Indonesia Banget #5: Kerokan

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For this month’s Indonesia Banget, I want to share about one of the most peculiar Indonesian traditional  folk cure to you 🙂

There is a term of illness called Masuk Angin, rough translation is Enter Wind as masuk is enter and angin is wind, however the real meaning is an illness that is caused because ‘wind’ gets inside our body. It is kind of like cold but without sneezing. The most significant sign is when we feel like our stomach is filled with air or in other word, bloat. We also have a strong need to burp. Sometimes it is followed with slight fever. According to medical term, it is called as common cold.

There are two ways to cure this illness, one is buy drinking warm beverage and the other is by doing Kerokan. What I want to highlight is Kerokan 😉

Kerokan is a process of rubbing a coin across the back, neck or other body parts. This rubbing process is done several times until our skin turns red. We use oil to make the coin moves easier across our skin, it is impossible to do Kerokan without oil.

The first thing to do is pour the oil on someone’s back (let’s just say this someone as patient), it can be cooking oil or methyl salicylate oil. It is better to use methyl salicylate because the heat from the oil will also help the process of getting rid of the ‘wind’ from the patient’s body. Then, prepare the coin to be used for rubbing. It usually starts from the neck. Rub it over and over again till the skin’s color turns red. When it already turns red, move to the lowest part and repeat the same action. Once the process is over, the patient’s body will be full of red marks that resemble tiger’s skin.

Is it painful?

YES and NO!! For me, YES, at least at first. I have tried it once or twice. The first rub felt like hell to me, the next rubs were better because I already got use to it. I don’t do this often because I prefer drinking warm beverages. However, many people love doing this, it is somehow addictive. When they have cold, they will not feel better unless someone is performing Kerokan on their back. I know someone who often does Kerokan by herself on her own neck, she couldn’t perform it on her own back (I bet she would do it if she could). So, the question ‘is it painful or not’ really depends on each person.

Is it useful?


For common people, Kerokan is believed to force the air out of our body through our pores. But in medical term, Kerokan is to force the air out of our body by increasing our body heat. Kerokan will increase our body heat. The doctors think that when we have common cold, the temperature of our back becomes lower and we perform Kerokan, it will help the temperature risen a bit.

Is it medically safe?

According to this site

Masuk angin will cause the decreasing of body temperature and therefore it will also caused vessel constringency on our back. The vessel that constringed will make our body feels colder than usual.

As we all know, Friction from two things will gives energy or heat. When the surface of our skin is being rubbed, the body temperature will also rise. This heat will cause dilatation of the blood vessel and make the blood flows easier. Oxygenation will be better and the pain in our body will become less.

The medics also believe that Kerokan will inadvertently push certain acupuncture points on our back that will help the healing process.

However, since different people have different skin sensitivity, the rubbing doesn’t have to be done till the red mark shown.

They haven’t found the side effect of Kerokan yet. But it is clear that Kerokan is addictive because when our skin is being rubbed it will hit certain nerves that will excrete Endorphin (a kind of hormone). B-endorphin will give comfortable feeling. This is the reason why some people feel that they will not get better unless someone performs Kerokan on their back.

Here are 2 interesting pictures I found through googling (These pictures are NOT mine and I have no copyright  claim for them). These pictures show a western woman after Kerokan 🙂

Some parents also do Kerokan on their babies,but they do not use coin,they use shallot to replace the coin.

I hope this post can give you more information about Indonesian tradition. Please share with me if your country also performs this kind of healing 🙂

Previous Indonesia Banget: Malam Bainai (a night before the wedding)


  1. I’m enjoying your Indonesia Banget posts :). I don’t think I have experienced full ‘kerokan’ before, though all my parents’ generation do it quite often. Just don’t like the feeling of it and the marks look pretty ugly lol. Also I’m a bit skeptical that it works better than other ways to fight cold, I think people are mainly doing it by habit. I usually just sleep it off and it works like a charm!

    1. Thank you mee 🙂
      I rarely done it either for reasons you have already mentioned. I think I had it once or twice,it worked but I didn’t like the pain. Drinking hot tea always done the magic for me 😉
      As for the mark, not only it’s ugly but also last till 2 or 3 days. Never wear bikini after Kerokan lol

  2. Wonderful post, really liked it. Especially what you said about addiction was very interesting, I can really see how that could happen. It does look awful but I don’t doubt one second it does work. I have no idea if I would be able to
    stand it… It looks like burn marks… Can you use any coin? No matter what size or material?

    1. Thank you Caroline 🙂
      The mark is horrible..but unlike burn mark, that red color does not protrude like burn mark. It is more like a rash when you bump hard onto something.
      Yes, you can use any coin … but bigger is better. The pressure from small coin will be bigger than big coin, that’s why people often keep one big (in radius) and thick coin for Kerokan. The onde in the picture is not Indonesian Currency, it is an old foreign coin that my mom kept for years. The model for this post is my mom 😉

  3. I think kerokan is not a safe habit. Everything that make you addicted is not safe.

    The effect of kerokan actually is the enlargement of our vessels. I think we can find a better way to enlarge our vessels when we got masuk angin thing 🙂

    1. since the doctors haven’t said anything about it’s bad effect, then I am as anon-medical person will say nothing against it 🙂
      I don’t do this often but I won’t say it doesn’t safe either.

      1. Actually this is my physiological lecturers statement. I don’t remember about exactly what he said, but he said that it’s not too safe to our body 🙂

  4. I love learning about different culture’s traditions. This was very interesting. I am going to give it a try next time a cold tries to get me. Personally I think folk medicines are sometimes a lot better then Western medicine. Thanks for sharing and for your support during my mother’s illness. 🙂

    1. Please let me know if you really done it 🙂
      I want to know how you feel.
      You’re welcome, I couldn’t do anything much but wishing for her health

  5. This is a really brutal way to become warm! I propose a warm chocolate instead of rubbing a coin on a body 😉 And I have to think of the bacteria on this coin! What about the desinfection??? I see blood on the pics! AHHHH!!!!

    1. Most people who do this don’t think about bacteria.
      Aha…that’s not blood Claud 😉 It is red because of the blood under the skin but no blood coming out of the skin, that would be TOO painful.
      But…I don’t do this often, I also prefer hot tea 🙂

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