Just as ginseng is synonymous with Korea, temulawak or Java turmeric is a natural medical treasure native to Indonesia.
As part of Indonesia’s centuries-old traditional healing practices, temulawak has long been used as an anti-inflammatory and antibacterial agent in treating many ailments, including swelling, gastric and digestive problems, stiff muscles, coughs and runny nose.
“As far as we know, temulawak can only be found in Indonesia,” says Gunawan T., managing director of Helmigs Prima Sejahtera, a pharmaceutical and curcumin products manufacturer.
“There are some individuals in several countries, like Malaysia, who have done research on their own varieties of temulawak at Yonsei University in South Korea, but the results show these plants are nothing like temulawak.”
So even if the Java turmeric exists elsewhere, Gunawan says, “I can confidently say the best temulawak comes from Indonesia.”
Having the best variety is one thing, but Indonesia can also churn out the stuff by the truckload.
Central Java and East Java, for instance, are just two of several provinces that farm temulawak on a large scale.
East Java alone produces up to 9 million kilograms of ready-to-sell temulawak each year. Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono’s hometown of Pacitan in the province is the country’s temulawak hub, recording harvests of 5 million kilograms of the tuber each year.
Gunawan’s company, Helmigs Prima Sejahtera, in the East Java capital Surabaya, is one of a handful of such manufacturers. Established in 1993, the company markets a range of products, including curcumin sugar-free effervescent, curcumin tablets, curcumin candy with Xylitol, and curcumin health drinks.
Factory manager Sutarko Tantra says the company processes several tons of temulawak extract into ready-to-consume products each day, combining traditional and modern methods.
The modern methods include the measurement of the properties contained in temulawak and the packaging of the curcumin extract into tablets and sachets using a machine imported from China.
“We follow high standards with high quality control because we don’t only market our products in Indonesia, but also overseas,” Sutarko says, adding the export markets include Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, Hong Kong, Canada, the Netherlands, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.