If you’ve never heard of Kambo, then you’re not alone. Kambo is the poisonous secretion of the giant monkey frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor).
Indigenous tribes in the Amazon have used Kambo for centuries as a way to purge toxins and heal. Now, people in the West are catching on to Kambo ceremonies and have become increasingly interested in its supposed health benefits.
Now you might be wondering—what exactly is Kambo, how does it work, and is it safe? Find out all that and more by reading below.
What Is Kambo?
As we mentioned, Kambo refers to the waxy secretion of a specific Amazonian tree frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor). Within the secretion is a cocktail of different chemicals.
Within this mixture are specific peptides that cause the immune system to become hyperactive for a short period of time. The result is a “cleanse” that includes intense vomiting, diarrhea, flu symptoms, and more.
Kambo also refers not just to the frog medicine but to the ceremony itself. After all, the two are interlinked, and one cannot exist without the other.
Kambo ceremonies are tied to the shamanistic culture of many different Amazonian tribes. In fact, the word Kambo comes from the Kaxinawá tribe, who live in the Brazilian Amazon.
However, different tribes have different names for frog medicine. Not only do they have different names, but different tribes use frog medicine for various purposes.
Some tribes use Kambo to increase hunting skills and stamina, while others use it for healing.
Broadly speaking, experts agree that the use of frog medicine is to expel “bad principles” from the body. If a tribe member was sick or unsuccessful at hunting, then frog medicine was used to purge these bad principles.
Unlike other ceremonies, such as ayahuasca ceremonies, there is no euphoria or hallucinations. Remember that Kambo is poison, and it will make you feel intensely uncomfortable.
Why Take Kambo?
Now, people in the West believe that the Kambo purge can help with a variety of problems. It’s thought that frog medicine can reset the body and cause personal growth and therapeutic benefit.
Some people believe that the purge causes them to expel bad thoughts, bad habits, negative personality traits, and traumas. Users feel a positive change for days to months after a Kambo ceremony.
Others use Kambo to try and reprogram the immune system. It’s thought that the immune stimulation from Kambo can ultimately help with addiction, anxiety, depression, and stress.
What Happens in a Kambo Ceremony?
Kambo ceremonies usually have ten or fewer people in them. There’s the main shaman, or practitioner, and their assistants.
The practitioner prepares and applies the Kambo while the assistants help the participants. The assistants bring buckets for vomiting or help participants to the bathroom during the purge.
The practitioner first prepares the frog medicine by combining the waxy poison with a bit of water, which turns it into a paste. The paste is then divided into small dots.
Then, small points about 1/8 inch (3.18 mm) are burned through the top layer of skin. Typically, these burns are applied to the ankle, shoulder, or arm using a burning Utica vine or twig.
The skin then blisters up in small circles, and then the blisters are scraped off. Lastly, the Kambo dots are applied to the open wound.
From there, the frog medicine enters the bloodstream and lymphatic system. The effects of the Kambo are felt immediately.
What Are the Effects of Kambo?
The effects of Kambo are intense and uncomfortable but don’t last too long—usually around 30-40 minutes. Most people feel a rise in temperature, similar to a fever, as well as sweating, shivers, and dizziness.
Heart rate increases rapidly and can shoot up to and above 190 beats per minute. One’s blood pressure may also increase or decrease.
Most people describe a tingling or electric sensation that spreads throughout the body. Others feel a type of high that’s described as drunken or dissociative.
The central part of the Kambo experience is extreme nausea which results in the purge. The purge will come as intense vomiting, defecation, or both.
Once the Kambo wears off, the heart rate will return to normal, and rest is needed. Some people fall asleep while others relax in a thoughtless silence.
Is Kambo Safe?
Since Kambo is a poison, there’s a lot of concern over its safety. So far, there have been a handful of deaths associated with Kambo.
However, it’s unknown if the deaths are directly linked to Kambo or other factors. For example, one person who died was alone and giving himself Kambo, possibly in very high doses.
Since frog medicine isn’t well studied, its safety isn’t exactly known. If you’re going to attend a Kambo ceremony, it’s best to proceed with caution.
One of the largest risks of frog medicine is from drinking too much water. Drinking too much water too fast can be lethal.
The body relies on electrolytes to function, and too much water can dilute their concentration.
It’s especially dangerous in frog medicine ceremonies since diarrhea and vomiting are common. Both vomiting and diarrhea cause dehydration, which depletes electrolytes in the body.
People will then overcorrect by drinking too much water in one sitting. Make sure not to drink more than one liter of water per hour or make sure electrolyte drinks/powders are available.
Is Kambo Legal?
Kambo is legal in the USA and most other countries. The only restrictions on frog medicine are in Brazil and Australia.
However, as Kambo becomes more popular, governments will likely start to notice and crackdown on it.
Stay Safe With Kambo
Remember that not much is known about Kambo, and you’ll need to stay safe if you’re curious to try it. For starters, it’s good practice to find and have a Kambo ceremony with a reliable practitioner.
Luckily, the International Association of Kambo Practitioners has licensed practitioners all over the world. However, some practitioners advise participants to drink a lot of water beforehand.
Always make sure to speak with a practitioner and see how they do things. Make sure that they don’t overhydrate, and tell them that you’d like to start with a low dose.
You can always take a higher dose later, but a low dose will ensure a good first experience.
Always remember that your safety is in other people’s hands. Make sure to do your due diligence to have the safest and best experience possible.