Traditional Medicine

As in many other remote and poor areas of the world traditional medicine is still very much in use on Nias. Knowledge about medicinal plants and herbs are an important part of our heritage. The Nias Heritage Museum promotes and supports the use of traditional medicine as a supplement to modern medicine.


The Nias Heritage Museum grow, produce and sell traditional herbal remedies.

Today knowledge about traditional medicine is becoming increasingly rare, and as time goes by some of this wisdom may be forgotten if not recorded properly. To avoid this the Nias Heritage Foundation initiated a series of discussions and workshops with local practitioners of traditional medicine. The topic was the use and production of traditional medicine on Nias. The foundation aims to collect, document and share the wisdom of the ancestors in how to use nature to sustain life. A lot of flora & fauna and various types of minerals found on Nias Island can be used for medicinal remedies.

There are several reasons why traditional medicine is still popular on Nias:

  • Many Nias people live in rural areas with very poor access to hospitals and health clinics.
  • The price of modern medicine is very expensive and often not affordable for rural communities.
  • Practitioners of traditional medicine often live in the community themselves and know their patients personally which creates greater trust.
  • Apart from providing traditional medicine, nature also provides ingredients for healthy food, spices and products used for general well-being.

For these reasons the Museum believes that recording and sharing local knowledge about traditional medicine is useful for the community and people who believe in nature as a source of medicine and healthy sustenance.

The Museum has initiated several workshops and activities;


A number of seminars were held at the Museum attended by local practitioners of traditional medicine from all over Nias. Through the cooperation with the Japan Foundation, the results of these workshops were compiled in the book ' Traditional Medicine on Nias:  Benefits & Uses'. A second edition funded by Mandala Foundation in Singapore was published in 2010. This book is available for sale at the Museum.

Museum staff has attended a number of workshops related to traditional medicine. In January 2004 PT. Martina Bertho held a four day workshop in Jakarta. This workshop was attended by three participants from the museum. The workshop was followed by a two week practical seminar “Work Practices and Harvest Management in Organic Medicinal Plant Cultivation”.


Museum staff with participants at a traditional medicine workshop

In April 2014 the Museum organised a two day workshop for local midwives, health professionals and women from the community. The theme of the workshop was the use of traditional medicine during pregnancy and childbirth. The training was facilitated by museum staff as well as both ‘modern’ doctors and practitioners of traditional medicine. The workshop was held in cooperation with the German organisation Gesellschaft für direkte Hilfe in Asien.

The Museum is home to the most extensive herbal garden on Nias. Plants and herbs are regularly harvested and traditional medicine is produced by trained museum staff. 


The Museum Herbal garden is used to grow the ingredients for traditional medicine and also for education.

obat_tradisional_museum_pusaka_nias_5The herbal gardens also serve an important educational purpose. Each year the museum organises cultural training programs for school children, and learning about Nias medicinal plants is part of this program.

By collecting and sharing information about traditional medicine on Nias the Museum hopes that this unique aspect of our culture continue to thrive.

The Museum also produces its own traditional medicine and health products that are for sale at the café and museum shop:

museum_nias_obat_tradisional_1_temulawak_instanJavanese Ginger Tea (Temulawak Instan)
Dissolve powder in hot water and drink.
Used for: liver complaints, ulcers, high cholesterol, kidney problems, asthma, to increase appetite, reducing body odour and cough.
Ingredients: Javanese ginger roots, granulated sugar, wangu leaves and fennel seeds.


museum_nias_obat_tradisional_2_kunyit_instanTurmeric Tea (Kunyit Instan)
Dissolve powder in hot water and drink.
Used for: high blood pressure, ulcer, skin whitening, slimming, to increase urination and high cholesterol.
Ingredients: Turmeric, granulated sugar, cogon grass roots, fennel seeds, gynura divaricate leaves and bay cedar leaves.


museum_nias_obat_tradisional_3_jahe_instanGinger Tea (Jahe Instan)
Dissolve powder in hot water and drink.
Used for: tonsil complaints, asthma, tuberculosis, sinusitis, common cold, osteoporosis and to increase stamina.
Ingredients: ginger root, granulated sugar, cinnamon, fennel seeds, clove, cardamom and lemongrass.


