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Healing Secrets of Bali

Body+Soul, 2007

It's no wonder that Ubud, Bali's cultural center, gets its name from the Balinese word for medicine. Lush with frangipani flowers, tamarind trees, and coconut palms, the landscape swims in healing botanicals that the Balinese have used to enhance their health and beauty for centuries. A longtime tourist destination, Bali is teeming with remedies and practices that anyone can borrow to find restoration. Here are three tips to get started.

1. Essential Elixirs
Rather than downing supplements, many Balinese take their herbs via health-giving jamus, liquid concoctions blended from recipes passed down through generations. The most popular jamus promote overall well-being, says Jeni Smith, a healer from Bali's Aviva Holistic Healing Centre, and it's easy to make your own. Mix together a teaspoon each of turmeric powder, grated fresh ginger, and honey, and then stir the mixture into a cup of hot water. Both ginger and turmeric are anti-inflammatory, says Smith, while honey possesses antibacterial properties. "It's a great pick-me-up when your energy is dragging," she adds. And it's delicious.

2. Spirit Medicine
Especially powerful when performed under the full moon, meditation in Bali often involves praying while holding the sacred frangipani flower. Jelila, a Balinese wellness guide, says the following visual meditation presents characters that symbolize "your inner identities." Your goal is to find harmony among them. Sit in a comfortable position in a quiet space and focus on your breath. Picture yourself in a beautiful meadow. Visualize four people approaching you: a man, a woman, a child, and a wise old man. Greet all four, listen to what they have to say, and respond to their suggestions. Take the time to sit and talk with them. When you're ready, gently return.

3. The Royal Treatment
Originally intended to soften the skin of Indonesian princesses before their wedding day, the lulur is one of Bali's most savored beauty traditions. Create a version of the botanical body polish yourself with this recipe, provided by Smith. Rice powder is available at

2 teaspoons rice powder
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
3 drops frangipani or rose essential oil
3 drops jasmine essential oil or your favorite body oil
2 cups plain yogurt
flower petals or floral essential oil

Mix rice powder, turmeric, and essential oils. Add water to form a paste; set aside. Massage your body from head to toe with body oil, and then smear the paste on (avoiding your eyes). When the paste dries, rinse in the shower. Slather your skin with yogurt. Wait 2 minutes, and then rinse. Soak in a warm bath with fragrant flower petals or a few drops of essential oil such as jasmine, rose, or ylang-ylang.

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