Kambo is not a slang for Kombucha (though it should be, it’s pretty catchy) or some new form of martial arts. Kambo is actually a healing ritual originally used by tribes across South American countries that has now made its way to the U.S. and Canada. Shamans performed Kambo to help heal patients suffering from mental, emotional and physical ailments. The process is painful—in fact torturous—but it seems that many find relief through multiple treatments.
Kambo is the venom that the Phyllomedusa bicolor, a.k.a. giant tree frog, secretes. Shamans carefully collect the kambo from the frog’s skin and release the creature back into the environment, unharmed. They then dry or burn the secretion until it thickens and apply it to pencil eraser-size burns that are intentionally made to a patient’s skin, often on the arm, shoulder, foot or back. A drop of venom is applied to each burn and a reaction occurs almost immediately. What most patients experience is tachycardia, or a rapid heart rate; they often report feeling as if their blood is rushing through them, their head is pulsing and their body is burning. They also experience dizziness, sweating and loss of muscle control, and often need to be escorted to the closest toilet or bucket, as the venom can induce purging, from either end (shamans call this “cleansing”). This is similar to the effects of Ayahuasca.
So, let’s say that despite knowing the above, you still sign the consent form. What else should you expect to feel?
Well, once you’ve stopped crying like a baby (this actually happens), you may notice that you feel more relaxed, a heightened sense of awareness and less fatigued, and notice an improvement in your concentration and focus. These results don’t last long, however; it’s the promise of improved immunity you really want and that can take upwards of ten sessions.
What makes Kambo so special?
Research on Kambo as a practice is severely lacking, which makes it a bit dangerous. But anecdotal evidence and expert advice exists. Most participants say that they do feel more balanced and better overall, in terms of their general well-being. Most report needing a number of sessions over a few months’ time. Reactions to getting burned are severe the first time but the pain apparently lessens over time (though it never completely subsides). The burns often leave noticeable scars, which I assume people wear as a badge of badass-ness.
Information is available on kambo the substance; specifically, what’s in it that’s responsible for the severe reactions to it. Scientists have pinpointed a few peptides like phyllomedusin, phyllokinin, sauvagine, dermaseptins and more, which act on the gut, blood vessels, heart, immune, nervous system and brain. It’s rumoured, in fact, that kambo may be several thousand times stronger than morphine.
Before you attempt Kambo, please note that side effects include possible death, soooooo proceed with caution? Kambo, the substance, is fatal—it exists to kill off predators. Check with your healthcare provider before proceeding.