Updated: Jan 3, 2021
We live in remarkable times - never has so much been so available. Whether it be the latest information, treatments or trends, searching for quality over quantity is more vital than ever, and nowhere is this more applicable than health and healing.
Holistic wellbeing is nothing new, and neither are its current ‘trends’, with many of them going back centuries before they were picked up by Instagram’s algorithms. Kambo is one such area of intrigue that is rapidly gaining ground. It involves using a secretion from the ‘sweat’ of the poisonous Monkey Leaf Frog, to induce a powerful cleanse that boosts the immune system, can benefit mental health and even improve stamina and strength.
So why is it that such practices are only just coming into the spotlight, and how does a Kambo 'cleanse' compare with the latest competitors on the market?
Modern Cleanse Comparisons
Modern cleansing rituals share both similarities and crucial differences, when it comes to weighing up the digi-day detox with the classic Kambo experience.
The latest cleanse trends to sweep the net include tummy tea toxing, intermittent fasting, restrictive dieting such as paleo or veganism, and even skinny lollipops. Although practices like dietary modification and intermittent fasting are science-backed and slightly more sustainable than some of the other options, trends are usually just that – they come into and out of fashion, can put undue stress on the body and may have unpleasant side effects.
The Tummy Tea Tox and Skinny Lollipops are perfect examples of temporary cleanse trends, that may have unintended consequences. Such products often use laxatives as their star ingredient, which if taken too regularly, can negatively impact digestion, as well as lifestyle. Upon closer inspection of these quick-fix ‘detoxes’, there is often flimsy science to back up their other claims, of which there is still no proper regulation in the industry.
The human body is an incredibly efficient piece of machinery and is designed to be able to detox itself, without the use of merchandise containing small percentages of seaweed, artificial stomach fillers, laxatives or other trending ingredients. Taking care of your kidneys and liver in particular, is necessary for homeostatic balance and regulating the natural detoxification process.
Communities such as the Amazon’s indigenous have little access to health-aids like as vaccines and pharmaceuticals. Yet many of them manage to show incredible resistance in the face of illness, so how do they do this? The answer lies in the rituals and ceremonies that have been handed down for generations by mother nature herself. What makes such practices unique, is that they are designed to work in synergy with the body’s natural mechanisms.
Legend has it that Kambo was first discovered by the legendary healer, Kampu. Having exhausted many other means of trying to heal his sickly tribe, he was guided to the Kambo frog and taught how to extract and use its secretions by the forest spirits, under the guidance of the visionary brew Ayahuasca.
The secretion goes by many names, including Kambo, Sapo, Kampu or Vacina de Florestra. Whatever its mysterious and mystic origins may be, Kambo continues to be used by tribes predominantly in Brazil and Peru to this day.
Journalist Peter Gorman was one of the first journalists from the West to discover the medicine whilst living with the Matses tribes in 1986. The Matses would use it before embarking on multiple hunting day trips, as they felt that it gave them superior hunting abilities including increased stamina, visual acuity, hearing ability and reduced need for food and water.
Receiving Kambo involves making superficial burns to the skin using an incense stick, not deep enough to bleed but open enough to cause some temporary scarring. The venom is then placed over each of the areas, with dosage being measured by experience, as it is different for everyone. Spraying water onto the secretions helps to activate it, allowing the cleansing process to begin. This typically lasts for around 15-20 minutes, depending on the amount applied.
Kambo is known as an ‘ordeal medicine’ for good reason, as it does have purgative effects. However unlike the laxatives in a ‘tummy teatox’, there are few adverse long-term side effects. As with even the safest medicine, there are some contraindications for people who should not use Kambo. Those with heart conditions, Addison’s, receiving chemotherapy, or individuals with poor health may not tolerate it very well. If you do not fall into this category, then with an experienced practitioner, Kambo is relatively safe and perfectly fine to engage with a couple of times a month.
Traditionally, tribes used the secretion to remove ‘panema’, meaning ‘bad luck’ or dense energy. It is believed that this can be seen in the yellow-green bile that hits the bucket during a purge. In spite of feeling like vomiting, the liquid expelled is mainly a frothy water mixed with bile, if you’ve fasted as advised.
The frog’s secretions contain a cocktail of healing benefits, recently being proven by science. Kambo is fondly known as ‘nature’s vaccine’, and has been labelled a ‘treasure trove’ of compounds. The bioactive peptide molecules in Kambo have demonstrated opioid receptor binding ability, involved in pain modulation, as well as powerful antibiotic, anti-cancer, and anti-inflammatory action.
However some of the energetic and psycho-spiritual prowess, seems to be unrepeatable in recent studies. This could demonstrate the importance of holding space and applying the medicine in the original ceremonial setting, which enhances the role of the mind-body connection and stimulates the body’s self-healing mechanisms.
The unrepeatable nature of certain effects in isolation, is in part due to the involvement of a natural phenomenon known as the placebo effect. It is so powerful that 90% of pharmaceutical grade pain medications now fail at this stage of clinical trials. An example of this mechanisms of action in action, is seen in the comparison of studies that use psilocybin mushrooms as a treatment for depression. Such trials seem to suggest that the effects are far greater when conducted in a ceremonial setting, with a traditional shaman. Finding ways to use natural medicines in synergy with the body and mind’s own power, is key to reaping the best results.
What does the future hold for Kambo?
As unusual as Kambo’s process is, the fact that it is steeped in history, supported by science and delivers on results, seems to be driving its exponential growth and popularity.
Biotech companies are racing to patent new pharmaceuticals derived from Kambo, which could impact the future of the medical industry itself. In spite of this, Kambo is incredibly chemically complex, and the secretion works best when delivered holistically, and in context. It seems that science cannot isolate and replicate everything that nature can so effortlessly produce.
What is of immediate concern for Kambo’s future, is the conservation of jungle ecosystems in the face of climate change. If the Monkey Leaf Frog is to be harvested ethically and sustainably, we need to start with the habitat that allows them to both survive and thrive. Hopefully ecological efforts, combined with an interest in the field, will be enough to ensure the long term survival of this sacred, ancient remedy, for many more centuries to come.
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P.S If you're interested in learning more about how to heal with Kambo frog medicine, check out the link below for details on our upcoming training courses.