’s final year, 3 month medical elective, their family (they have two daughters) headed off to Asia – Ursula working as the local medic and Steve working on his PhD, some new Wild Dispensary ideas and the more than occasional surf. The story continues as told by Steve.


After a month in Bali working at Sanghla Hospital, we shifted to the remote National Park in Java, where Ursula completed a wilderness medicine placement, working with Surfing Doctors. The kids enjoyed a varied curriculum, of unstructured travel schooling! Learning about topics such as world religions, deforestation, rabies, Ramadan and also watching Ursula stitch up surfers that have hit the reef!  The surf was unreal and I  loved getting reacquainted with Jamu, the traditional form of Indonesian herbal medicine.


It was in Indonesia, twenty-two years ago that I first came across Jamu, and a culture where herbal medicine was and still is, an everyday part of life.  Throughout Indonesia you will often see woman selling a range of traditional medicinal tonics from the back of make shift shops, on the back of scooters! They sell a range of tonics, predominantly made from locally sourced plants including roots and rhizomes such as turmeric, ginger and galangal, spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, fruits such as limes and noni and flowers such as ylang-ylang and jasmine. 


I recently had the chance to spend a morning with a local herbalist making a turmeric tonic, traditional body oil with coconut oil, a healing body scrub and a body mask. Watch this space as I hope to incorporate a few of these concepts (inspiration below!) into some Wild Dispensary tonics this spring!



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