What is Kambo?
This traditional healing medicine from the Amazon goes by many different names.
Kambo. Sapo. Dow-kiet. Hunting magic. Ordeal medicine. Vaccine of the forest. Guardian of the leaf...
Known as the Giant Green Monkey Tree Frog - "Phyllomedusa Bicolor" in the West, these beautifully coloured amphibians can be found all across the Upper Amazonian Rainforest, from Peru, to Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil and beyond.
Indigenous tribes have used Kambo for as long as they can remember, for several different reasons.
It's common to take Kambo before hunting to ensure greater success. It heightens their senses, strengthens and energizes, allowing hunters to run faster with more stamina, without needing as much food, water, or sleep. It's frequently used as a jungle medicine to treat snake bites, malaria, infections, and fever. And it's also used to clear 'Panema' - a word that loosely translates to negative energy, dark energy, or bad luck.
Over the course of three decades, scientists have shown that the Kambo secretion contains a unique and highly complex chemical cocktail of bioactive peptides beneficial to the human body. This has resulted in over 70 patents being lodged, but so far, none of these single peptide extracts has come close to this healing medicine in it's entirety.
Kambo is known to be one of strongest natural ways to fortify the immune system, with various sources claiming it to be one of nature's most powerful anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibiotic and anaesthetic substances on the planet.
The Benefits of Kambo
Many thousands of people around the globe are experiencing the potency of Kambo and recognizing it's potential as being a multi-faceted healing medicine useful for a wide variety of illnesses and challenges; physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically and spiritually.
According to master practitioner, principal trainer and head of the IAKP - Karen Darke, Kambo has helped treat people suffering from "anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, HIV, arthritis, diabetes, candida, herpes, high blood pressure, cancer, fertility issues, recurrent infections and much, much more."
People have also had success treating various health conditions, such as lyme disease, parkinson's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid conditions, fungal conditions, and addictions.
In general, many people report clearing emotional baggage, letting go of past traumas and issues, clarity of mind, heightened awareness and focus, resilience to stress and fatigue, getting sick less, an increased sense of energy and well-being, enhanced mood, and even bringing more clarity to one’s life path.
What happens during a Kambo treatment?
The safest way to administer Kambo is through the skin. A special stick or vine is used to burn small 'gates' onto the very top layer of skin, which is akin to a very mild blister. This blistered skin is carefully removed, leaving a gate approx 3-5mm in diameter. There is no bleeding during this process.
The dried Kambo secretion is mixed with water and divided into small points, which is applied onto the small burn sites. This allows the medicine to enter the body via the lymphatic system, where the effects are felt almost immediately. Sensations are intense and uncomfortable, and while they come on fast, they're short lived, generally passing within 20 - 40 minutes.
A warmth and flushing of the skin is the first thing most people feel, with an increase in heart rate, as well as growing pressure in the head and upper body. As the medicine continues to circulate, people may experience slight swelling, dizziness, shaking, trembling, tingling, sweating, nausea, pain, a general bodily discomfort, and even fainting.
In saying that, there are never any guarantees in what one may experience, with people occasionally reporting deep states of calm meditation, alongside feelings of euphoria and bliss.
During the experience, Kambo is scanning and navigating it's way around the body, finding and cleaning up toxins and dense energies. It removes them through the process of purging - the primary mechanism that Kambo clears unwanted energy from the body. After this process, people generally feel energised or completely wiped out. In any case, it's recommended to rest so the full healing potential of Kambo can take effect.
People generally have the option to also work with Rapé and Sananga. Sometimes Rapé is used during the treatment to help facilitate the purge and move stuck energy.
The subsequent days after a treatment is when people begin to feel the real benefits of Kambo, feeling clean, clear, rejuvenated and energised. For some, the after-effects are more subtle and harder to notice.
There are those that will however experience a "herxheimer" response in the days following their treatment - a short term detoxification reaction to the body clearing out large amounts of toxins.
