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Traditional Medicine and Medical Treatments

Traditional medicine and medical treatments among people of Kutai Kartanegara are very diverse. Various medications and treatments can be classified into two types, outside and inside diseases. In addition to those, Kutai people also recognize the various kinds of shamans and traditional healers spread throughout every region of Kutai Kartanegara, East Kalimantan.

Shamans and healers are considered as responsible for the implementation of traditional medicine. They are responsible for interpreting sacred and magical symbols into languages and tools that can be understood by ordinary people. Shamans and healers are considered as intermediaries between the unseen world and the real world.

Several types of shamans known in Kutai Kartanegara community are:

1. Quacksalver

Quacksalver is a profession which still can be found in many areas of Kutai Kartanegara at present. The male and female quacksalver is capable of treating various diseases, both inside and outside the body. The quack’ skill obtained through several ways, i.e. learning from teachers, inheritance from parent, and the revelation by supernatural powers, either through the dream or received when someone has been cured of disease classified as severe and long.

The treatment performed by a quack is a mix between the potions (drugs) and spells. These spells are usually in the form of verses of holy Qur'an. In Kutai Kartanegara, the spells are known as tawar, so it derived some term of tawar gigi (dental), tawar lipan (centipedes), tawar ular (snakes), tawar sakit perut (abdominal pain), and so on. Any quack usually has the expertise of various spells.

2. Midwife the Shaman of Baby

The midwives are usually female as it is considered more understanding about baby care. Specific skills needed to become a midwife because some reason. First, a midwife is required to have skills detecting baby's illness. Second, baby care is requiring careful treatment considering the physical state of baby that is weak.

The Shaman usually performs the treatment by massaging and powdering the parts of body that are considered necessary for treatment. In addition, the mother of the baby is also received a treatment as her health is very influential on baby’s health. Midwives usually provide some prohibited food and drinks to the mother and required to eat and drink according to the recommendation of Shaman.

3. Shaman of Maternity

Shaman of maternity is doing his job to care for pregnant woman since before giving birth, while childbirth, and postpartum. This task begins when reach 7 month of gestational age. Since then, the shaman always cares for pregnant woman by bathing her using concoction of flowers and certain spells. The procession, called bedudus or mandi-mandi is intended that the pregnant woman and the baby will be protected from various diseases, both common diseases and illnesses caused by spirits.

In the procession of bedudus or mandi-mandi, the water for bathing is put on jar, while the dipper was special made of brass or silver. The next equipment is coconut leaves. In addition to these materials, the shaman is also preparing several other offerings. This ritual should be carried out according to the procedures of implementation inherited from generation to generation.

When the baby was born, shaman of maternity assigned at least two other people to perform the childbirth. The baby's birth is greeted with traditional ceremony held and adjusted according to his family status, common people or nobility. If the family comes from royal blood-line, then the equipment of ceremony used should be yellow, both colors on the tiudur, diapers, place offerings, glove swing, and so on. However, if the family status from common people, the color of equipment should not be required to one color but free.

After childbirth, shaman is still caring for the baby and the mother until the procession of “lepas uri” or also known as “tanggal pusat” in Kutai term was done. The time of Tanggal Pusat is usually on fifth or seventh day of birth. The next procession is “pelas bidan” which held after Tanggal Pusat. This kind of ceremony is where the baby and the mother are bathed by shaman of maternity. While the ceremony is held, there is held a ceremony of “tasmiah”, which is naming the baby. In the event of tasmiah is often performed “gunting rambut”, which is hair cutting ceremony of a baby by the invited guests in turn. After Gunting Rambut is done, the duty of shaman is also done. However, even after the childbirth, the shaman is still usually being asked for help to treat or cure the baby when got an illness.

4. Bone Broken-setter Shaman

The broken-setter shaman is expert in the treatment of bone fractures and even the broken ones. This shaman expertise lies in the massage section of broken bones. When doing a massage, the shaman uses skills as well as his inner science. A broken bone can be healed in just a matter of days, typically ranging from 3 to 7 days.

Skills of massage combined with the concoction are the key of this medication. The concoction used is usually made from finely ground leaves of lemon grass and then affixed to the broken bone. There is also a shaman uses live chicks pounded and placed in the broken part.

The broken-setter shaman is rarely found in Kutai. This is caused by the difficulty of studying on this one. Usually the broken-setter shaman will get the expertise derived from its predecessor, rather than by learning from a teacher.

5. Shaman of Twist

Shaman of twist is uric expert. The shaman’s ability is to cure any broken vein caused by sprained, dropped, bumped, or from carrying heavy loads.

