Best Practice: Traditional Basic treatments

Kambo, frog medicine.

Introduction #

As  most of you know, test points were one of Karen’s early creations. They are a very valuable tool for both the new and experienced practitioner. A test point is given to a person taking Kambo for the first time or if the person has taken Kambo before several years previously and you are unsure of what the current reaction may be. More and more practitioners are now adopting this technique as it allows us to get an insight into any potential problems or sensitivities with a small and easily reversible dose of Kambo.   It also gives our clients, particularly first timers, a feeling of safety and ease, knowing that we are doing a test point.  This is foundational in our practice.

The following was taken from the practitioners page posted a few months ago.  It is a perfect example of how important doing a test point can be.

Just had the scariest treatment with a client…so far. I guess this all might sound like nothing to more experienced practitioners, but it scared the living shit out of me. First time client, female, healthy. On test point she felt good, not too much going on, she looked very strong. I was turning away for 1 second to get the Kambô stick to apply the remaining 2 dots, but noticed she was all of a sudden passing out. I laid her down on her side into recovery she vomited while passed out, it seemed like more purging was to come but that she somehow couldn’t because she was gone, so I decided to sit her up. she went into full rigour, her head back, completely tensed up and red like it was going to explode, and for a moment it seemed that she even stopped breathing. I laid her down again, took off the test point, and after 2 mins, which felt like an eternity, she came back. Although my heart was racing of nervousness and fear, I think I managed to stay calm,somehow. 

I eventually proceeded with what turned out to be a layered treatment, working my way up slowly from dot to dot. Gosh I cannot stress enough how important it is to do test points!!!”

Well said.


I have been asked to write up an outline and reminder of how IAKP practitioners give a traditional basic treatment and why we do it in the way we do.

I am really pleased to do this as for the majority of us this is the most regular treatment we give. We were all shown during the basic training the way we are expected to do it. However, as one of the teachers of the practitioner course, I am super aware of how much information gets exchanged during that intensive couple of weeks. Also, how easy it can be for that basic foundation we have to get a bit lost in the sands of time. Particularly as it is the first treatment demonstrated during the training when everyone is still settling in and trying to get their minds around the science and everything else that has already been covered.

What is a basic treatment?

Firstly let’s clarify exactly what is meant by a basic traditional treatment.

A basic treatment is how we give Kambo to clients who have not experienced Kambo before. 

This is a treatment given to a client who’s level of health is not severely compromised. It is a client whom we are fully expecting to go through the treatment and be able to purge etc. It is not the treatment for someone who is in a very weak and/or fragile state.

The same process can also be used with clients who have experienced Kambo before, just not with an IAKP practitioner. Also, with our own clients who may have had a more extended break between treatments, or maybe have had some change happen in their lives that could have impacted their sensitivity to Kambo.

The steps we follow

Firstly we burn three gates. Traditionally these would be placed around the upper left arm for a man and around the lower right leg for a woman.

There are many different ideas about why these placements are used, and I am not going to go into them here. For me personally, I feel that given that these are the areas most the tribes use when giving a basic Kambo treatment, we should honor that tradition — especially for our clients first meeting with the frog.

Of course, if the client is really opposed to this placement and a man wants it on his leg, or a woman wants it on her arm, then I will respect that. However, I have found pretty much all of my clients want to receive their first treatment using the traditional placement.

Step one

Burn three gates. These gates must all be relatively close to each other. We burn three gates because three points of Kambo is considered to be the minimum amount of Kambo we would want to be given to any “normal” client. 

By burning the three gates at the start it minimises the chances of burning crooked lines of gates. As we have all seen the area around the gates can swell etc. once the Kambo is applied. Also, it avoids having to try to burn gates if the client begins purging from the test point.

The test point

We apply one point of Kambo to one of the three gates we have burnt. Traditionally this would be applied to the gate, which is furthest from the heart.

The test point was a brilliant tool developed by Karen Darke to safeguard our clients.

