Traditional medicine and intellectual property rights: a case study of the Indonesian jamu industry



Publication Details

Antons, C. & Antons-Sutanto, R. (2009). Traditional medicine and intellectual property rights: a case study of the Indonesian jamu industry. In C. Antons (Eds.), Traditional knowledge, traditional cultural expressions and intellectual property law in the Asia-Pacific region (pp. 363-384). Alphen aan den Rijn, The Netherlands: Kluwer Law International.


The Indonesian rain forest is second in size only to the Amazon in Brazil. According to the Indonesian Country Study on Biodiversity (ICBSD), there are between 25,000 and 30,000 species of plants, 6,000 of which are used by various ethnic communities in Indonesia in their preparation of traditional medicines.' However, only 286 plants are officially registered as traditional medicinal plants in the Materia Medika at the Department of Health? It is important to note, that traditional Indonesian medicines mirror the cultural and biodiversity in the archipelago. There are more than three hundred and fifty ethnic groups, living on more than thirteen thousand tropical islands stretching more than five and half thousand kilometres along the Equator. There are various approaches to traditional healthcare and medicines within Indonesian ethnic communities, of which the Javanese would be the largest. The Javanese perceptions of health, which are of primary interest in this chapter, can be perceived as a syncretism of local indlgenous concepts with elements of medicinal knowledge drawn from Hinduism, Buddlhism, Islam and Western medicine. However, apart from the Javanese, ethnic communities in remote areas such as the Kubu in Sumatra and the Asmat in West Papua have also been able to maintain their distinctive knowledge systems of healing. In addition, biodiversity has contributed to this diverse knowledge of traditional remedies. Different species of medicinal plants are often found in different regions. Ethnic communities from various regions are, therefore, using different plants to cure the same disease.

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