A bright green tree frog native to the Amazon basin called Phyllomedusa bicolor (the giant leaf or monkey frog) secretes kambo, also known as frog medicine. Tropical rain forests can be found in the Amazon rainforests of South America in countries such as northern Brazil, eastern Peru, southern Colombia, and Venezuela, Bolivia, and the Guianas. Sapo is the term used for both the frog and its secretion in many places outside Brazil (or ‘toad’).
To collect giant monkey frogs at night, you can follow their distinctive song. You tie captive specimens by their legs, which are stressed to release a sticky liquid. The waxy substance is scraped onto wooden splinters from its back and legs. Kambo, once dried, can be stored for as long as a year without losing any potency. When applied to a specially designed burn, it is mixed with saliva or water and applied directly to it.
With the growing popularity of kambo, concern has grown over how the harvest method is affecting the species. While the frogs are not killed when their secretions are harvested, and the population of giant monkey frogs has been listed as stable, the practice has come under scrutiny due to the way the animals are treated.
Kambo has both medical and psychospiritual applications, both traditional and novel. Commonly referred to as an ‘ordeal medicine,’ the secretion has strong emetic and purgative properties. Although kambo is initially unpleasant, it is widely sought after for its revitalizing effects on the mind and body.
How to Prepare for a Kambo Ceremony
Preparations are important for any substance-induced experience that has the potential to be transformative. Kambo preparations are no exception. Most of these preparations are concerned with the purging and cleansing that will take place during the ceremony.
Prior to the actual ceremony, a cleansing process is carried out. It is recommended that Kambo participants fast for 10-12 hours before the ceremony. Alcohol and recreational drugs should also be avoided for 24 hours prior to the ceremony.
Last but not least, those taking Kambo before the ceremony should drink at least two liters of water. Taking these steps will make purging significantly easier.
It’s prepared by mixing dried resin with saliva or water to create a paste, called “green mustard.” It’s then divided into dots for use. It is performed using a smoldering piece of titica vine (Heteropsis flexuosa), a twig, or an incense stick to burn small points through the skin. The Kambo dots are applied after the skin has been removed from the burned areas, as painlessly as from a blister. The medicine is absorbed into the bloodstream within seconds due to Kambo’s vasodilating peptides and pro-inflammatory agents.
In general, one consumes large amounts of liquid prior, such as two liters of water, three to five liters of fermented corn caiçuma, banana or manioc grue, or diluted papaya juice. Nevertheless, we do not recommend drinking large quantities of liquid in a short period of time due to the risks of hyponatremia.
In Peter Gorman’s opinion, the recommended dosage is approximately 10 mg of Kambo for each point, up to a maximum of 100 mg per day. It depends on several factors, including body size, experience, reason for application, and sometimes even the practitioner’s tradition, how many points to apply. Five points may seem common, but there may be considerably more or less needed.
Where does Kambo come from?
Frogs that are native to the upper Amazon Basin include the Giant Monkey Tree Frog. This frog secretion is placed on wood sticks and allowed to dry, so it can be transported around the world.
Experience and Ceremony of Kambo
A group Kambo ceremony usually has fewer than ten participants. As well as the practitioner, assistants are often present. Often, the assistants play multiple roles. Someone may bring out buckets when they’re ready to purge or escort someone to the restroom if they need to go. Others may merely serve as a supportive presence and offer calm support.
Participants are burned with the Kambo after the practitioner makes small burns on their skin. Also called “gates,” these burns facilitate the quick absorption of the pasty substance into the bloodstream. Despite their scarring ability, these gates can fade over time and with care. Oils and balms might also be applied to reduce scarring after a ceremony.
Participants are often tested first to see if there are any adverse effects. A practitioner or shaman will begin the process of application when it is deemed safe for use. Kambo is measured as a number of “points,” ranging from 2 to 10 points.
What to Expect
Kambo medicine produces intense and unpleasant immediate effects, but they typically last less than 30-40 minutes. These symptoms include feverishness, sweating, shivering, and dizziness as the heart rate increases rapidly to more than 190 beats per minute. In addition to a sudden rise or fall in blood pressure, increased awareness of veins and arteries may be present. There are many people who report a feeling of tingling or burning that starts at certain points and spreads throughout the body. There may also be feelings of dissociation or euphoria.
In general, Kambo will cause overwhelming nausea and purging — either through vomiting, defecating, or both. Additionally, patients may feel pressure in their heads, necks, and torsos, stomach pain, inflammation of the throat, dry mouth, blurred vision (or temporarily blindness), difficulty moving, and numb, swollen lips and tongues. Poisoning causes the body to respond physically.
The heart rate may need to return to normal after these initial biological effects have worn off. Some people fall into a deep sleep, while others make strange sounds.
As a result of the Kambo purge, you may have an enhanced experience. During this period, you may feel physically strong, with sharpened senses, and mentally alert. It may take a day or a few hours for such after-effects to manifest, or they may be immediate. Mood elevation, increased physical and mental energy, a decreased stress level, and an improved focus are often associated with them as well.