If you’re knowingly, or unknowingly, carrying a latent illness, it’s entirely possible for the symptoms of this illness to bubble up to the surface, so that Kambo can continue to do it's work, clearing out whatever needs to be removed from the system.
The type of treatment will vary, depending on first time experience and subsequent treatments.
What is Rapé and Sananga?
Rapé is a traditional Amazonian powdered snuff, made from a combination of leaves, seeds, bark, herbs, spices, oils, flowers and ash. Consisting of various medicinal plants, roots and trees, the base generally contains 'mapacho', or Amazonian tobacco (Nicotiana Rustica).
Breathing is momentarily suspended, while the snuff is blown through both nostrils, using a small pipe typically made from bamboo or bone. Rapé is considered to be sacred medicine, and can be used by itself, or as an adjunct with other healing medicines, such as Kambo.
When given during a Kambo treatment, Rapé is used to aid with releasing blockages and facilitating purging.
In other situations, the benefits of Rapé can include heightened awareness, mental focus, clarity, deeper meditation, cleansing, grounding, emotional release, spiritual insight, opening of the heart, as well as clearing headaches, sinus problems, and connecting with the healing spirits of the forest.
Sananga is a traditional Amazonian eye medicine, made from the shredded root of a rain-forest shrub.
On a physical level, these liquid eye drops have been used in the treatment of cataracts, glaucoma, conjunctivitis, dry and red eyes, eye infections, sinusitis and chronic headaches. It has been known to sharpen one's vision, improving colour perception and image definition, giving the environment greater texture and depth.
It's also said to help clear panema and open the third eye, as well as helping to keep one balanced emotionally, mentally, energetically and spiritually.
Sananga can be used as a stand-alone medicine, as well as before and after Kambo, helping one ground, center, uplift, and open themselves further, as well as clearing and refreshing the eyes.
Who can't take Kambo: Contraindications
Although Kambo is completely safe when responsibly administered by a trained practitioner, there are a number of people with contraindications who cannot receive a Kambo treatment safely.
- People who are under 18 years of age.
- People who have serious heart problems.
- People who have had a stroke.
- People who are taking medication for low blood pressure.
- People who have had a brain haemorrhage.
- People who have aneurysms or blood clots.
- People who lack the mental capacity to make their own decision to take Kambo.
- People who have serious mental health problems (excluding depression, PTSD and anxiety)
- People who are undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy.
- People who are taking immune-suppressants for organ transplant.
- People with Addison's disease.
- People with current and severe epilepsy.
- People who are recovering from a major surgical procedure.
- Women who are pregnant or suspect they may be so.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding babies under the age of 6 months old.
- People who have worked with Bufo Alvarius (toad medicine) in the last 6-8 weeks prior to Kambo.
This is not a complete comprehensive list. If you have any concerns or serious health issues, it’s important to disclose these prior to treatment to ensure that Kambo is suitable and safe for you to work with.
Cautions & considerations
Extra caution is required in the following cases, It's important to disclose any of these prior to treatment:
- People taking slimming, serotonin and/or sleeping supplements.
- People taking immune-suppressants for auto-immune disorders.
- People with active drug or alcohol addictions.
- People who have been fasting/water-fasting for 7 days before (or after) Kambo.
- People who have had enemas, colonics, liver flushes or any water based detox 3 days before (or after) taking Kambo.
- People who plan to use the sauna or practice hot yoga 3 days before (or after) Kambo.
It's also important to disclose any of the following prior to treatment:
- If you're taking or have recently stopped taking any medications.
- If you're taking or have recently stopped taking any diet/slimming pills.
- If you're regularly taking anti-diuretic medication or sports drinks.
- If you have ever been, or are currently bulimic or anorexic.
- If you're epileptic.
- If you have abnormally high or low blood pressure.
- If you have liver or kidney problems.
- If you have any chronic or serious health issues.
- If you have asthma.
- If you have diabetes.
It's helpful to note that if you're menstruating at the time of your treatment, Kambo will most likely cause your flow to increase for 24 to 36 hours, due to it's vasodilation properties.
