Masuk Angin: Believe it or not?

When it comes to taking health advice from Indonesians, I have to admit, I have been a little skeptical. This comes from Indonesian friends telling me that Indonesian cigarettes are really healthy because they are made from herbs (not tar and nicotine), and from the constant cracking of bones every time an Indonesian stands up (spine, arms, fingers, toes, neck – crack, crack, crack – AYO PERGI), from the love of everything deep fried, and the belief that KFC is a kind of health food.

As well as this, while I have heard that the Indonesian national sport is badminton, (once a friend told me that he used to be an athlete in school – I asked in an amazed way watching him suck down a lucky strike, “wow – what kind of athletics?”, and to my great amusement he replied, “badminton”), I wouldn’t describe Indonesians as a nation of athletes. In fact, it is a nation of using anything but your feet to get to a destination. If you have to go more than about 30 metres, you need a car, or an angkot, kopaja, or preferably, a motorbike.

Anyway, so many times with Indonesian friends, I would overhear a conversation about “masuk angin” where the sufferer of this affliction would show their backs which were covered in what looked like bruises from being whipped. I looked at these wounds in shock, and asked what the hell happened to them, to which they would respond calmy in English, “I am windy in – I have masuk angin”, as though this was an answer that would make any sense to me. I tried to make sense of this illness, asked many questions but could only make out that the sufferer had wind inside and maybe wanted to burp and fart a lot, and to cure this illness you needed some kind of oil and a coin and the coin was used to rub these bruises into your back which would help the wind escape. Bingung? Yes, I was.

To protect themselves against this affliction, Indonesians don’t sit under air conditioners or open the window on a bus. Wind is dangerous. Inwardly I scoffed at masuk angin, outwardly any time anyone burped (and people burp a lot here) I would say, “masuk angin?” half jokingly and they would often reply seriously in the affirmative.

This inward mocking came to a grinding halt one day after I spent the day feeling not quite right. My stomach was rumbling, I felt the need to burp a lot, and I kind of just wanted to vomit. My sweety pacar suggested that I may have masuk angin so I consented to receiving the treatment, known as kerokan, for sociological purposes of course, thinking that I may as well give it a go. So he got the oil and the coin and scratched my back, and it kind of tickled and sometimes hurt, and when it was all finished I fell into a deep sleep. When I woke and looked at my back, it was covered in those scratchy bruises, and I felt great. My health felt normal and I wanted to wear a singlet to show off my bruises to say, “Hey everybody, I had masuk angin too, check it out”.

So now I can’t scoff about masuk angin.

But I am still skeptical about panas dalam (hot inside). Let’s see.

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10 Responses to “Masuk Angin: Believe it or not?”

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  1. James Clark says:

    I once got told by a Sumatran that chewing on sugar cane is good for your teeth. I could scoff at the herbal cigarettes line, but then again I tell people that chocolate is good for you because it comes from a plant.

    • hahahaha! Yes it’s true that we can pick and choose our health advice – coming from a more alcoholic perspective I say red wine is definitely healthy!

  2. atik schwarzenber says:

    Ha ha ha ha ha that’s is true everytime I masuk angin I asked my maid to kerokin in me, but my husband he is more than skeptical how angin bisa masuk? That only in ur head.

    • admin says:

      wkwkwkwk… that’s so funny! I was so sceptical too but I have seen the results of kerokin with my own eyes and now I believe it works too! I still do wonder how angin bisa masuk…. it will forever remain a mystery to me… but I believe it happens! xx

  3. kris heather says:

    Very funny but l am a total convert to Chinese medicine, you only have to try it and feel the results to know it works .. for me it is like computers I have NO IDEA and logics says impossible but yet here l am… like computers science will one day explain it all when it catches up along with ALOT of other so called weird things!
    P.s Marlo posted you guys on facebook : )
    P.p.s If you have a cold inside you you need to push it out with chilli, garlic, ginger, honey …wouldnt you run in the face of that and no drugs anywhere gotta love that!

    • Hi Kris – I totally agree with you about trying out different kinds of medicines. No longer can western medicine claim to be the experts on curing anything and people are more aware now than ever of trying out Chinese medicine or ayurvedic medicine (is that how you spell it), or the thousands of other varieties and often have better results than they had before from taking a panadol or Codrel or whatever our doctor prescribed after a 3 minute appointment. What I find really interesting is finding out about new bodily afflictions that we have never heard about from where we are from. So if I have a runny nose and a bit of a cold, then maybe I would push it out with a honey and lemon tea. But when a person from a place like Indonesia starts telling me about a common ailment in their country as though it were matter-of-fact, I think “what on earth are they talking about?”. And after dictionaries (or google translate) fail to explain it clearly to me in a language I can understand – the exciting part is actually suffering from this ailment (I don’t know if I would have described it as exciting at the time), trying out the age-old remedy – and then, hey presto, it’s cured. I like these new discoveries. I don’t know if anyone in Oz would trust me though if I came at them with a bottle of oil and a coin. Let’s see.

  4. Tata says:

    I love your blog. Keep writing! 🙂

  5. this is true. but how to explain the logical or science, we still don’t know. you can try it at home, no dangerous there.

    • welovejakarta says:

      wkwkwk… we have both tried it… with kerokan…. it’s a very strange phenomenon! :))

  6. ed says:

    so why has there been no scientific study on this ?