Mevrouw Jans, A Dutch Indies Lady Who Introduced the Archiple’s Jamu to the World

"It was her grief of losing his son that prompted Jans to write a book about jamu which the Europeans in the Dutch East Indies used as a guide book. Jans brought the Nusantara (Archipel) jamu to life with her research and practice of jamu. This made Jans' name to be remembered as a foreigner who brought Indonesian jamu to the world. "

Published by : administrator  -  12/11/2020 15:54 WIB

4 Minutes read.

Mevrouw Jans’ full name is Johanna Maria Carolina Versteegh. She was born in Sukomangli, May 16, 1862. Her father was Carolus Bartholomeus Versteegh, an administrator and owner of a coffee plantation in Weleri, Central Java. Her father is also known as the “King of Javanese Coffee”. Her mother’s name was Albertina Margaretha van Spreeuwenburg. Jans saw her childhood in the countryside far from big cities and more familiar with the natural environment.

Image source: kendhilkencana.blogspot.com

Jans had studied at the Ursuline Sisters’ School, a well-known and high-standard school at that time in Batavia. Unfortunately, a failed coffee harvest forced Jan to return to her village, because her parents could not afford the school fees. Returning to the village did not discourage Jans. Jans chose to participate in picking and caring for medicinal plants which eventually made her love jamu.

In the past, in the remote villages of the Dutch East Indies, access to health was difficult to find. Finally, Jan was assigned to look after and care for the health of the plantation workers. During that time, Jans learned about various alternative healing treatments through traditional jamu. Meanwhile, her mother often treats people around her with traditional medical techniques, especially jamu. From there, Jan day by day studied and found out the benefits of each herbal plant to follow in his mother’s footsteps.


Image source: kendhilkencana.blogspot.com

In 1881, Jans married a young Dutchman named Herman Kloppenburg. After getting married, they decided to stay in Semarang. The big and majestic house made people consider Jans’ house the most beautiful house at that time, because it was an area of ​​wealthy Europeans.

Eventually Jans had 11 children: six daughters and five sons. However, his eldest daughter Tina died at the age of 14 due to illness. Doctors’ diagnoses differ from one another, some say Tina died of malaria, some say Tina died of typhus. Tina’s death prompted Jans to write a book about jamu and medicinal plants in the Dutch East Indies. Jans wrote a book without scientific pretensions, but information about jamu recipes, uses, and efficacy of medicinal plants in the surrounding environment. The information and materials that Jans got were from dukun (traditional healers), drug sellers at the market, or asking local residents.

There are many treatments for diseases described in Jans book, ranging from hair and beauty treatments, treatment of fever, malaria, aches and pains, coughs and many others. Jans not only uses empon-empon but also leaves. Some of Jans’ books are as follows.

  • Jans’ first book was printed in 1907 entitled “Indische planten en haar geneeskracht (Indian plants and their healing powers)”.
  • In 1911, compiled “Atlas van Indische geneeskrachtige planten bij Raadgevingen betreffende het gebruik van Indische planten, vruchten enz (Atlas of Indian Medicinal Plants on Instructions and Suggestions for Use of Indian Plants, Fruits)”
  • In 1913, she published “Het leven van de Europeesche vrouw in Indië (Life of European Women in the Indies)”.
  • 1940, responds to solutions to disease in the book “Comments on my ‘Hints and Advices’ on the use of Indian plants, fruits etc.”