Preparing for a Kambo Treatment
While there are certain things to avoid and practical aspects to adhere to in the time leading up to ceremony, there are also things to reflect upon and contemplate...
- Why do you feel called to the frog?
- What are your intentions?
- What are you looking to release?
- What are you looking to step into?
- Do your intentions relate to the physical, emotional, mental, energetic or spiritual levels of being?
Regarding the more practical aspects:
- Do not attempt any sort of water or dry fast 7 days before/after Kambo.
- Do not begin any colonics, enemas, water based detox, liver flushes, or sweat lodge 3 days before/after Kambo.
- Do not take recreational drugs or drink alcohol 24-48 hours before/after Kambo.
- Do not eat any food 12 hours before Kambo. It's important to fast for these 12 hours immediately prior to a Kambo treatment.
- Do not drink coffee on the morning of your treatment.
- Try to make little to no plans for the remainder of your day after your treatment. You may need to rest and recuperate.
- Remove tight, restrictive jewellery before your Kambo treatment, due to the potential swelling of body parts.
- Do not drink large amounts of water or fluid on the morning of your Kambo treatment.
- Stop fluid intake 2 hours prior to your Kambo treatment.
(You will be required to drink approx 2L of water 10-15 minutes immediately before your Kambo is applied, as part of the purging process. This is why it's important to avoid drinking excessive water beforehand, to avoid electrolyte imbalance, potentially lead to hyponatremia: dangerously low sodium levels)
If you are unsure about any of the preparation protocols, or have questions or concerns, please get in touch and ask prior to ceremony.
What do I bring to a treatment?
- Loose, comfortable, non-restrictive clothing.
- A blanket or something warm for afterwards, due to the likelihood of becoming extremely cold.
- A yoga mat to lay down on, cushion to sit on, and pillow to rest your head on.
- 2.5L of regular drinking water at room-temperature.
- Something to tie up long hair.
- People with asthma should bring their inhaler with them (as a precautionary measure).
- Bring a pen and notebook, and a crystal, stone or special item to charge on the ceremonial altar / mesa, if you wish.
Make a booking
SUPER IMPORTANT: Please thoroughly read the contraindications, cautions, preparation protocols and what to bring details first.
Once you've read the above information, you can enquire about making a booking by clicking HERE.
Frequently Asked Questions
- Is Kambo safe?
Although Kambo is very safe when responsibly administered by a knowledgeable, skilled and experienced practitioner, there are just some people that aren’t fit to work with this medicine. As an IAKP trained Kambo Practitioner, I follow the IAKP Code of Ethics & Professional Practice, and am fundamentally concerned with the safety and welfare of all those who receive Kambo.
Due to the contraindications, cautions and considerations, it's extremely important for all people to disclose any current or historical health issues prior to taking Kambo, to ensure this medicine is the right medicine for you.
This is the critical to ensure the utmost safety for all who take Kambo, and to avoid accidents and mistakes from those with contraindications who should not have been taking Kambo in the first place.
- Is Kambo legal?
To the best of my knowledge, in 2017, there is no prohibition against the use of Kambo anywhere in the world. Kambo is not an illegal substance.
This is one of the reasons why Kambo is such an incredibly healing tool in our current day and age. With a growing number of professionally trained Kambo Practitioners around the globe, it can be accessed by many people without having the underlying concern of breaking the law.
- Do the Kambo burn marks scar?
At the end of each Kambo treatment, the burn marks are dressed with a natural medicinal tree sap called Sangre de Drago. Also known as Dragon's Blood, this liquid forms a protective bandage over the burn marks when dried; helping to close wounds, stop infection, accelerate healing, and reduce scarring.
The burn marks will fade in time, but depending on your skin type and colour, you may have small circular visible scars. These Kambo markings are often seen as a badge of honour, but for those who are concerned, Kambo can be applied to a suitable body position to reduce visibility.
- Is Kambo a Psychedelic / Hallucinogenic?
While it’s often talked about and used by those with an interest in psychedelic medicine, such as one of it’s jungle counterparts - Ayahuasca, Kambo itself is not a psychedelic or hallucinogenic substance.
