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Jamu Cekok, open for service

Crying and Curing: A Photo Essay on Jamu Cekok (Traditional Medicines) in Yogya

Photos and story by: Nico Haryono


In the very early morning, a woman is mixing and putting ingredients into a piece of cloth.  Several mothers and their children sit in line on a long bench, filling up the room.

Jamu Cekok, open for service

Jamu Cekok, open for service

In the waiting room

In the waiting room


They wait for their turn to be serviced. Some of the children start being fussy, their faces describe feelings of worry and even anxiety. Then the woman walks towards them with a handful of Jamu (herbal ingredients) packed in a piece of cloth, squeezing it directly into the children’s mouths.

Historic handkerchief

Historic handkerchief


Then the sound of crying starts, coming from the child who was forcibly given Jamu and the other children who watched the scene. The mothers have to put in considerable effort, to calm their children down while looking away at the same time; they feel sorry for their children struggling to get lose. The drama stops when the herbal solution is swallowed and the child is given a drink to neutralize the herbal taste. The crying turns into smiling when given a toy from the vendor behind them.

Force feeding the medicine

Force feeding the medicine

And the tears...

And the tears...


Development in Indonesia, with the strong growth of science and technology, does not seem to decrease the nationwide interest and faith in traditional medicine. Traditional medicine relies on treatment trough utilizing essential natural ingredients, tried and tested by the close relation between human and nature. In this modern era medical treatment exists side by side with jejamuan (traditional/herbal medicine).

Doing what's best...

Doing what's best...


The sound of children crying in the stall of Jamu Cekok Jampi Asli Kulon Kerkop in Yogyakarta hasn’t waned over the years. This traditional jamu shop specializes in treatment for children. It is called jamu cekok signifying that the ingredients will be fed directly into the mouth. The jamu cekok often have a bitter taste. Parents bring their children when they suffer from worms, influenza and loss of appetite.


Jamu Cekok Kulon Kerkop is a family business that has been around since Kertowiryo Raharjo initiated this kind of business for the first time in 1875. Now, the business of jamu production is managed by the fourth generation Z. Zaelani. The customers don’t only consist of children, the elderly also frequent the shop, hooked on traditional concoctions as Beras Kencur (mixture of rice and galangal, improves appetite and stamina, reduces physical sores), Kunir Asem (turmeric drink with tamarind, refreshes and invigorates, good for skin, slimming, cools the body, to facilitate menstruation) and Pahitan (for itching and diabetes, lack of appetite, eliminate body odor, lower cholesterol, abdominal bloating, acne, and dizziness).

Beras kencur, the childrens' favorite

Beras kencur, the childrens' favorite


The children are mostly treated with Endhak-endhak Cacing (worm treatment). Its purpose is to increase the appetite. Every day in the morning and afternoon and even more during holidays, dozens of people queue outside the jamu stall in Jalan Brigjend Katamso 132 Gondomanan, Yogyakarta.




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