I’ve always been a believer of western medicine and although I’d like to believe in magical herbal concoctions, I’ve always been a bit skeptical. My eyes have been opened a lot in Southeast Asia in regards to eastern medicine, from reflexology and acupuncture to medicinal sea creatures, such as Langkawi Gamat
The magical medicinal sea cucumber, (gamat in Malay) is one of those herbal specialties that traditional Malaysians have embraced for years. I’d seen the word ‘gamat’ on signs, but never even thought twice about it. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when a friend suggested I use gamat for a nasty wound I had, that I discovered its magic.
She told me it was for “hole in the lung”. As a respiratory therapist, that caught my attention, but she explained briefly about how the oil could heal wounds quicker and the pure juice could improve internal health. I was trying to go native at the time, so I indulged her with enthusiasm and bought some gamat. And skeptic that I usually am? I was amazed at the rather immediate healing of my ugly cut.
It wasn’t until recently , that I went looking for the gamat ‘factory’ or processing plant for more information. I chose Nusantara, because it has the nostalgic feel of the real deal. Complete with a huge statue of a bottle of gamat out front. Nusantara is a very popular place for tourists and Gamat shoppers. But, as I was informed , one of many in Langkawi. There are now about 45 mind-boggling variations of gamat products available , and Nusantara has them all. They also have historic information available and exotic displays.
Langkawi was once abundant in sea cucumbers until their medicinal properties were discovered. The demand was big and the population quickly diminished. Presently, sea sumbers are brought in from Thailand so that the Langkawi population can recover.
I had once seen a Malay neighbor cooking up some home brewed gamat in a big pot one day. I had heard that a person could put their hand in boiling gamat and it wouldn’t burn. (yes I was tempted, but I didn’t do it) . So I asked my tour guide (Farah) if that was true. “Yes and no”. If you do it quickly (which she demonstrated) you won’t get burned! (no I still didn’t try it)
My Nusantara guide did show me their processing area. A giant caldron with boiling ingredients. Simmered for 3 days over a slow burning fire. If only pure sea cucumber is used, you get the pure ‘Ayer Gamat’, for oral consumption. But if coconut oil and plant ingredients are added you get ‘Minyak Gamat’, for external use, including toothaches!
So, if you’re visiting Langkawi, stop in to Nusantara and see for yourself. You’ll find it much more interesting than just reading about it.
32, Kampong Mata Air, Jalan Bayas
Mukim Ula Melaka, Langkawi
Tel : +6 04 955 9233
email: [email protected]
Have you ever tried Gamat? What’s your favorite Gamat product?