There are those who have a strong connection to the world of spirit, or might be neurologically wired to access non-ordinary states of consciousness with more ease, so while Kambo is not a psychedelic, it’s not entirely unheard of for some people to experience the sense of ‘journeying’ with the spirit of the frog.
- Is the frog harmed during the process?
There are various ways of collecting the secretion from the frog. Some are considered ethical, and some aren’t.
Traditionally, the frogs are called out of the forest by mimicking their songs. To collect the secretion, straw strings are delicately tied to each leg, spreading the frog into an X shape, where the secretion can be carefully scraped off and dried onto small sticks. Sometimes the frogs toes are massaged to help it release it's secretion.
When properly collected, only the first lot of secretion is taken. This ensures the medicine is strong, and that the frog has plenty of secretion left incase it needs to defend itself against predators. The frogs are passive when handled, and aren't dangerous or defensive; even being known to come back the following days when the tribesmen call them out by singing their songs.
While it’s arguable that the frog is irritated in some instances, it’s important to remember that many indigenous people working with this medicine have a strong connection to the Earth - including the animals spirits, plant spirits and spirits of the land. To upset the frog, is to upset the spirits. And they definitely don’t want angry spirits when it comes to protecting and looking after themselves, and their communities!
Kambo is in the IUCNs 'least concern' category when it comes to being endangered. Their population is widely distributed across the Upper Amazon, with their only current threat being deforestation and destruction of their natural habitat.
- Will I be fine to drive after a Kambo treatment?
Absolutely. You might be a little tired or exhausted after your treatment, but once you've had a short rest, you'll be fine to drive.
- Can I take my medication on the day of a Kambo ceremony?
If you're taking medication of any sort, it's important to let me know what you're taking and why you're taking it, prior to your treatment. To ensure your safety, please let me know and we can discuss this further.
- What are the origins of Kambo?
Each tribe has its own legend or story about how they came to use Kambo.
The most prevalent legend regarding the origins of Kambo comes from Brazil.
This Kaxinawá legend tells that the Indians of the tribe were very ill and their medicine man (Pajé in Brazil) had done everything that was possible to cure them. All medicinal herbs known were used, but none helped.
Under the effect of sacred plant medicines, he entered the forest and whilst there received a visit from a female spirit of the forest. She brought in her hands a frog, from which she took a white secretion, and taught the Pajé how to apply it.
Returning to the tribe and following the guidelines that he had received, the Pajé was able to cure his brothers and sisters.
From then on he was known as Pajé Kampu or Kampum.
After his death, his spirit lived on in the frog where it continued its mission to protect the health of those who defend the forest. The secretion became known as Kambo but in some tribes it is called Sapo, Dow-Kiet, Kampu or Vacina da Floresta. Its usage spread and for thousands of years, Kambo has been used as medicine by the Kaxinawá people, and by many other indigenous groups including the Amahuaca, Katukina, Kulina, Yawanawá, Matses, Marubo and Mayoruna.
It is still used widely amongst indigenous people in the Amazon to this day, although the rituals vary from tribe to tribe.
* Information originally from and credited to IAKP.org *
The science behind Kambo
The following excerpt has been taken from albertojosevarela.com
I've also included clickable links to research papers regarding Kambo for those who wish to take a deeper look into the scientific mechanisms behind some of the peptides in this amazing secretion.
Since 1966, many peptides in Kambo secretion have been isolated, characterized and synthesized. As a testimony to its medicinal properties there are more than 70 Kambo patents registered in the pharmaceutical world, mainly in the United States.
The main families of bioactive peptides identified in the Kambo secretion so far include:
Phyllomedusin – such as tachykinins (which also act as neuropeptides) – produce contraction at the smooth muscle level and increase secretions of the entire gastrointestinal tract such as the salivary glands, stomach, small and large intestine, pancreas and gallbladder. These are the main parts responsible for the deep purge produced by the administration of Kambo.
