Kambo, also known as the “Giant Monkey Frog” or “Phyllomedusa bicolor,” is a tree-dwelling frog found in the Amazon rainforest. The secretion produced by this frog, commonly referred to as Kambo, is used in traditional healing rituals by indigenous tribes in the region. It is a powerful yet enigmatic natural remedy, has been gaining significant attention in recent years. This traditional practice, originating from the Amazon rainforest, is revered for its profound healing properties. In this article, we delve into the world of Kambo, exploring its origins, therapeutic benefits, safety considerations, and potential as an alternative healing modality.
What is Kambo?
As we already mentioned Kambo is a frog medicine, that originated from the Amazon basin, predominantly found in the Amazon rainforests of South America. Its habitat encompasses northern Brazil, eastern Peru, and southeastern Colombia, as well as parts of Venezuela, Bolivia, and the Guianas. Outside Brazil, both the frog and its secretion are commonly called sapo, which translates to ‘toad’.
Giant monkey frogs emit a distinct sound, also called “the song of the toad” that aids in locating them at night for collection purposes. When held in captivity, the frogs’ legs are mildly restrained to induce the secretion, which is a waxy substance scraped from the back and legs of the frog onto wooden splinters. Once dried, Kambo can retain its potency for over a year. Prior to use, it is typically mixed with saliva or water and directly applied to specially prepared skin burns.
Kambo has numerous historic and potential therapeutic uses in the fields of medicine and psycho-spirituality. Its secretion is renowned for its potent emetic or purgative effects. Despite the initial discomfort associated with Kambo, it is widely sought after for its revitalizing effects on the body and mind.
The Origins of Kambo
Indigenous civilizations in the Amazon have incorporated kambo into their daily lives for centuries. Shamans and tribal communities utilize Kambo as a powerful tool for spiritual and physical cleansing, as well as for hunting and increasing energy levels.
The origins of Kambo are the subject of a distinctive tale or story that belongs to each tribe. However, the most widely known legend hails from Brazil, particularly among the Kaxinawá tribe. This story claims that when the forest people were sick, their shaman would take sacred plant medicine to induce trance and speak with the forest spirits. Within this altered state, he encountered a female forest spirit who presented him with a frog and imparted the knowledge of its medicinal properties, which could heal their village. Upon awakening, the shaman shared this frog medicine with his people, successfully curing them of their ailments. After this event, he became known as Pajé Kampu or Kampum.
When Pajé Kampu eventually passed away, his spirit merged with the spirit of the frog, which subsequently became known as Kambo. The use of Kambo progressively spread, and for thousands of years, it has been used as medicine by other indigenous peoples, including the Amahuaca, Katukina, Kulina, Yawanawá, Matses, Marubo, and Mayoruna, in addition to the Kaxinawá. Kambo remains widely used among indigenous communities in the Amazon region to this day.
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The term “Kambo” refers to both the substance and the associated ceremonial ritual. These two aspects are intricately interconnected, as each gives meaning and purpose to the other. To truly comprehend Kambo, it is essential to grasp the significance of the Kambo ceremony.
Unlike certain substances that induce euphoria, eliciting laughter or altered perceptions, Kambo is not used for recreational purposes. Kambo is derived from frog poison, and its effects are often uncomfortable. People do not engage with Kambo seeking enjoyment; instead, they embrace it as a means to purge, cleanse, and facilitate healing.
The Kambo ceremony acknowledges the discomfort inherent in the experience and provides a structured and safe environment for individuals to undergo this challenging process. Participants willingly enter the Kambo ceremony with awareness of what awaits them. The ceremony is designed to eliminate distractions, as they have no place in the Kambo journey. It is often said that Kambo provides individuals with what they need, rather than what they desire. In this regard, Kambo serves as both frog poison and frog medicine, holding transformative properties for those who engage with it.
