Bali Herbal Way of life in Ubud, By ANNETTE EVANS
Ni wayan Lilir is diminutive but her energy and enthusiasm are boundless. Lilir and her husband Westi are well know in Ubud for their daily herb walk, an alternative tourism venture that takes visitors on a circuit around the sawahs, or rice file paddies, teaching people about the benefits of herbs and natural medicines. Equally interesting is her jamu class, where she demonstrates how to make a traditional Balinese healing drink, body scrub, massage oil and body mask.
BODY SCRUBS. . . . . . .
HAVE BEEN USED
BY FARMERS IN
AT THE ENDS OF A
LONG BACK –
“Many generations of Balinese have used herbs and spices for healing and it’s important for me to keep this tradition alive, ”she said.
Lilir’s passion for her subject quickly became apparent as we started our walk at the back of Puri Lukisan Museum on the main street of Ubud. A few minutes later, with traffic sounds far behind, we gazed out over lush sawahs and gradually discovered a slew of surprising facts about everyday plants.
The herb walk takes about 3 hours, with time out to stop at an organic restaurant. In addition to discoveringherbs that grow along the edges of the sawahs, you learn of the methods the farmers use to cultivate rice. Although it doesn’t seem obvious how ownership of the sawash is established, narrow irrigation channelsand different ground levels apparently delineate who owns what patch of land. Lilir believes it is crucial for young people to spend time working in the rice field to get a feel for their land and to learn about how they are connected to it. Unfortunately, many are reluctant to embrace the old ways when new technology beckons. Similarly, when it comes to treatment of ailments, most young people seek cures through modern medicines, eschewing traditional methods.
The older generations have used traditional medicines all their lives and for them, it is natural to harvest what is needed from their own backyards. Body scrub such as boreh have long been used by farmers in the sawahs at the end of a long back-breaking day. Used to help prevent rheumatism, the boreh scrub is made at home using a mix of cloves, ginger, red rice, galangal and temu lawak (Javanese turmeric), pounded to a thick paste and applied to the body until the paste dries, before being washed off.
The wide variety of plant life that grows together along the edges of the sawahs providing food and medicine is a revelation. Turmeric with roots and coconut palms, taro plants and banana trees, lemongrass and citronella, sour sop, jackfruit, pineapple and breadfruit grow side by side.
Lilir pulls, picks and crushes roots and leaves so we can smell the strong fragrances. We stop to taste edible leaves, to suck the nectar out of the red flowers of the ”closed”hibiscus tree, and to drink fresh, young coconut juice.
We learn that the seeds of the leucaena plant and the black seeds of the papaya fruit are used to kill intestinal parasites in people, and the crushed leaves of the sour sop tree are the best way to get rid of head lice in children. The leaves know as Daun Teman are an excellent cure for hemorrhoids when drunk as a tea with turmeric, while the cat`s whiskers herb works wonders for kidney problems.
The King of the herbs and spices appear to be tumeric which has various applications, including detoxifier ,antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and blood cleanser. When mixed with egg yolk and honey, i t is often eaten by the old and infirm as a type of pick-me-up.
Lilir and Westi have a big herb farm in Ubud that supplies herbs to the local healers because the quantities that grow in the wild are not enough for commercial uses. Nadis Herbal, producing natural skin and aromatherapy products. It is on the factory premises for the business overlooking yet another rice paddy that Lilir runs her jamu (healing drink) class.
Fresh turmeric and galangal are chopped and blended before being boiled with palm sugar and tamarind. It sounded far from enticing but the finished drink was refreshing with a perfect balance of sweet and sour flavors. Lilir makes a big pot of this every day for her family and factory team of 20. She maintains that this daily drink combined with her herb walk keeps her super fit, and needing only three to members of the factory team scurried away with the pot of jamu before we could ask for seconds.
A large, shallow mortar and pestle was used to grind the ingredients for the boreh scrub. Once the mixture was of a thick paste consistency, Lilir dabbed some on our temples as a decongestant for our heads, and gave us the rest to take back to our hotel to use as an all-over body scrub. It later proved to be a great relief for the pesky mosquito bites that had been itching me to distraction.
Massage oil made with coconut oil, fragrant flower petals and pandan leaves was simmered before being decanted into bottles to take home, and lastly, aloe vera and sweet corn were blended into a body mask is a wonderful skin softener according to Lilir,and I had to a concur when I applied it later; quick, healthy and cheap to make yourself at home. Which pretty much sums up all of the things we learned that morning.