What Is Jamu Massage? The Benefits, Effectiveness & More
Giving birth and motherhood is a life-changing experience in more ways than one.
New moms seek ways to help their bodies recover and cope with the demands of motherhood.
Southeast Asian women have been enjoying the benefits of traditional Jamu massage which has been seeing a resurgence.
Young, urban mothers are embracing the practice because of its proven results.
More on that later, let’s answer this question first.
What is Jamu massage? Jamu massage is a traditional postnatal massage from Southeast Asia. It’s a 3-part process with a relaxing whole body massage, the application of an herbal paste on the stomach and abdominal area and wearing a stomach binder for 6 hours after, and chest massage to encourage lactation and better milk flow. It’s helpful for bringing down post-pregnancy swelling in the uterus, get the body to relax and heal, expel wind, and clear milk duct blockage.
Where Did It Originate?
Jamu is an herbal tonic sold by Indonesian street vendors. The drink is made from a combination of tree roots, bark, leaves, honey, and royal jelly.
The word means ‘medicine’ in the Malay language.
It’s promoted as a cure-all to treat the heaviness you feel when you are coming down with a cold, an energy booster or as a supplement.
There is no specific recipe for Jamu since the ingredient list changes depending on what it’s brewed for.
Jamu massage is named after the drink because a lot of the ingredients for the health tonic is also used to make the herbal paste (tapel) for the stomach wrap (bengkung).
The practice came from Southeast Asia, specifically from the Malay peninsula of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei.
The therapy combines healing practices from Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda from India.
Jamu massage is the meeting of cultures blending traditional Malay folk-healing techniques, Ayurveda, and TCM to help new moms.
It’s based on traditional medicine and refined through generations of practice.
Countless women swear by its healing effects.
We may live in modern times but pregnancy and childbirth is still a long and painful, albeit joyful experience that women need help to heal from.
If you’re interested in other Asian massage therapies, check out Thai herbal massage, a relaxation and aromatherapy massage treatment.
What Are The Benefits Of Jamu Massage?
Like many other massage types, Jamu massage has many advantages only this time, it is focused on the needs of a new mother.
The massage uses moderate to firm pressure similar to a deep-tissue massage or Swedish massage to relax strained muscles and gentle gliding strokes to soothe the soreness in the abdominal muscles and uterus.
Here are some more benefits of Jamu massage.
1. Relaxes the body.
Labor is exhausting and puts a woman’s body through the wringer.
Muscles are contracted and the lactic acid build-up causes the body to be tense with knots and cramping.
A full body massage is restorative but Jamu kicks it up a notch by considering a woman’s body and the stress it has gone through after months of pregnancy and hours of labor.
It may sound selfish, but a little me-time is called for.
Mental wellness and post-partum depression may be eased if a new mom is given time to recover and feel good about herself again.
2. Removes wind from the body.
Wind is what makes the body ill. It is the heaviness that clings to limbs and the achiness that persists before and after a bout with sickness.
This is a fundamental belief in Traditional Chinese Medicine and by removing wind, the body heals faster
The massage takes into account the exertion a woman’s body goes through during labor.
According to TCM, the knots in the muscle are caused by wind which can only be expelled with manipulation and massage with Jamu oil.
Jamu oil is a blend of lemongrass and other herbs in a base oil that rejuvenates and revive the body.
3. Eases the swelling and strengthens the abdominal muscles.
Uterus massage is a highlight of Jamu massage. This goes beyond aesthetics and a less flabby midsection is a good self-image booster.
Sengkak, as uterus massage is called in the Malay language, helps to bring down abdominal swelling after delivery.
The stretched muscles are relaxed and go back to its original state of elasticity.
Aside from that, the therapist will also massage the uterus to help return it to its original position.
Doing this will avoid uterine prolapse and incontinence from occurring in the future.
4. Helps with pain management.
Back and hip pain are common complaints during and after pregnancy.
For new moms that breastfeed, taking painkillers is not an option.
Jamu massage helps by reducing the pain and it does this in 2 ways.
First, is by increasing the blood circulation and lymph drainage.
Both help to return muscles to its relaxed state and the knots to unclench and dissolve.
The improved lymph drainage can increase natural immunity and bring swelling and water retention down.
And the other is by relaxing the body which tricks the nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.
5. Aids in lactation issues.
There are women who experience problems producing enough milk or having milk but cannot express it because of blocked milk ducts.
Jamu massage includes a chest massage that will help bring down engorgement and clear the blockages from milk ducts so feeding your little one will not be a problem.
Massage decreases the stress levels of new mothers and increases their prolactin hormones which help the body produce milk.
Postnatal Massage Costs
A Jamu massage in Singapore starts at $95 Singapore dollars and can be anywhere from Rp270,000 to Rp350,000 in Indonesia. These figures translate to $68, and $19 to $24 in US currency.
Postnatal massage prices in the US can range between $75 to $120 per hour. The price varies depending on the location.
There are wellness spas that offer massage packages that can be used in 1 hour or 1 and ½ hour sessions.
Where Can I Get A Jamu Massage?
Authentic Jamu massage would be difficult to come by in the US. There are awesome massage therapists and spas specializing in postnatal massages though.
There are also at home options where a therapist will come to your home and treat you there.
Is Jamu Massage Safe?