What’s the Kambo Ceremony Like
Usually, a shaman or an experienced Kambo practitioner begins the ceremony by leading a prayer, setting the sacred tone for the experience. The participants are positioned in a comfortable seated position. Due to the potential purging effect, a bucket is placed nearby, ensuring that participants have a convenient place to release any discomfort. Each individual is also provided with a water bottle, essential for hydration throughout the ceremony.
The next step in the ceremony involves creating specific entry points for the Kambo medicine. These entry points, known as burns or gates, are established by gently burning the top layer of skin using a smoldering vine or incense stick. These burns are usually small and can’t do any serious harm to the people attending the ceremony. The number and placement of these burns are determined based on the individual’s unique needs. In many cases, the positioning of the burns aligns with the chakras, and one of the most common areas for placement is the shoulder or back of the arm. After creating the burns, the practitioner gently rubs off the charred layer, exposing the fresh epidermis below.
Once prepared, a shaman will scrape the Kambo substance off the stick, using a small amount of water to create a putty-like consistency. Carefully, he places these little balls of Kambo onto the fresh epidermis, allowing the medicine to enter the body.
With the Kambo applied and the medicine in motion, the transformative journey of the ceremony begins. Participants embrace the discomfort and surrender to the healing potential of the Kambo, knowing that their intentions and the wisdom of the frog medicine will guide them through the experience.
What to Expect from Kambo
The immediate impact of Kambo medicine is characterized by intense and uncomfortable sensations, but these effects are relatively brief, typically lasting around 30-40 minutes. During this time, various physiological responses occur. The body temperature rises, leading to feverish sensations, accompanied by profuse sweating and shivering. The heart rate accelerates significantly. It is common to experience fluctuations in blood pressure, which may either rise or fall dramatically while becoming acutely aware of the veins and arteries. Many individuals describe a tingling or electric burning sensation that originates from the Kambo entry points and spreads throughout the body. Some may also feel a dissociative or intoxicated state.
Nausea is an almost inevitable response to Kambo, and the urge to purge is likely to arise, manifesting through vomiting, defecation, or both. Additional effects may include a sensation of pressure in the head, neck, and torso, stomach discomfort, throat inflammation, dry mouth, temporary blurred vision or even momentary loss of sight, difficulty in movement, and sensations of numbness and swelling in the lips and tongue. These physical reactions are the body’s natural response to acute poisoning.
Once these initial biological effects subside and the heart rate returns to normal, it is important to allow time for rest and recovery. Some individuals may enter a dreamless sleep, while others might emit unusual animal-like sounds.
Following the Kambo purge, many individuals report an enhanced overall experience. They may feel a surge of physical strength, heightened senses, and increased mental alertness. These desirable after-effects can manifest immediately or take up to a day to fully materialize. They often include a sustained uplifted mood, heightened physical and mental energy, reduced stress levels, and improved focus.
Kambo, while known for its intense and unpleasant effects that are considered a normal part of the ritual, has also been associated with a range of serious complications.
Among the potential risks of using Kambo are severe and prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, which can lead to dehydration. Muscle spasms, cramps, and even convulsions have been reported as well. There have also been cases of jaundice and confusion linked to Kambo usage, and scarring is another possible outcome.
It is important to note that Kambo has been associated with more severe consequences, including toxic hepatitis, organ failure, and even death.
To compound matters, individuals with certain underlying health conditions face an increased risk of experiencing serious side effects. Those with cardiovascular conditions, a history of stroke or brain hemorrhage, aneurysms, blood clots, mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and psychosis, low blood pressure, epilepsy, or Addison’s disease are advised to avoid Kambo.
Does Kambo Actually Work?
Although many individuals have reported positive outcomes following a kambo ceremony, the scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited.
Experts have conducted extensive studies on kambo over the years, focusing on its effects such as brain cell stimulation and dilation of blood vessels. However, none of the existing research provides substantial support for the health-related assertions associated with kambo.
Despite the limited scientific research, Kambo’s historical use in traditional medicine highlights its potential benefits and the positive experiences of numerous people who have sought its therapeutic properties. It remains an important aspect of cultural practices and has been credited with helping individuals in various ways throughout its longstanding medicinal use.