Updated: Mar 9, 2022
Every journey starts with a very nervous first step. Over a decade ago, my personal healer’s journey was no different as I sat, sweat-soaked, with foot-tapping first-day nerves at a packed ayahuasca farmhouse retreat. For breakfast that morning was a treatment I’d never heard of, ‘frog poison’, a fellow attendee nicknamed it ‘the ordeal medicine’, and I was about to find out why…
Kambo. The old school initiation
After hearing such an ominous-sounding tagline I was even more nervous and fearful as the few remaining seconds ticked by until the ceremony began. Serious doubts cut through my peace of mind like a razor blade as I listened to other participants describe their previous experiences.
“Grow a pair dude” I muttered through gritted teeth as I focused my attention; trying to find some calm amongst the chaos that was ensuing in my mind.
The dreaded moment came and the shaman announced the start of the ceremony. In that instant, I wholeheartedly committed to what was going to happen and knew there was no going back. As I rolled up my sleeve to receive my first Kambo burns, the mantra “trust the medicine” was playing over and over in my mind like a broken record.
Next, we were instructed to drink a litre and a half of water as quickly as possible. As I gulped the water down my stomach began to churn. Drinking so much water on an empty stomach just felt so unnatural but we just did as we were told.
As the process began I started to feel that now familiar heat and pressure around my face and neck and as I glanced around the room I saw flushed red faces looking back at me. Just as soon as that inner-warmth had begun it was replaced with gut-wrenching nausea. The sudden recoil and paralysing stomach-sink drowned my senses like a lucid dream’s slow-motion skyscraper freefall.
I started to hear groans from the participants around me as the medicine began to take hold of the entire room. The nausea intensified as did my grip on the rim of the bucket in front of me. As the world spun, internal organs churned, I came to the sobering realisation that I was most definitely in over my head…
“Holy sh*t. What have I done?”... I tap out, tap out, please make this end”.
I knew there was nothing I could do now other than to buckle up and ride the storm. As the nausea reached a climax, my fingers went instinctively into my throat to trigger the gag reflex and I purged. That first Kambo purge was the beginning of a sacred journey with the frog that has led me all over the world and back again and now to write this article and share something very special with you.
Brazilian vs Peruvian Kambo Methods
What I have just described to you is the traditional Brazilian Kambo method. For 99% of Western Kambo practitioners and receivers, this is the only way to do Kambo. Up until recently, I was also included in that majority.
Now fast-forward to 2019 and my first introduction to 'Sapo', translated meaning "frog" or "toad" in Spanish. After a ceremony, one afternoon, a member of the Planet Kambo team told me she had heard of a different way to use Kambo. She told me to look up a practitioner named Peter Gorman who was a true pioneer in the Kambo scene. He had spent a lot of time living with the Matses tribe in Peru and had brought Kambo to the West in the 80's. Intrigued, I read his book "Sapo in my Soul" and I was shocked to discover that there was another method to apply Kambo.
The Matses and some other Peruvian tribes would not consume any water before or during the process. Yes, you heard that right... Kambo with no water. Sounds crazy, I know but hear me out...
The seed had been planted in my mind and it was only a matter of time before it would grow into an irresistible curiosity; “What would it be like to do Kambo dry?”
In November 2019 I was hosting a Planet Kambo retreat and it was time on the first day for me and my team itsto do our own Kambo treatments. With my entire trusty Frog Squad in one place it seemed the perfect time for an experiment, "let's try the Sapo method", I announced.
I recently recorded a candid interview where I explain the Planet Kambo Method, its benefits and how it fuses the best parts of the Brazilian and Sapo techniques revolutionising the way my team and I work with Kambo.
What does Peruvian Kambo feel like?
With no expectations and a sense of curiosity in the air, we set up the ceremonial space, making sure there was some water at hand, just in case. The medicine was applied and the usual feelings of heat and pressure in the face, neck and chest began to slowly creep in. I sat with bated breath, mentally preparing for nausea’s familiar iron grip to take hold. I waited and waited but it never came, in its place, a loving and cosy glow soothed me like a hot salt bath.
As we soaked in a euphoric state, relishing the peace and tranquillity that came with it was a totally new experience. The frog entered so softly and gently, a real night and day difference to the ‘bungee jump’ I was used to. This felt genuinely pleasant, something I'd never been able to say about Kambo before. It became a blissful experience and it felt like this was how the frog intended it to be.
How much water do you drink before Kambo?
After 15 mins or so I started to feel a little uneasy and had some mild nausea, but the usual urgency accompanying it was absent so it was allowed it to build slowly. At around the 20 min mark, I felt the familiar pulling sensation in my stomach so I put my head over the bucket to purge but I was only able to manage some dry heaving. It suddenly felt like the most natural thing in the world to just reach for the water and start to drink. I drank about three-quarters of a litre and then immediately purged bright green bile; and in that timeless moment, the Planet Kambo Method was born.
