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The Kambo Ceremony

Updated: Jan 3, 2021

Sometimes it’s hard for me to remember those feelings you have when you’re new to Kambo, when you’ve got all those unknowns and questions. So I wanted to address the question: what is a Kambo ceremony?

A Kambo ceremony, or Kambo ritual, is a ceremony developed in South American tribal societies in which a Shaman or healer applies a secretion harvested from the Giant Monkey Frog to small burns on the skin of the participants. This causes the participants to purge, cleansing the mind and body of bad elements and negative energy referred to as ‘Panema’. It is used by the tribes-people to increase physical and mental performance prior to a hunt, and to treat various medical conditions. Today Kambo ceremonies are practised throughout the world by trained practitioners for a variety of beneficial purposes.

Let’s dig into exactly what you can expect to happen during a Kambo ceremony.

Preparing for the ceremony

To make the most of your experience, there are a number of things that you should do to prepare for the Kambo ceremony itself:

  1. Ensure that you are safe to engage in the ceremony - that you aren’t in one of the categories that it is not advised that you should take part in a ceremony due to safety reasons. These include: expecting or breastfeeding mothers, those with previous medical histories involving blood or heart problems, and those that have taken various medications close to the day of the ceremony. A good practitioner will take you through these before allowing you to attend the ceremony!

  2. On that note - find a reputable practitioner. One that demonstrates experience and strong concern for your welfare.

  3. Fast for at least 8 hours prior to your ceremony, and where possible, try and eat clean in the days leading up to the ceremony - try and avoid alcohol, dairy, sugar and spicy foods.

  4. Try and get a decent amount of rest before attending the ceremony - Kambo takes a toll, so have something in reserve.

  5. Get some physical exercise in before the ceremony, get the blood moving - the boost in circulation will help the process.

  6. Pack for the ceremony - some water, loose and comfortable clothes, a change of clothes, hair ties, a drinking vessel, tissues and/or kitchen roll for clean-up.

The link above goes into more detail about preparing for the ceremony. Your practitioner should also provide you with some information and make sure you ask questions if you’re unsure - they should be happy to help and guide you.

Experiencing the Kambo ritual

What happens during the ceremony?

You can break your ceremony experience down into 7 parts:

  1. Opening your gateways

  2. Drinking your water

  3. Applying the Kambo

  4. The rush

  5. The purge

  6. The ‘hump’

  7. The calm after the storm

Opening your gateways

The first stage is opening the gateway. Your practitioner will make a series of small burns on your skin - usually 4 or 5 on your upper arm for first time participants - using an incense stick, or small vine. This is just to remove the very top layer of the skin. It really doesn’t hurt as much as it sounds like it might - it only touches the skin for a very brief moment. This is to open the gateway for the Kambo.

Drinking your water

Next is drinking your water. This is purely to make sure that you’ve got something in your stomach that isn’t too unpleasant to purge. Your practitioner will guide you as to how much you should be drinking, but, expect it to be at least 1 litre of water.

Applying the Kambo

After drinking water, the next stage is the actual application of the Kambo. Your practitioner will prepare some small dots, or points of Kambo, and place them on top of the small burns on your skin. This allows the Kambo to enter your body and work its magic. You may notice a little bit of a burning or stinging sensation around the area, and also maybe some skin discoloration. This is very standard, so don’t worry if this happens.

The rush

At first you will feel a bit of extra blood flow around the top of your body, particularly your head and neck. You may experience this as a sensation of mild heat or pressure - with your skin starting to flush. You may start to feel your pulse in your skin.

The purge

This rush will start to recede and you will start to feel a bit restless, uncomfortable, and nauseous. This feeling intensifies as the Kambo really goes to work releasing all those toxins and negative energy. This builds and eventually you will start to purge.

Purging varies between people and ceremonies. Often you will start to purge relatively quickly, bringing up the water that you have consumed. Sometimes it might be later and you can expect to see some bile come up too, as that’s where a lot of the toxins are concentrated, and it’s those that are really making you feel sick.

The ‘hump’

There will come a point, often within around 15 minutes of starting to purge, when you are purging bile, that you’ve hit the ‘hump’ of the purge, and you will start feeling much better and far less nauseous.

The calm after the storm

Once you’ve finished purging you will feel spent - Kambo is an ‘ordeal’ medicine - so expect to feel like you’ve completed a big journey. However, within another 15 minutes or so you will start to feel a really calming wash of relief and serenity come over your body and mind. This feeling can persist for many hours after the ceremony.

What happens after the ceremony?

You will want to lie down and rest for a while after the ceremony. To recover your strength, and to float in that feeling of calm and release that you will be experiencing. Most ceremonies will provide about an hour of time after the end of purging to allow the participants to rest, meditate, and recover.

It’s best to be careful during the ceremony and during the recovery time, and that you try to remain seated or lying down, and not try to walk anywhere without assistance. One of the effects of Kambo is that it dilates your blood vessels - meaning greater blood flow, and lower blood pressure. So too much exertion, or the act of getting up and walking can cause you to feel dizzy and possibly faint - make sure to raise your hand to ask for assistance if you do need to go anywhere, for example to be helped to the toilet. Make the most of the opportunity to lie back, relax and rest.

When you are ready to go, make sure you take it slow and don’t try and do anything too strenuous. No running for trains or buses. Go home and make sure to rest. You will have a wonderful nights sleep that night - if you can, try to organise your schedule so that you can allow for a good 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep and allow yourself to wake up naturally, rather than via an alarm.

The aftereffects of Kambo

The restorative effects of the Kambo experience persist for 48-72 hours after the ritual. Participants often report things like increased alertness and vision, improved hearing, greater strength and endurance, and mental benefits like improved mood and reduced stress. Like ‘the world has been turned up to 11’. These effects are often referred to as the Kambo afterglow.

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