Traditional Healer of Langkawi
By Eric Chong
What is long, soft, and tubular and when you cut
it into two, it is able to reattach itself? Well, you know its not
Lorena Bobbits husbands ... It is an unsightly sea creature called
the sea cucumber or the local Malay name gamat. Gamat
is a species of sea cucumber.
Gamat is a well known product of Langkawi. In the
early days, this sea slug was found crawling all over the reefs around Langkawi.
Since a local inhabitant saw its potential for medicinal use and commercialised
it, the sea cucumber is no longer found in such abundance in Langkawi. Most
of the sea cucumber are now imported from Thailand.
Apparently, the incident that led to the discovery of
the medicinal value of the gamat was that a fisherman stepped on one of the
gamat on his way to his camp on the beach. The gamat secreted a kind of sticky
milk which glued his hairy legs so effectively that the only solution was
to have a clean shave after that. He took revenge by hacking all the sea
cucumber around him with his rusty old axe. Finishing this, he went about
his business but imagine his amazement when on returning to his scene of
crime, he found that all his victims were whole and happy again. All their
wounds had healed and those that were cut right through joined back leaving
no traces of their previous massacre. That gave him food for thought. If
the sea cucumber could heal itself, then it should also heal peoples
wounds. Thus, the minyak gamat industry started.
Under a slow burning fire, the "gamat" is
for three days to extract the pure fluid of ayer gamat.
There are two ways of processing the sea cucumber.
One is to get the pure fluid and the other is mixed with coconut oil and
secret plant extracts. In both processes, the sea cucumber is dumped into
a huge barrel which is placed over a slow burning fire for three days. In
the first process, no ingredients are added. Thus, you have the pure form
of fluid which is called ayer gamat. In the second process, the
coconut oil and secret plant ingredients are periodically added in throughout
the three days. After the third day, you have an oily based substance called
minyak gamat. The amazing thing about the whole cooking process
is that you can dip your hand inside the fluid or oil and never burn yourself.
The processed sea cucumber or gamat is marketed
in two bottles. The pure type or ayer gamat is to be consumed.
It is used to cure all internal ailments such as peptic ulcer, duodenal ulcer,
bleeding piles and stomach aches. The mixed kind or minyak gamat
is for external application. It is used to quicken the healing process of
toothaches, cuts or wounds.
Minyak or ayer gamat can be bought at specialty
shops which only sell minyak or ayer gamat. These shops are located along
the road from Padang Matsirat to Kuala Teriang, which is around the airport
area. It can also be found at Tanjung Rhu, which is in the northern part
of Langkawi. The price is anywhere from RM2.00 to RM10.00, depending on the
Other than the medicinal values mentioned above,
another species of the sea cucumber is also the traditional healer for yet
another ailment. The Chinese call it Hai Som". The Chinese believe
that Hai Som is an aphrodisiac. It is also considered a delicacy
for the Chinese. For those of you who are on your honeymoon here in Malaysia,
you may want to try ordering Hai Som for your next meal to give
you that extra