about the medicine
Kambo 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 rainforest 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’).
Giant monkey frogs have a distinctive ‘song’ that can be followed to collect them at night. Captive specimens are tied by the legs and harmlessly stressed to induce the secretion: a waxy substance scraped onto wooden palettes from the back and legs of the frog. Once dried, kambo can be stored for upwards of a year without losing its potency. For use, it is mixed with water and directly applied to superficial points burnt on the skin.
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.
- THERAPEUTIC USE
One of kambo’s most exciting potential medical applications is the treatment of cancer. Dermaseptin B2 has been shown to inhibit cancer cell (human prostatic adenocarcinoma) growth by more than 90%. This peptide penetrates cells and works by necrosis (active destruction) and not apoptosis (normal or programmed cell death).
Dermaseptins, including adenoregulin, are powerful antibiotics. Found to be rapidly and irreversibly effective against a range of parasitic microorganisms, they’re also entirely non-toxic to mammalian cells. Combined with their ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, peptides in kambo are especially promising for conditions like Cryptococcal meningitis in patients with late-stage HIV. Among the pathogens killed by dermaseptin B2 are the filamentous fungi that opportunistically infect AIDS patients. With the emergence and spread of highly resistant pathogenic bacteria, novel antibiotics such as these are becoming critical.
Since adenoregulin affects the binding of agonists to adenosine receptors—instrumental in the permeability of the blood-brain barrier—it may be useful in the development of treatments for Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and strokes. Anecdotal evidence supports kambo’s use in depression treatment, anxiety, and addiction. There’s also compelling anecdotal evidence for kambo’s effectiveness in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
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.
Phyllokinin may be useful in the treatment of hypertension, having been shown to lower blood pressure more effectively than other polypeptides.
Other conditions that may benefit from kambo include chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, vascular problems, hepatitis, diabetes, rheumatism, and arthritis.
- PERSONAL GROWTH
Kambo is frequently offered alongside ayahuasca, ibogaine, 5-MeO-DMT, and other plant medicines for holistic treatment. According to practitioners, the secretion “resets” the body, not only by strengthening the immune system but also through distinct psycho-spiritual benefits.
Panema—an Arawak term used by the Ashaninka and others—describes a negative energy that gathers over time. Traditionally visualized as a kind of dense grey cloud or aura, panema is blamed for bad luck, depression, laziness, irritation, and other adverse states. Naturally, clearing this cloud is vital for indigenous groups that depend on hunting and community coherence. For many, kambo serves this purpose.
Outside of traditional contexts, the dissipation of panema is framed in terms of “clearing the pain body,” “realigning the chakras,” or reorganizing personal psychology. The purge itself may be felt as an expulsion of bad thoughts, habits, negative personality traits, or persistent life problems.
A profoundly transformational tool, kambo is known to increase compassion, courage, emotional stability, and personal sovereignty. Some have expressed feeling more “real” or “solid” after kambo application—less in their heads and more in their bodies. Frustration, anger, and anxiety also tend to clear. These positive changes may last several days or several months, depending on the application and the person receiving it.
Kambo may also help to overcome a fear of dying. According to one practitioner, terminally ill patients have claimed to see “the other side” during their experience, returning with a newfound serenity about passing.
- WHAT TO EXPECT
The immediate effects of kambo are usually intense and unpleasant but short-lived, usually lasting no more than 30-40 minutes. They include a rise in temperature, sweating, shivers, and dizziness as the heart rate becomes rapid—possibly reaching more than 190 beats per minute. The blood pressure may rise or fall dramatically, accompanied by an increased awareness of the veins and arteries. Many people report a tingling or burning sensation like electricity that starts from the points and spreads through the body. Some may also feel a dissociative sensation.
Overwhelming nausea is generally unavoidable with kambo and purging is likely—either by vomiting, defecation, or both. Other effects include a feeling of pressure in the head, neck, and torso, stomach tightness, inflammation of the throat, dry mouth, blurred vision, difficulty moving, and numb, swollen lips and tongue.
After these initial effects have worn off and the heart rate has returned to normal, it may be necessary to rest. Some fall into a dreamless sleep.
Your experience may feel enhanced following the kambo purge. You may feel great physical strength, sharpened senses, and heightened mental alertness. Desirable after-effects like these may take a day to materialize or they could be immediate. They also tend to include a consistently elevated mood, increased physical and mental energy, decreased stress, and enhanced focus.
Kambo is to be received on an empty stomach,
bladder, and bowels. It is advisable to avoid solid food, and especially salt,
for 10 hours beforehand.
Alcohol should also be strictly avoided for 24-48 hours before application.
The following people should not receive Kambo:
- Women who are pregnant or within 6 months of giving birth
- Anyone that has been prescribed by a doctor to refrain from strenuous physical activity or exercise
- Anyone who has received an organ transplant or pacemaker
Conditions / circumstances Kambo can be significantly helpful with, but should be made known to your practitioner are:
- Active alcohol or drug addiction and last use of substance (especially if within 24-48 hours)
- Chron's disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)
- Psychotic episodes or another serious health condition
(outside of PTSD, depression, or anxiety)
- Recent surgery or medical procedure