What is Kambo?
Kambo is a secretion from one of the largest Hylid frogs known as the Giant Green Monkey Tree Frog. Its scientific name is Phyllomedusa Bicolor. The frog is nocturnal and arboreal and due to the fact that it has no natural predators is found in abundance across the Upper Amazon rainforest areas of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, French Guiana, Suriname and Venezuela.
They are large frogs, the male bodies being between 9-10 cm and the females 11-12cm. The dorsum is a vibrant green and the belly a creamy white. They have dark spots on the chest, flank and legs. Reproduction occurs throughout the year, peaking between November and May. They construct hanging nests from folded leaves 1-3metres above ponds and streams. The females deposit a gelatinous mass containing their eggs into these nests. Theirs is the largest spawn found amongst arboreal frogs of the Amazon. A single spawn contains on average 1000 eggs from which tadpoles emerge within 11-14 days. The IUCN database lists them in the ‘Least Concern’ category in view of their wide distribution and large population. The only known threats to this species of frog at the moment are spawn predation and the potential destruction of their habitat.
An Italian scientist, Vittorio Erspamer of the University of Rome was the first person to analyse Kambo in a laboratory. In 1986, he wrote that it contains a ‘fantastic chemical cocktail with potential medical applications, unequalled by any other amphibian’. The chemicals that he referred to were Peptides. The peptides studied by Erspamer have become essential to characterize the functional role of opioid receptors. He was twice nominated for a Nobel Prize and was also the person who first discovered Serotonin. Several peptides have since been isolated from the secretion and several have been synthesised. Currently there are over 70 Kambo patents lodged, mainly in the USA.
Now, the popularity and use of Kambo as a natural medicine is spreading worldwide. As the scientific and medical research into the secretion of the Phyllomedusa Bicolor grows, skilled practitioners are also developing new ways to work with this powerful substance from the Amazonian Rain Forest which allows it to be accessible to almost everyone in a safe and manageable way. Not only do we now have a number of different traditional ways to take Kambo but we can also work with the Meridians, the Chakras, Nadis and Marma Points and even the ears – Auricular Kambo. Added to this, there are also new techniques to allow people to take Kambo in a way that is gentler on their system but still allows them to enjoy the maximum benefits. Kambo is very safe when given by a properly trained practitioner however there are some conditions for which Kambo is contraindicated, including:
Have serious heart problems.
Are on medication for low blood pressure.
Have had a stroke.
Have had a brain haemorrhage.
Have an aneurism or blood clots.
Lack the mental capacity to make the decision to take Kambo.
Have serious mental health problems excluding depression, PTSD and anxiety.
Are undergoing chemotherapy, radiotherapy or for 4 weeks afterwards.
Take immune-suppressants for organ transplant.
Have Addison’s Disease
Have current and severe Epilepsy
Are recovering from a major surgical procedure
Are under 18 years old
Are pregnant or maybe so or are breast-feeding a child under 6 months old
This is not an exhaustive list so it’s important to consult a properly trained and skilled practitioner if you have any serious health issue. Sometimes it depends on the stage of a disease or the constitution of the person receiving Kambo.
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.
The first observations of Kambo use were made by a French priest, Father Constantin Tastevin in 1925 whilst he was staying with the Kaxinawá tribe in the upper Juruá River in Brazil. In the 1980’s an American Anthropologist, Katherine Milton described Kambo use among the Mayoruna tribe in Brazil and in the 1980s Peter Gorman wrote about his experiences taking Kambo with the Matses tribe in Peru.
During the 1990’s, rubber tappers in Brazil learned about Kambo from the Amazon Indians. They began to take it out into the towns of Acre and apply it themselves. Having spent several years living with the Katukina, Francisco Gomes from Cruzeiro do Sol was one of the first people to pioneer the use of Kambo outside the Amazon. The practice spread and soon people in the larger cities of Brazil were using Kambo.
In 2004, ANVISA, the Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária in Brazil prohibited any advertising of the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of Kambo. This was in response to representation made to the Brazilian government by the Katukina people with regard to intellectual property rights. Aside from this restriction, Kambo is legal everywhere in the world.