Way of life in Ubud,
By ANNETTE EVANS
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 discovering herbs
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 channels
and 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
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
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.