Op-ed
Essay
17 Aug 2022

Rindu Tanah Air

Bringing a nostalgic nose and tongue from Pamulang to Copenhagen in aiding homesickness

Text
Ribka Pattinama
Photo
Ribka Pattinama
Topics
Camomile
Cinnamon
Herbal Blends
Hibiscus
Kayu Putih
Kumis Kucing
Lavender
Lemongrass
Lime
Mugwort
Nettles
Nutmeg
Peppermint
Raspberry Leaves
Tamarind
Turmeric
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The colors protrude and the streets look brighter during spring and summer where I live. I never cared much for living here. For most of the year this place resembles a dull gray, there is an absence of scents, the people look pale, and the pace of the city is slow. But when the seasons change for the warmer, Copenhagen seems different. I have been living in Denmark for over twenty years, my childhood was spent in South Jakarta and Pamulang. Residing most of my life in a country where the yearly average temperature is below 10°C even the passing of time hasn’t made me grow accustomed to it. 

You see, the kecap manis and coconut oil gets hard here; things that are meant to feel the sun’s embrace end up being petrified. Withstanding day-to-day life in Scandinavia requires survival tactics that come in many forms.

For me, as a mixed Indonesian diaspora, homesickness is a mournfully persistent imposing obstacle in my life. In the thick of it all, I found a remedy that works for me; comfort in the form of flavors. Consuming food, beverages, and aromas that take me back to Indonesia are essential for the treatment of my grief. When carrying the sorrow of diaspora displacement, reclaiming cultural heritage is a constant task. Many of us have worries about reappropriation, the shame of assimilation, and a loss of culture and language due to structures of white supremacy. While living in countries where the majority of the population is white, adapting often means erasing your heritage. In other words, the currency is high and we don’t get to exchange it for a fair price, it’s a fee of being minoritized. But amidst the struggle, I acquired a sense of belonging by finding happiness and love in cooking Indonesian food and making herbal blends. That’s the power of nostalgia, my nose and tongue remember–it’s as simple as that.

My upbringing was filled with natural remedies and oils for pain relief and boosting the immune system. Classic indispensable household items included minyak kayu putih, Tolak Angin, kunyit, madu, jahe for jamu; and many other fruits and plants which were used for infections and masuk angin together with kerokan. Even after moving to Denmark, we made sure to stock up on these provisions when possible. But living in new surroundings–where western medicine casts away the belief and use of natural medicine–required certain maintenance and engagement to sustain such practices. Thankfully I have a parent who is a herbal enthusiast. They passed down knowledge and interests that enriched me.

Denmark used to have a tradition in the use of herbal medicine, but that knowledge has been forgotten or discarded by the masses. Therefore I’d like to go back to the beginning of my text, where I mentioned the warm seasons of Copenhagen. During these months I forage leaves and flowers I use throughout the year. Some of the most obtainable plants for me  include nettles, camomile, rose hip, mugwort, lavender, mint, raspberry, camomile and blackberry leaves. The harvest of these danish plants primarily lead to tea blends.

I gradually developed a curiosity on how I could use nature to my advantage. I began to gather information on the benefits of accessible plants in both Denmark and Indonesia. 

I am fortunate enough to still have my childhood home in Pamulang. The garden is bountiful and full of life; here I forage moringa, frangipani, jasmine, kumis kucing, lemongrass, mango, pandan and salam leaves.

The process of collecting and preparing the harvest for consumption is a fulfilling labor.

I really enjoy utilizing the harvest in many ways. In my herbal practice, I prioritize the creation of tea blends. I also use them in my cooking, make smudge sticks and face masks. The effort is rewarding because for me it’s all about care-work. But knowing how to help yourself and others requires a certain emotional capacity which can be very difficult to do. I absolutely believe everyone should go at their own pace in life–and I’m not here to say I’m doing it the right way. I’m just here to share some of my survival tactics, which I hope can ease some of your difficulties as it has mine.

I want to pass on 6 herbal blends I regularly use. The thing is, I’m not great at following recipes. I depend on intuition and habitual practice. So when I brew my teas I try to go intuitively with what feels like the right amount and it’s also a great way to exercise your taste buds to find out your own preferences.

I hope you can enjoy some of the combinations I am presenting to you <3

Kumis kucing + Hibiscus

Benefits: helps treat urinary infections and endometritis. 

(Consult a doctor before using kumis kucing while pregnant).

Hibiscus: antioxidant, vitamin c, anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial, good for liver.

Kumis kucing: anti-inflammatory, relieves joint pain, detox, antifungal & bacteria, good for leucorrhoea (vaginal discharge). 

Asthma & Allergy blend

Benefits: help relieve shortness of breath and clearing sinuses

Peppermint: relieves nausea, helps abdominal pain (constipation, gas and diarrhea), migraine relief, anti-bacterial, calms allergies, sharpens focus.

Nettles: K, C, A + B vitamins, packed with minerals and amino acids, anti-inflammatory, regulate blood pressure and blood sugar.

Calming milk

Benefits: good before bedtime or during the day to calm yourself 

Nutmeg: helps reduce insomnia and works as a calming agent. 

Turmeric and peppercorn:The curcumin in the turmeric is hard to absorb, therefore adding peppercorn helps increase the intake.

Cinnamon: supports healthy sugar metabolism Mugwort: calming effect and bonus plant for lucid dreaming (the dreaming herb).

Most of the components in this blend are antiviral, antibacterial and anti-fungal

Hormone balance and menstrual relief 

Benefits: helps regulate hormones and relieve pain. Good for all genders, not just for people with reproductive systems!

(Consult a doctor before using raspberry leaves while pregnant).

Mugwort: calms nerves, stimulates dreams, joint pain relief, anti anxiety, C vitamin, immune system boost.

Lavender: reduces anxiety, stress and pain, antibacterial, anti-fungal, good for digestive system.

Raspberry leaves: immune system boost, good for skin, loaded with vitamins, magnesium, potassium, boosts nerve functions and cells, minerals and antibacterial.

Jamu lite with Kelor

Benefits: reduce inflammation and boost immune system

Moringa: essential amino acids, increases energy, mood regulating, boosts immune system, vitamin C, A, E, B, brings down cortisol levels (stress), balances hormones, anti-inflammatory.

Tamarind: antioxidant, antibacterial, treats ulcers, antihistamine properties, vitamin C, Immune boost.

Ginger: aid digestion, reduce nausea, relieve pelvic pain, anti-inflammatory, boosts immune system, relieves migraines.

Palm sugar: boosts energy level, antioxidants, improves immunity, aid digestion, calms nervous system, magnesium.

Lime: alkaline (good for acid reflux), vitamin C, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory.

Turmeric: anti-inflammatory, pain relief ( for example pelvic cramps and joint pain), good for skin, antifungal, relieves asthma, aids digestion, antiviral.

Immune Boost

Benefits: boosts immune system, relieves cough.

Lemongrass: aid digestion, antifungal, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, vitamin A + C, calming.

Kayu putih: antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, antioxidant, aids nausea and migraines, boosts immune system.

Camomile: antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, calming, aid stomach pain, antioxidant (good for anti aging).

As you can see many of the ingredients have similar properties. The beneficiary descriptions I have introduced are not even the full capacity of the plants. If one becomes familiar with their benefits, it’s easier to create your own blends. My best tip is to google away, you can search for information to your heart’s content.

Thank you for reading.

xoxo Ribka

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