Definitely. There are countless studies done on the amazing restorative health benefits of postpartum massage.
Jamu massage may not have the backing of funded medical research, but it has generations of women who have benefitted from the massage and are testaments to its health benefits.
Doctors and therapists would agree that there would be a recuperation period after delivery before you could get a massage.
For normal, vaginal delivery, a 5-7 day wait is acceptable. If you had a C-section delivery, 6-8 weeks after would be a safe window. But it is better to check in with your doctor just to be sure.
Is It Effective?
As far as reviews for Jamu massage go, it’s a positive word-of-mouth thing.
Generations of women have passed it onto the next, sharing its benefits and have kept the tradition alive.
That kind of positive experiences and feedback can’t be faked.
In fact, there is a lower incidence of postnatal depression among Malaysian women who follow traditional postnatal confinement practices.
Even in cosmopolitan cities like Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and Sydney, they have embraced the rejuvenating benefits of Jamu massage as a complementary therapy.
The use of light, sweeping strokes are guaranteed to bring relief to anyone plus the combination of herbs in the oil have their own effects.
Lemongrass oil is added to the massage oil which helps to minimize body aches and pain.
Other notable effects of lemongrass oil include aromatherapy with its relaxing scent that soothes irritability and anxiety, reduces inflammation, and relaxes the muscles.
Jamu Massage For C-section
As we previously mentioned, there should be a waiting period between labor and delivery, and getting a postnatal massage.
Women who had a vaginal delivery can wait for 5 to 7 days before they could schedule a massage.
They just have to make sure there are no complications like bleeding or unusual pain.
It is recommended that you wait at least 3 weeks after a C-section delivery to get a Jamu massage.
The 3 weeks is the bare minimum wait time.
The best course of action would still be to get clearance from your doctor before scheduling with a therapist.
Sengak or uterus massage is discouraged after a C-section as the wound will still be healing.
Obstetricians and Gynecologists actually recommend a wait time of 6 to 8 weeks after delivery before any massage.
Best Position During Postnatal Massage
The traditional massage position of lying on your stomach can be uncomfortable for some.
Whether it was a vaginal birth or a C-section, there will be swelling in the abdominal region and lying face down would put pressure on the midsection.
Lying on your side with a support pillow would be the most ideal and relaxing.
What To Expect During A Jamu Massage Session
No two Jamu massage sessions are alike.
The therapists would ask you about your pains and sensitivities before starting the massage.
The massage starts with a soothing leg and foot massage to work circulation back into the legs and help ease the swelling and fluid retention over the course of the pregnancy.
The therapist works their way up to your body, attention is paid to the back and the hips where a lot of stress has built up from carrying the weight of the baby for nine months.
Massaging the arms follow and then you will be asked to lie on your back.
Basalt stones are heated and used to massage the chest area. The heat helps to relieve the pressure from the milk and make lactation easier for the mother and suckling for the baby.
This is an optional service as some may be uncomfortable with the idea of having their breasts massaged.
The 60-minute massage session ends with a soothing neck and scalp massage followed by the application of the tapel.
The herb paste or tapel helps to expel wind from the body.
It is applied on the forehead and on the abdomen.
The abdominal area is massaged with smooth, upward strokes, the Sengak, to help reposition the uterus back to its original place.
A bengkung, a long strip of linen cloth (about 11 yards) is used as a girdle wrap to let the tapel mixture absorb on the skin and help keep your posture upright and your stomach bound and flat.
It’s not really uncomfortable but it can get hot.
Here’s a video of Jamu massage and a demonstration of how the bengkung is wrapped around the tummy and abdomen.
Jamu therapists suggest wearing the bengkung for at least 6 hours a day to see noticeable results of the stomach and abdomen getting flatter and less swollen.
How Many Jamu Massage Sessions Do You Need To See Results?
One session will bring much-needed relief and help the body heal and recover faster.
It’s recommended to get at least 5 sessions and to consistently wear the bengkung to get the anti-inflammatory and anti-swelling effects of the tapel.
Inform the therapist of any allergies to nuts, oils, and plants. Ginger, betel nut, turmeric, and lime are common ingredients for the tapel paste.
Lemongrass oil has a citrusy scent and heat to it, so it may feel warm. It may be too much for some so request for different massage oil if you don’t like the scent or the heat from the oil.
Learn about possible massage oil options from our massage and essential oils article.
Avoid any form of massage if you have high blood pressure or are experiencing excessive swelling.
Whether you had a normal delivery or had a C-section, check with your doctor first.
Jamu massage is an alternative massage therapy for women who had given birth.
It’s helpful for bringing down post-pregnancy swelling in the uterus, get the body to relax and heal, expel wind, and clear milk duct blockage.
Jamu massage therapy is not available in the US nor can tapel paste be bought from Amazon.
There are postnatal massages offered in some spas and wellness centers and it’s a close enough alternative.
Remember to take precautions and get clearance with your doctor before any massage treatments.
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Kit, L.K., Grace, J., & Jegasothy, R. (March 1997). Incidence of Postnatal Depression in Malaysian Women. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/14121630_Incidence_of_Postnatal_Depression_in_Malaysian_Women
Axe, J. (Nov. 28, 2018) 16 Lemongrass Essential Oil Uses & Benefits, for Skin, Hair & Even House! Retrieved from https://draxe.com/lemongrass-essential-oil/