Because the strength of Kambo can be different depending on where on the client’s body it is placed, it is vital that the test point is in the same location as where the rest of the points will finally be placed.

From the client’s reaction to the test point, we can tell firstly if it is safe for the client to take Kambo. 

If the client experiences any extreme reactions, this single point of Kambo is a small enough amount that it can be reversed. In this situation, the Kambo would be washed off, and the gates should be washed with lots of warm water.

I personally have been lucky enough never to have experienced such a situation. However, I never want to take a risk, and so I have always given a test point to first-timers.

The test point also shows us the right amount of Kambo for each of our clients. Helping us make sure we are not burning clients unnecessarily, but also showing how much Kambo they need to have a good purge. This is also extremely important and again why I have always given first times a test point.

It is such a useful tool in fact that lots of non IAKP practitioners, both in the west and in the forests have started to use it as well.



How do we decide on the number of points to give? #

This is an interesting question and isn’t one that there is an exact formula for. 

We often talk about intuition or guidance from medicine. But how do we develop that? I think it comes from sitting and being fully present with your clients. Reading what is happening with them from the spoken and unspoken clues. The more you do this, and the more experience you gain, the easier it is to see how many points will work.

The test point is a big part of staying present with the clients. It stops me from trying to decide the final number of points the client will receive based on any information or first impressions I have about them. I apply the test point and then am easily guided by what I see happening with them in the moment. 

Next steps

If the client starts to purge, or is right on the edge of purging from the test point, we simply add Kambo to the two other gates we burnt at the start. Those three points of Kambo in total should then be enough for the client to have a full Kambo process.

If the client has a minor reaction to the test point, or if any reaction they do have resolves quickly it lets us know that they are going to need more then three points of Kambo to have a purge. In this situation, we would then decide what that final number will be and then burn the required number of gates. Once all the extra gates have been burned, we apply the Kambo to all of those gates at once. 

Traditionally the total number of gates burned are odd numbers, 3 as the minimum, 5, 7, or 9 as the maximum. That’s not to say you couldn’t burn an even number of gates, but if you are sticking to tradition, it should be an odd number.

Sometimes you can see from the test point that the client may need just a little more than three points of Kambo and in such a situation you could always remove the test point and add three points of Kambo to the gates. This can be helpful if the client is pretty close to purging, and you don’t want to start burning them again.

However, if a client is not close to purging, then I think it is better just to burn the extra gates and give them 5 points.

What if we give too many points?

It’s really useful to remember, it is generally a much harder process for a client who is not given enough Kambo, then it is for a client who is given slightly more Kambo then they may have needed to start purging. And 1 point extra really won’t feel that much stronger for the client in that situation.

What if we don’t give enough points?

You do not want to have to start burning more gates on clients once they are in the process.

If you decided on a final number of points, applied them and then realise during the process that maybe the client should have had more Kambo, you can always wet, or flip the points. 

If that doesn’t work, or you see that really they did need quite a bit more Kambo then they were given, you can replace some of the points with fresh ones. In that situation, you would replace a third of the points. Wait around 5 minutes to see what reaction the client has and then you can replace more if needed.

Remember also that there is a magic window of around 10-15 minutes when its easier to get the client to stat purging. If the client hasn’t started to purge at all in that first 15 minutes it gets harder and harder to start as the water they drank will have been largely absorbed. Because of this, you need to be proactive about making any interventions or steps to help encore the purge.

As the basic traditional treatment is a single treatment, you are aiming to use a maximum of 3 liters of water over the course of the whole treatment. So you need to be ready to get the Kambo on as soon as the client has drunk their first 1.5-2 liters of water.

Also, as a single treatment, the Kambo should be left on for a minimum of 20 minutes up to a maximum of 40 minutes

Once the client has had a good final purge and they are feeling ready, you can remove the Kambo and let them rest.

I hope this article has been been a useful reminder about how that process works and also why we work in the way we do.


Many blessings,

Andrew Mulquin

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