Kejibeling  Leaves (strobilanthes crispus) (Daun Kejibeling)
Mix in hot water and drink like tea.
Used for: Issues with urinating and urine bladder, kidney stones, gall and bladder stones.
Ingredients: crushed strobilathes crispus leaves.


museum_nias_obat_tradisional_4_herba_sambilotoGreen Chiretta Leaves (Herba Sambiloto)
Mix in hot water and drink like tea.
Used for: typhus, colitis, appendicitis, diabetes, prostate problems, dysentery, pneumonia, hypertension and cough.
Ingredients: dried green chiretta leaves.


museum_nias_obat_tradisional_5_racikan_mahkota_dewaDried God’s Crown Fruit (Racikan Mahkotadewa)
Used for: treating cancer and tumours, diabetes, high blood pressure, chronic pain, kidney problems, arthritis, stroke, migraine, cirrhosis and gastritis.
Ingredients: Dried and crushed God’s Crown Fruit (phaleria macrocarpa)


museum_nias_obat_tradisional_6_daun_mutiaraOld World Diamond Flower Herb (Daun Mutiara)
Used for: insomnia, rheumatism, acute and chronic hepatitis.
Ingredients: dried and crushed Old World Diamond flower herb (hedyotis corymbosa)


museum_nias_obat_tradisional_7_minyak_kelapaVirgin Coconut Oil ( VCO )
Used as massage oil.
Used for: overcoming gland disorders, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, stomach disorders, heart, osteoporosis and prostate problems


Also available at the museum are herbs such as; Drumstick tree leaves (Daun Kelor) , Willow-leaved justicia leaves (Daun Gandarusa), Longevity Spinach Leaves (Daun Sambung Nyawa), Bay Cedar Leaves (Daun Jeti Belanda) and Orange Jessamine (Kemuning).

Herbal Plants


TORCH GINGER LILY (Etlingera elatior). Traditionally used to treat measles, increase energy, eliminate bad breath, improve blood circulation, applied to fresh cuts wounds and strengthen bones.


CAKAR AYAM (Selaginella doederleinii Hieron). Traditionally used to treat respiratory tract infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, tonsillitis, severe cough, and rheumatism.


GODS CROWN FRUIT (Phaleria macrocarpa). Traditionally used to treat dysentery, psoriasis, hives, low blood sugar, improve the immune system, increase metabolism system, colds and coughs.


COUNTRY BORAGE (Coleus amboinicus Lour). Traditionally used to treat kidney stones, malaria, chronic asthma, worms, and bronchitis.


LOTUS FLOWER (Nymphaea). Traditionally used to treat dysentery, fever, hypertension, high blood pressure, nosebleeds, coughing, headache, and insomnia.


FOREST MANGOSTEEN (Garcinia bancana). Traditionally used to reduce the risk of joint pain, reduce bacterial growth and treating skin infections.


JUNGLE FIRE PLANT (Excoecaria cochinchinensis). Traditionally used to treat dysentery, coughing up blood, psoriasis, wound, and miscarriage.


GOATWEED (Ageratum conyzoides). Traditionally used to treat fever, malaria, sore throat, pneumonia, middle ear infection, bleeding wounds and dysentery.


FIELD MILK THISTLE (Sonchus arvensis). Traditionally used to treat urinary tract infection, gallstones, dysentery, haemorrhoids, gout, arthritis, appendicitis, high blood pressure, bruises, boils and burns.


CHENILLE PLANT (Acalypha hispida Burm). Traditionally used to treat dysentery, enteritis, dysentery, vomiting blood, nosebleeds, worms and burns.


OLD WORLD DIAMOND FLOWER HERB (Oldenlandia). Traditionally used to treat tonsillitis, pharyngitis, bronchitis, mumps, appendicitis and also to heal ulcers and infected wounds.


AIR PLANT (Bryophyllum pinnatum). Traditionally used to treat stomach pain, toothache, haemorrhoids, tonsillitis, vomiting of blood, fever and asthma.


MACASSAR KERNELS (Brucea javanica). Traditionally used to treat malaria, dysentery, haemorrhoids, intestinal worms and warts.


HEART-LEAVED MOONSEED (Tinospora cordifolia). Traditionally used to increase appetite, treat hepatitis, malaria, and healing skin diseases.


MIGNONETTE VINE (Anredera cordifolia). Traditionally used to treat diabetes, shortness of breath, lung disease, wound healing, relieve arthritis, to treat itching and haemorrhoids.


DRUMSTICK TREE (Moringa oleifera). Traditionally used to treat jaundice, rheumatism, difficulty urinating, intestinal worms and allergies.

© Yayasan Pusaka Nias 2017. Designed & Edited by Björn Svensson & Shanti Fowler