The Secrets of Traditional Asian Beauty

We take a look at ancient natural beauty remedies that Asian women have been using for centuries.


Jamu is a system of traditional medicine practiced in Indonesia that traces its origins to the Medang kingdom some 1,300 years ago. Typically made by women with recipes handed down over the generations and peddled on the streets, companies have now joined the jamu business with factory-scale manufacturing of pills, powders and bottled drinks.

One common jamu treatment sold in Bali is jamu kunyit assam, a drink of turmeric (kunyit) and tamarid (assam) mixed with either water or lime juice. Jamu kunyit assam is drunk mainly to help with weight loss and for general health.

Scientists have identified the chemical curcumin as the active compound in turmeric. Curcumin has been reported to have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor effects. However, due to its poor water solubility, ingested curcumin is often not easily absorbed. Furthermore, curcumin was found to promote the development of cancer in other studies, and may lead to iron deficiencies due to its effects on iron metabolism.

Photo: Exotissimo Travel/Flickr.
Photo: Exotissimo Travel/Flickr.

This article was first published in the print version of Asian Scientist Magazine, October 2014.


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Rebecca did her PhD at the National University of Singapore where she studied how macrophages integrate multiple signals from the toll-like receptor system. She was formerly the editor-in-chief of Asian Scientist Magazine.

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