This ability can be learned by anyone through exercises including how to massage and accumulate of traditional materials. Ingredients or tools that are used are usually special oil or embrocation to heal the broken veins (sprained).

6. Shaman of witchcraft disease expert

This kind ability of witchcraft disease expert is difficult to learn. Therefore, there is a few of their presence in Kutai Kartanegara who can be found at present.

The shamans have two types of expertise. First is to cure of witchcraft and second is an expert of voodoo so they could transmit diseases to the others. The disease usually affects to the child teens, both male and female.

Voodoo is the science sent to the person through the wind. The person affected by the spell will suffer lust. Voodoo science is usually used as a form of revenge. This could happen of hurting someone due her or his feeling of love was rejected. This person then went to a shaman to sent voodoo to her or his object. The object who affected by this will experience a change in attitude. He applies unnatural such as crying or laughing due to reasons that are unclear.

If the person is exposed to witchcraft, then his family will be looking for another shaman to treat it. In the treatment process occur fights between shamans, the sender and the healer. If the healer is under the ability of the sender, then the person who gets exposed must look for the person who he was ever hurt and it will be cured immediately after they get married.

7. Shaman of Black Magic Defend

Black magic is still quite commonly found in Kutai Kartanegara. Black magic is a skill to harm someone with evil ways, i.e. tembalun, parangmaya, and so on. As represented in witchcraft or voodoo, black magic is also sent through the wind.

If someone has been exposed by tembalun or parangmaya, he will suffer with strange diseases. As the marks affected by this kind of black magic is his head becomes soft or a half of his body is dead. Black magic is very frightening as it can cause death for the sufferer.

Shaman of black magic defend has a higher ability than any shaman. He is master of black magic and knows what kind of magic and tools used to bring diseases in others. He has the ability to know the ways of healing any diseases caused by black magic such as rotting sores all over body or called peloros in Kutai term which is difficult to be cured.

Sometimes there is also fight between shamans. When this occurs, the ordinary people who do not know about this science of black magic will be on dangerous as he can be an object or victim of their supernatural powers and even sometimes used as bait. 

Kutai Kartanegara community also knows some traditional healers who divided into several types:

  1. Pawang Belian

Belian is understood as the way to treat the diseases. The handler of Belian is called Pawang or shaman of Belian.

There are several types of Belian known in Kutai, one of which is Belian Bawo. The name of Bawo is derived from the hill (mountain or tribal name, i.e. Dayak tribe from Dayak Benuaq). Belian Bawo serves to investigate the disease and simultaneously cure the sufferer.

According to Benuaq tribe’s belief, the disease suffered by a person generally due to anger of the spirits. The way to cure is through apologizing to the spirits and giving offerings on the accompaniment of adoration.

The handler purchases must have a broad knowledge of the supernatural, gods, and spirits. He also had to memorize a variety of spells and use it in certain ceremonies. Other demands of a handler purchases is its sensitivity to supernatural influences.

Demands that are not easy require someone who wants to be Pawang Belian to study only with an experienced man. It takes time to learn at least 3 years. Over the past three years, he has to learn a variety of issues related to the unseen world and spirits. In addition, he should learn how to make ceremonial offerings as well as a variety of spells.

2. Shaman of Sawai

Some group of the society of Kutai Kartanegara believes that there are supernatural beings called (has same meaning with spirits) in certain places. For the sake of peace and safety of life, it would require a good relationship between society and the spirits in a way to communicate. However, it is just certain people who are able to communicate with the supernatural beings. Thus this derives a term of Pesawai, those who could communicate with spirits. The Pesawai’s activity in Kutai language called Besawai. orang gaib

Besawai Ceremony is commonly held before deploying some specific ceremony or procession such as pelas desa, salvation of postharvest, fairs, and weddings aims to make during the activities will be protected and not disturbed by bad spirits.

When Besawai is held, shaman of sawai wears special clothing and visits some place regarded as the center of spirits. They communicate each other using language that is not understood by an ordinary people. The words used on communication are in form of songs called Memang. The implementation of Memang is usually done at night when the atmosphere was quiet. After Memang, he then scatters yellow rice around the venue.

This expertise has been very rarely found on Kutai Kartanegara. This expertise is a legacy through generations.

3. Expert of Love Spells

This skill may endear it to someone who accomplishes this kind of spells. This expertise is still quite popular among Kutai Kartanegara society.

An expert of love spells is using various media to transfer the skill to someone such as bathing, amulets, and even through the verses of holy Qur'an. Especially for media that are read, many people have it. They practice reading the spells when bathing, dressing, and combing.      

