Kambo: A Poison or Pharmacological Marvel?


The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word ‘poison’ as ‘a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism.’

Some people believe that Kambo is a poison and in fact, if you google Kambo or Kambo Ceremonies, up comes ‘The Frog Poison Ritual,’ ‘The Frog Poison Cleanse’ or ‘Frog Poison for Healing.’  It’s hardly surprising that a Kambo session engenders apprehension and fear in potential clients! After all, why would you want to use ‘a substance that through its chemical action usually kills, injures, or impairs an organism?

IAKP Kambo Practitioner, Christopher Kelly wrote an excellent blog article – “Is Kambo, The Amazonian Tree Frog Secretion, Actually a Poison” – and has allowed me to share the main points.

  1. Kambo is known to produce it’s secretion as a form of predatory defense against snakes, and other amphibian loving animals and just like many other creatures who have their own defense mechanisms. When an animal tries to swallow the frog and it starts experiencing the immediate and classic Kambo sensations, it’s likely to return its lunch and think twice before chowing down on this moderately sized amphibian again.
  2. It’s a common misnomer that the human body goes through its dramatic purging response after having Kambo applied because it’s trying to expel the poison from its system. Not true. We know that the secretion is full of peptides, which were discovered three decades ago by Italian pharmacologist Vittorio Erspamer. He concluded that the secretion was a ‘fantastic chemical cocktail with potential medical applications, unequalled by any other amphibian.’ Since then, pharmaceutical companies have been isolating single peptides from the secretion for various medical pursuits, because, quite obviously, the peptides hold remarkable potential when it comes to benefiting the human body.
  3. David Attenborough is an English broadcaster and natural historian best known for his natural history documentaries. I love this clip where he states that the secretion is actually the frogs’ natural sun cream to protect itself during the dry season. This could be another reason that the indigenous tribes choose not to over-harvest the secretion from one frog so that it can maintain its protection from predators… and the sun!
  4. Swiss physician Paracelsussaid “all things are poison and nothing is without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison” – it brings to mind the importance of taking into account the contraindications, cautions and proper preparation protocols, to ensure that the highest safety precautions are met. It’s also met with reflections on how we can label many things as a poison. Drink enough water and that can be poison. Eat enough kale and that can be poison. Yet, we don’t habitually call these poisons, because typically, and when approached responsibly, they’re not. Labeling something as poison gives the impression that the substance is inherently harmful, and is capable of causing illness, injury or death to a living organism when introduced or absorbed into the system. In the context of Kambo, sure, it has the potential to be a poison, just like anything else does, but in the way that we as humans interact with this secretion and its beneficial qualities, I think it’s misleading, and harmful, to label this secretion as a poison. Doing so continues to distort perceptions while perpetuating the misinformation and fear towards many traditional and natural healing options (such as Kambo and other psychedelic substances).
  5. In the West, we have a cultural hang up when it comes to purging. Vomiting is seen as inherently negative; being sick, ill, or overly intoxicated in a negative way. In other societies and cultures, purgatives are commonly used, and purging, at least in the context of sacred medicines, is perceived as ‘getting well.’Humans aren’t the only ones who ingest certain substances to aid the process of purging the system from parasites, toxins and other dense energies. Dense, in the sense, that they’re not compatible with keeping the system in a state of harmony. Other animals consume plant material to help with the cleansing process. For example, dogs and cats purging after eating grass is a prime example.

The word “secretion” keeps a neutral tone conducive to Kambo’s inherent potential for profound healing, and, if someone wants to argue the poison perspective, then hopefully the above points will help and may I encourage to read Christopher Kelly’s’ full article which can be used as a foundation to build upon for mature and healthy discussion.

Credit to Christopher Kelly for reference to his original article.

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