Phyllokinin and Phyllomedusins – both are potent vasodilators, increasing the permeability of the blood-brain barrier both for their own access as well as for that of other active peptides. Within this family are the medusins, which also have antimicrobial and antifungal properties.
Caeruleins and Sauvagines – They are peptides with chains of 40 amino acids with myotropic properties on the smooth muscles, producing a contraction of the colon and urinary bladder. They produce a drop in blood pressure accompanied by tachycardia. They stimulate the adrenal cortex and pituitary gland, contributing to greater sensory perception and increased resistance. Both peptides possess a great analgesic power, contributing to the increase of physical strength, the capacity to confront physical pain, stress, disease and diminish the symptoms of fatigue. In the medical field this family of peptides contributes to improved digestion and has analgesic properties against pain in renal colic, pain due to peripheral vascular insufficiency and tumour pain.
Dermorphin and deltorphin – These are small peptides composed of 7 amino acids. They are selective agonists of the opiate delta receptors, 4000 times more potent than morphine and 40 times more than the endogenous endorphins.
Adenoregulins – discovered in the 90s by John Daly’s team at the National Institute of Health in the United States. Adenoregulin works on the human body through the adenosine receptors, a fundamental component throughout all human cellular fuel. These receptors may offer a target for the treatment of depression, stroke and cognitive loss diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and also Parkinson’s.
Antimicrobial peptides: Dermaseptins, including adenoregulins (with 33 amino acids), plasticins and philloseptins form part of a family of a broad spectrum of antimicrobial peptides involved in the defence of frogs’ bare skin against microbial invasion. These are the first vertebrate peptides that show lethal effects against filamentous fungi responsible for severe opportunistic infections which accompany the immunodeficiency syndrome and the use of immunosuppressive agents. They also show lethal effects against a broad spectrum of bacteria both large+ and large-, fungi, yeasts and protozoa. Several years of research carried out at the University of Paris have shown that peptides Dermaseptin B2 and B3 are effective in killing certain types of cancer cells. Research at Queens University in Belfast recently won a prestigious award for his ground-breaking work with cancer and Kambo. Its action mechanism is produced by inhibiting the angiogenesis of tumour cells, with selective cytotoxicity for these cells.
Bradykinins – such as phyllokinins and tryptophilins. They are peptides with structure and properties similar to human bradykinin. They are important sources of scientific study as they are hypotensive and due to producing vasodilation, contraction of the non-vascular smooth muscle, increase vascular permeability, also related to the mechanism of inflammatory pain.
Bombesins – these peptides stimulate the secretion of hydrochloric acid by acting on the G cells of the stomach, regardless of the pH of the medium. They also increase pancreatic secretion, intestinal myoelectric activity and smooth muscle contractibility.
Ceruleins – Stimulate gastric, bile and pancreatic secretions, and certain smooth muscle. They could be used in the paralytic ileus and as a diagnostic medium in pancreatic dysfunction.
Tryptophilins – are neuropeptides consisting of 4 to 14 amino acids, which are opening up new perspectives on how the human brain works.
These biopeptides have aroused a great deal of scientific interest and many of them have been successfully synthesized in the laboratory and patented. But so far, none of these molecules have been used in clinical practice. Research on the components of Kambo continues to evolve to find clinical applications in the world of medicine and pharmacology, and in the study of new action mechanisms in our human biology.
For thousands of years, Amazonian tribes have been using and benefiting from this chemical cocktail according to their ancestral traditions, their intuition and their magic. Now it is up to us, above our rational and scientific culture, and accompanied and supported by it, to take advantage of this gift of nature and obtain all its benefits, beyond what we can be demonstrated by the multitude of pharmacological experiments carried out in scientific laboratories.
The dermaseptin superfamily: A gene-based combinatorial library of antimicrobial peptides
Antimicrobial Peptides: An alternative for the development of nanotechnological based therapies for multi-drug-resistant infections
Antitumor and Angiostatic Activities of the Antimicrobial Peptide Dermaseptin B2
Antimicrobial peptides from Phyllomedusa frogs: from biomolecular diversity to potential nanotechnologic medical applications