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Local Scent: Telon Oil

When asking people from our Jakarta office what smell reminds them the most of their childhood, the answer is unanimous: telon oil. In Javanese the word telon means “three”, which perfectly describes what telon oil is made of: three different oils. More precisely, telon oil is a formulation of fennel oil (16%), cajuput oil (62%) and coconut oil (22%). Sometimes, eucalyptus oil is used instead of cajuput oil.

In Indonesia, telon oil (also called myniak telon) is often applied on the babies’ chest, tummy, back, hands and feet to create a sensation of warmth. People also use it to stimulate the babies’ nerves, to prevent bloating and to improve the digestive system performance, although these benefits have not been scientifically proven.

Ms Afnan Atharrayhan and her family

“I discovered telon oil because of my mother,” said Afnan Atharrayhan, mother of two young kids. “She was using it a lot on me when I was a baby. And now, I also use it for my two kids. Normally I rub them with the oil three times a day, but my oldest kid likes it so much that she often rubs herself with it just for fun. […] While most people apply it to keep babies warm, I also use it as a mosquito repellent… and it works! When I smell telon oil, it makes me feel calm and relax. I guess it’s a smell I’ll never get tired of.”

The smell of telon oil is quite pungent. At first, it smells botanical and somehow medicinal with hints of mint. Without a doubt, it is different and distinctive. In Indonesia, telon oil is very common and can be found in grocery stores and even in some accommodation stores.