What Is Kambo?
Kambo, also known as frog medicine, is the venomous secretion of Phyllomedusa bicolor (the giant leaf or monkey frog), a bright green tree frog native to the Amazon basin. It can be found in the Amazon rainforests of South America in the regions of northern Brazil, eastern Peru, southeastern Colombia, and parts of Venezuela, Bolivia, and the Guianas. In many regions outside Brazil, both the frog and its secretion are known as sapo (or ‘toad’). Kambo has a range of traditional and potential therapeutic applications, both medical and psycho-spiritual. Commonly described as an ‘ordeal medicine’, the secretion is known for its powerful emetic or purgative effects. Despite its initial unpleasantness, kambo is widely sought out to revitalize body and mind.
Harvesting The Medicine
The Kambo I use is carefully and ethically harvested so the frogs are not harmed during the process. The frogs are located in trees sometimes 20-30m high, often near bodies of water where they gather to sing and announce the rain. They are generally harvested at dawn by the Matsés who locate them by singing and imitating their call. The frogs are very docile and do not react when picked up as they have no known predators. They are tied by each leg with grass or stretchable cotton rags into an “X” shape. The secretion is then carefully scraped off and left to dry on small sticks. They are then released and return to their habitat unharmed.
The harvesting of the medicine can be anything from safe and gentle, to difficult and somewhat brutal for the frog. The importance of knowing exactly where it comes from, and the methods in which it is harvested is crucial to maintaining the balance and healthy supply of Kambo to an ever increasing market. Purchasing sticks off the internet carries no guarantee of an ethical harvest, and more often than not, the frogs and the tribes are the ones that suffer, with the people selling them reaping all the rewards. Always make sure you know the true source of your Kambo.
What to expect during a ceremony
During a Kambo purification ritual, the practitioner typically creates gateways on the skin using the ember of a Tamasi vine or incense stick. The sacred medicine is applied to the gateways where it enters the body via the lymphatic system. During this process most people experience a warm to hot flush in the upper body and face as the heart begins to beat faster, everyone tends to react differently, with some feeling dizzy, weak and possibly faint. It’s common for the throat to slightly and gently swell, this is normal and doesn’t last long and most importantly, it will not swell shut. It is also common for the face and lips to swell. Some will have a tingling sensation on the skin or feelings of pressure, discomfort or warmth depending on where the Kambo is working. At some point, you will feel the need to purge. It is both common and highly desirable for a deep purge to occur. This can take any number of forms including vomiting, diarrhea, urination, sweating, crying and laughing.
While the kambo frog secretion contains many different types of molecules, the most notable are it’s diversity of peptides.
These peptides present in a wide variety of forms and analogues within specific peptide families. A peptide is a chain of amino acids linked together. Similar to a protein, a peptide is classified based on the length of the chain of amino acids. You can kind of think of them as very short-chained, teeny proteins that are usually 5-20 amino acids long. Peptides are important for human physiology and biology in general. Many of our hormones and signaling molecules are peptides, including endorphins, oxytocin, and insulin. Peptides in animals and plants are very common, especially as defense mechanisms in anurans (frogs and toads), reptiles, mollusks, crustaceans, insects and birds. There are several major classes of peptide families found in kambo, as described below.
1 / Phyllokinin
Phyllokinin may be useful in the treatment of hypertension, having been shown to lower blood pressure more effectively than other polypeptides.
2 / Sauvagine
Sauvagine functions like a hormone. It interacts with the pituitary-adrenal axis and corticotropin-releasing receptors involved in stress, anxiety, depression, and addictive behavior.
3 / Phyllomedusin
Phyllomedusin interacts with tachykinin receptors—shown to regulate the functions of dopamine, serotonin, and other neurotransmitters—while phyllokinin targets the bradykinin receptors. Phyllomedusin contracts smooth muscles while phyllokinin relaxes them. Both are potent vasodilators, increasing the permeability of the blood-brain barrier.
4 / Deltorphins
The deltorphins and dermorphin present in kambo have analgesic effects comparable to the body’s own pain response of beta-endorphin release. They’re also stronger than morphine without the same level of respiratory depression, tolerance potential, and withdrawal symptoms.
5 / Dermaseptins
Dermaseptins have incredible antibiotic activity and have been found to be effective against bacteria, viruses, fungi, and protozoa. Studies have explored dermaseptins ability to destroy on contact pathogens such as E.coli, salmonella, gonorrhea, herpes viruses, HIV, candida albicans, and even malaria-causing protozoans. Dermaseptins are also extremely effective at killing killing cancer cells and inhibiting their growth.
6 / Phyllocaerulein
Phyllocaerulein stimulates the adrenal cortex and pituitary gland while causin gall bladder contractions and secretion of gastric and pancreatic juices. Phyllocaerulein and phyllokinnin contribute to hypotensive effects of kambo and why some people experience a drop in blood pressure.
Kambo is 100% safe when administered by a trained Practitioner. However, certain health conditions prevent some people from sitting with it. The following list is not an exhaustive list, please disclose your health history with your practitioner.
-Serious Heart Conditions (Bypass, Enlarged Heart, Heart ---Valve Replacement)
-On medication for Low Blood Pressure
-Current and severe Epilepsy
-Active blood clots
-Serious mental health problems excluding Depression, Anxiety and PTSD
-Lack the mental capacity to decide to take Kambo
-Undergoing Chemotherapy and for 4 weeks afterwards
-Taking Immune Suppressants for organ transplant
-Breastfeeding a child under 6 months old
-Major surgery within the last 8 weeks
-Under 18 yrs of age
Undertaking a kambo ceremony can be an intense experience. In addition to burning holes in the top layers of the skin, it can cause a strong reaction in your nervous system, including side effects such as muscle cramps, swelling, vomiting, and a strong emotional reaction which is intense in the moment, but leaves you feeling relaxed after about an hour. While the experience is not for everyone, Kambo’s cleansing effects begin within minutes of administration, and leaves most people feeling energized in the days and weeks following treatment.
While there are no clinical studies that definitively back up kambo’s efficacy, the properties of Kambo's peptides suggest it may be a promising treatment for the following conditions:
-Blood circulation problems
-Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease
-Deeply rooted toxins
-Addiction to opiate or prescription painkillers (Kambo reduces physical pain, thus helping people kick their addictions to other painkillers)
-Fever and infections
-Negative energies (traditionally known as “panema”)
Post Medicine Intergration
Post medicine ceremony integration can be challenging. Whether it is the Amazonian liquid nectar, a sacred gathering, other medicine ceremonies or any type of deeply spiritual/shamanic work, re-integrating back into daily “normal” life is rarely “back to normal”. The first few days can sometimes feel particularly rough, leaving you feeling so out of sorts that you may second guess everything that you just KNEW was true while in the ceremony space or it can be extremely enlightening, nirvanic. I would like to share with you some practical tools for integrating back into daily life.