Traditional Malay Medicine

Category: Knowledge and Practices about Nature and Universe

Traditional Malay Medicine comprises the practices, approaches and knowledge of health and healing that are associated with Malay culture and passed down through generations.

Runtik Binti Murtono - Urut LadyRuntik Binti Murtono - Urut Lady. Source: Roots.sg.

In Traditional Malay Medicine, the human body is believed to constitute four elements- suprawi (fire), suddawi (earth), dammawi (wind) and balpawi (water). The semanagat (soul substance) of a person determines an individual’s susceptibility to various illnesses.

In addition, there is the concept of dichotomy of “hot” and “cold”. Food can be categorised into “hot”, “cold” and “neutral” groups, and they affect the body fluids and immunity functions of a person differently. It is only when all four elements as well as the “hot” and “cold” aspects are balanced, that optimal health can be achieved.

The practices of Traditional Malay Medicine involve a combination of animist, Hindu and Islamic traditions. Healing may involve rituals, physiological aspects such as massage and bone-setting, as well as the use of medicine that are derived from plants, animals and minerals. Practitioners may also hold specialised knowledge related to women’s health, men’s health or traditional medicine such as jamu (herbal medicine).

In Singapore, practitioners include those who offer herbal remedies, urut (traditional massage techniques) practitioners, as well as practitioners offering spiritual healing. Though there are various competing approaches in health and healing in today’s society, there has also been increasing awareness and appeal of jamu and urut beyond the Malay and Muslim communities. 


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