A couple of weeks ago, we told you about Editor Brook’s experience with Wim Hof, a wellness trend that employs breathing techniques + cold exposure for everything from increasing athleticism and endurance to decreasing anxiety and stress.
This week I’m diving into kambo, another wellness practice that’s been in headlines lately – including being touted as a “hot new Rx” by groups like Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s health + lifestyle brand. I (Editor Ali) just had a kambo treatment with local IAKP Certified Kambo Practitioner Ana Robinson of Kambo Calm, and I wanted to share the scoop with you.
First of all, while I might be a Doctor of Words (I have a PhD in English from the University of Rochester – go Yellow Jackets 🐝), this piece is in no way offering medical advice. You should always connect with a medical professional and do your own research before you try anything new for your health. And, you should never attempt to use kambo without an experienced practitioner. There are risks, and people have been trained to navigate you through them safely.
That being said, my experience with kambo was pretty profound, and I’m excited to share the info with y’all.
- Kambo is the secretion of an Amazonian frog known as the Giant Monkey Tree Frog (Phyllomedusa Bicolor). It’s used for treating depression, anxiety, migraines, addiction, fertility issues, and more serious ailments, and is considered antibiotic + antiviral.
- It’s completely legal and non-psychoactive.
- It’s a strong purgative – so most people can expect to get sick (i.e. vomit) during the treatment.
- That purgative response is caused by 16 bio-active peptides in the kambo that all work together + strongly interact with the body after entering through the lymphatic system, which is responsible for filtering toxins from the body.
- There is an important protocol to follow beforehand regarding fasting and water intake. You’re typically advised to fast up to 12 hours before a ceremony, and not to drink too much water before or after (as you’ll be drinking a lot during the treatment and too much water intake can have very detrimental health effects).
- The major purgative effects typically last for between 20-40 minutes – but can last longer.
- Afterwards, people might either feel tired or energized, and it could be different every time. Typically, you can expect to resume most normal activity after a ceremony, though you might need to take it slow. I felt tired and peaceful, and took the opportunity to spend the weekend resting.
- People with high blood pressure, heart problems, some autoimmune disorders, and who are pregnant or nursing should not use kambo.
Read on to find out more about how kambo made me feel healthier – and hoppier.
What is kambo?
The kambo frog is native to the Amazon Basin (mostly in Brazil, Colombia + Peru) and its secretion has been used by communities (notably the Matses tribe) living there for centuries as a powerful agent for healing + enhancing hunting abilities.
The Mastses tribe’s practice of harvesting kambo is considered ethical. The wild frogs are not endangered, and come when they are called by community members. They are gently tied down and the secretion, which occurs naturally on their skin, is carefully rubbed off (sometimes by massaging their toes). Then, the frogs are released back into the jungle. DYK: The frogs do not produce the secretion in captivity. Watch a video of kambo harvesting here.
Kambo’s purported benefits include the reasons for its use in traditional settings, when it’s applied to increase hunters’ abilities and for healing. Kambo can also be used for depression, anxiety, migraines, addiction, fertility issues, and more serious ailments, and is considered antibiotic + antiviral. It’s also considered detoxifying because of its ability to bind with fat-soluble toxins that could be bound to bile in your GI tract.
Kambo treatments are given in a ceremonial context (either privately or in a group) to honor Amazonian tradition. My treatment was part of a weekend-long group ceremony, also called an “inoculation.” I’d spoken with Ana beforehand to talk about my reasons for wanting to try kambo (some nagging and persistent health issues), which helped determine where on my body she applied the treatment.
Our group sat in a circle on yoga mats with plenty of pillows and blankets – and a bucket (which would be important once the kambo was applied).
First, Ana gave us all sananga – a potent eye drop made from a plant that initially burns but has a calming effect. It could also help with vision + eye issues.
Next, Ana came to each of us to open the “gates” where the kambo would be applied by burning small spots on our skin. Not gonna lie – it was a little painful but quick, kind of like getting a shot. The first day, I had three gates on my lower calf. The second day I had five gates, with three on my shin and two on my shoulder to target my specific health issues.
Then, we drank around 1 pint of a yucca + plantain “broth” that helps with electrolyte replacement and decreases the risk of hypernatremia (elevated blood sodium caused by dehydration). At that point, Ana cycled back to apply the secretion. After it did its thing, she removed the points and cleaned and disinfected the gates.
The kambo experience
After a few minutes, my body and face became very hot, and my heartbeat quickened. Ana had prepared me for this, but it was still a bit of a surprise the first time. After a couple of minutes, that passed and I began to feel nauseated. That’s when my bucket became my best friend.
My purge each day was intense, but brief. Because I’d fasted and had a lot of liquid, I had plenty to put into my bucket. Ana offers encouragement during this period, checking in if it gets tough, offering help (and occasionally more kambo), and also cheering us on and celebrating the healing work we’re doing. She was a wonderful facilitator and held space for all of us. At the end, she was ready with tea and some light snacks, like bananas and crackers, to help us settle and ground. She also had an assistant who helped out as well (Thank you, Sue).
After the ceremony, I felt immediately quiet and peaceful – and that feeling has hung on for a couple of weeks now. While it’s hard to gauge whether some of my deeper health issues are clearing up, I did notice some benefits, including amazing, quality sleep (I usually struggle with insomnia) and clearer skin. A side effect from a medication I was on cleared up (after several months of trying other things). And, while I’m not a heavy drinker, my urge to drink alcohol has all but disappeared since my ceremony.
So what’s happening to your body during a kambo treatment? Here’s a little bit of froggy science.
- Kambo enters the body’s lymphatic system at the site of application.
- It contains amino acid chains called peptides, including several that are exorphins – which are produced by amphibians, specifically, and are similar to endorphins.
- Some of these exorphins interact with opioid receptors in the human body, causing a sense of well-being and peace.
- The peptides + exorphins include tryptophyllin (which stimulates + recalibrates the serotonergic and opioid systems, and increases dopamine), deltorphin (which binds to opioid receptors and results in pain relief), tachykinin peptides (which cause purging), dermaseptin peptides (which increase white blood cell activity), peptides that cause blood vessel dilation, phyllolitorin (which stimulates gastric acid secretion + smooth muscle contraction) + more.
- In vitro studies of kambo found possible antifungal properties + showed that it could slow the growth of cancerous cells.
While I can’t say I had “fun” doing kambo, the ceremony was wonderful, I enjoyed the group setting, and the effects that have unfolded since then have been pretty significant in terms of my physical + mental health. With all the curiosity around kambo, it’s great to know that there are some highly trained and excellent practitioners working right here in the 828.