The Kambo experience
I would describe this as enlightenment for me as far as Kambo was concerned. I realised Kambo should be a gentle and blissful experience, not a harsh and abrasive ordeal. For years I'd been following a method that was taught to me, used when Kambo was applied to me by other practitioners and spoken about by everyone I knew in the Kambo space. It was never questioned, I just assumed this was the way it had to be.
“It reminds me of the story of the emperor's new clothes. It just took one little boy who suddenly saw the obvious truth and spoke out while all the others were just following the crowd.”
Over the coming weeks and months, I embarked on an exploration with Kambo; experimenting with split testing and analysing until a new practice emerged. This is the method I use on myself, clients and it's what I teach on the Planet Kambo Practitioners Course. In my opinion, it’s the fastest, safest and most comfortable way to receive Kambo.
The Kambo waterworks
Through this careful experimentation, it became clear that water is a powerful tool that serves two purposes.
It helps with purging by becoming a carrier for the bile
It brings on strong nausea
Therefore, the water doesn’t add anything to the process before the purge point, it only makes the process much more uncomfortable by making one feel bloated and nauseous. Also, often one would purge all of the water out before the bile was ready to come and then have to drink more later in the process anyway which made the water drinking at the beginning totally pointless.
“What the Planet Kambo Method essentially is, is a hybrid between the Brazilian and Peruvian styles. It takes the best of both methods and brings them together to unleash the true magnificence of what Kambo really is.”
Also, from diligently self-applying Kambo in this way over the last two and a half years I’ve realised that drinking a large amount of water at the beginning actually acts as a block to connect to the spirit of the medicine. This is difficult to define in words but the best way it can be described is that you really “feel” the presence of the frog when you take Kambo dry. All of the intricacies, subtleties and nuances are amplified and felt in full. This can only be experienced first-hand to truly understand what I’m talking about.
Why does Kambo make you nauseous?
This brings me on to the next pitfall of the water - It feels totally unnatural to drink such a large amount and makes yielding much more difficult. It creates a state of internal warfare, of trying to force an outcome, of you imposing your will upon the medicine. Well, as I'm sure you know, medicines of this nature don't work like that. Kambo is about surrender, realising that the frog is on your side and that you need to work with it and not against it.
“It always felt like I was going to war with it and that has completely changed. I now rest in the Kambo space, I don't fight it”.
One other great thing about this method is sometimes there isn't any nausea at all. I've experienced this many times myself, even to the point where I felt like not enough Kambo was applied. On these occasions, I’ve gone ahead and drunk the water anyway, purged, and realised that the bile was there all along. This also happens on a regular basis with clients.
The jewel in the crown of this method though is that it allows deep relaxation to happen and a profound state of meditation can be achieved while in the process. The ability to focus on the delicate sensations of the Kambo working through the body is priceless and allows an enhanced awareness of the internal process. Often, something will come up in my conscious awareness; a thought, a person or a scenario and it will usually be accompanied by a negative emotional charge. Because I’m able to totally surrender I can allow this emotion to be felt fully and in this way it is fully internally processed before being purged out. That's how I feel it's supposed to work, much in the same way as other power medicines such as Ayahuasca has a cognitive and emotional component to the purging. When the water is drunk at the beginning it stops the subtle part of this important process from happening because there is the distraction of the nausea, bloating and the sheer harshness of the experience to contend with.
The Planet Kambo protocol:
The Kambo is applied dry. (Without any water being ingested before)
Half to three-quarters of a litre of water is drunk when very strong nausea is felt or when 20 mins have elapsed since the Kambo was applied.
Purge until dry. (No more to come out)
Drink another half to three-quarters of a litre of water.
Repeat steps 3 and 4 until the process is complete.
Is Kambo dangerous?
One final point of note is that this Kambo protocol removes the need to drink two litres or more of water at any one time. Although rare, this can induce a potentially fatal condition called hyponatremia where the electrolytes in the body become too diluted. This fact alone makes a strong case for never drinking excessively large amounts of water in one go.
So in conclusion - no, Kambo does not have to be an ‘ordeal medicine', drinking a large amount of water at the start is totally unnecessary and extremely uncomfortable. It only makes the process exponentially more unpleasant and I think you’ll agree that it makes much more sense to drink the water when it's actually needed. If you follow this simple instruction you too can unlock the true power, magic and potential of what Kambo has to offer.
If you've never experienced Kambo in this way I'd like to invite you to try. My trusty team of skilled practitioners invite you to our weekly Kambo ceremonies in London, here we lovingly guide you safely through this gentle process, leaving you cleansed, uplifted and reborn.
Have a great week and I’ll see you again soon.
Planet Kambo Ltd.
Plant medicine veteran & Planet Kambo co-founder Jonathan Gold, left an unfulfilling 10 year IT career to pursue a higher path of healing, self-discovery & enlightenment uniting him serendipitously with the transformational healing power of Kambo frog medicine.
Now a skilled facilitator boasting thousands of recovery testimonials, Jonathan escaped the matrix of corporate enslavement & lives a life of service, duty & soul alignment.