The shamans or healers are concocting various types of animals and plants as a primary tool in treatment. In addition, in many circumstances, they also use magic power that is believed useful in the process of healing of an illness. The following are examples of some traditional medicines and medical treatments used by Kutai Kartanegara community. 

Traditional medicines and medical treatments for outside diseases

1. Burns

In Kutai language, this is also called Luka tunu and medicine’s name is Letus.


  • Toothpaste
  • Ink
  • Used oil
  • Chicken fat or Lemak manoki in Kutai language

How to treatment:

  • Smear the toothpaste evenly on the wound
  • Take ink using cotton and smear it on the wound
  • Take used oil using cotton and then smear it on the wound
  • Fry the chicken fat until it becomes oil and when the oil is cool, smear it on the wound

2. Cuts

In Kutai language called Luka tekerat.

Materials (ingredients):

  • Fry coffee fruit and crush it to become coffee powder.

How to treatment:

  • The wound is cleaned and then affixed coffee powder evenly on the wound and wrapped with a cloth or sterile gauze. Replace the medicine 2-3 times a day.

3. Ulcers

In Kutai language called bongsolot. The signs of ulcer disease are swollen flesh colored blue, including a pain, and heat. Ulcers are caused by dirty blood.


  • Betel leaf
  • Frangipani leaf
  • Coconut oil

How to treatment:

  • A piece of betel leaf or frangipani leaf is softened by heating on the fire then dip in coconut oil which has been heated, and then affixed to the ulcers.

4. Itching


  • Hazelnut (called keminting in Kutai language)
  • Turmeric

How to treatment:

  • Take 7 pieces of hazelnuts and 7 pieces of turmeric as big as thumb and pounded it all. Put it on the bowl and grill over a fire. After changing into the form of ointment and still a bit of heat, applied to the body that itches. If the medicine is cool, heat it again.

5. Hair loss

The medicine’s name to cure hair loss is called uat botak in Kutai language


  • Sugar derived from sugarcane juice
  • Vinegar, in Kutai language called lahang derived from sugar palm water that was preserved

How to treatment:

  • ¼ kg sugar, ¼ cup vinegar and one cup of water thrown into the pot and cook it until thick. Store in a place, such as glass bowl and covered. Once settled, turned into a form of herbal medicine and is ready to drink. 


Traditional medicines and medical treatments for inside diseases

1. Fever


  • Green coconut or nyiur hijau in Kutai language
  • Three eggs of local chicken

How to treatment:

  • Take the water of one green coconut and put in a pot and add 3 eggs of local chicken and stir it. Once it mixed, drink the medicine at the time the sun was blazing. Drink this medicine 2 times a day.

2. Asthma

In Kutai language called pendek nafas or bengek.


  • Amethyst leaf and flower
  • Bat or keluang in Kutai language called

How to treatment:

  • One grasp of amethyst leaves and flowers is washed until clean and then crushed until soft and dried under the sun. Once it was dried, do spray it using rain water and then dried again. Once definitely dry, mix it with tobacco cigarettes. The treatment of this disease is done by smoking tobacco which was mixed with these materials.
  • Take the meat from 3 Bats and wash with lime water until clean and odorless. Once clean then cook it until done. The meat has been cooked can be used as medicine in a way as a side dish eaten twice a day.

3. High Blood Pressure or Hypertension

This called penyakit tekanan in Kutai language.


  • Garlic
  • Palm sugar
  • Luntas, i.e. plants that commonly grow in the yard and functioned as a fence

How to treatment:

  • Garlic is peeled, then washed and eaten raw
  • Palm sugar is eaten as well as garlic
  • Take 3 grasps of young Luntas and then washed and crushed until smooth and then it is squeezed and it’s water is drunk at a half of cup to drink

4. Kidneys

In Kutai language is called batungin elixir


  • Wild Ginger
  • Kejibeling (Strobilantus crispus) belong to the shrub
  • Cat whiskers
  • Corn

How to treatment:

  • Wild Ginger, Kejibeling leaf, cat whiskers, and hair of corn, each are boiled separately in and added with a little sugar. The water of each those materials are drunk as medicine.

5. Heart disease

In Kutai language is called lemah jantung


  • Betel leaf
  • Red onion
  • Cumin

How to treatment:

  • Three pieces of betel, three grains of red onion and one spoon of white cumin are all pounded. Once pulverized, mix it a half of glass of water drink and stir it until it mixed perfectly and drink three times a day, morning, noon and evening.
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