The name "Kambo" originated from one of the most well known stories told by the Kaxinawá tribe from the Brazilian Amazon. It is said that the Kaxinawá's most powerful shaman named Kampú or Kampum, went on a vision quest with the intention to find a cure for the many people who had fallen ill in his tribe. During his quest he was guided by a female spirit of the forest and was shown how to work with the medicine of the green frog. With this new knowledge, Kampú went back to his village, followed the instructions from the female spirit and cured his community of their illnesses.
The secretion of the frog became known as Kambo, but in some tribes it is know as Sapo, Dow-Kiet, Kampu or Vacina da Floresta (vaccine of the forest). For thousands of years, Kambo has been used as medicine by the Kaxinawá people, and by many other indigenous groups, including the Mayoruna, Matses, Katukina, Amahuaca, Yawanawá and many more. To this day, it is still used widely amongst indigenous people in the Amazon, although each tribe has its own way of taking and giving Kambo. Some tribes have rituals and traditions that date back thousands of years, some have been adopted from the Caboclo people and some have no ritual or tradition at all.
Traditionally, Kambo has been referred to as 'Hunting Magic'. The tribesmen would give Kambo to the hunters of the their tribe as a way to cleanse, strengthen and energize their minds and bodies before a hunt. Hunters were able to run faster, for longer periods of time, eat less and sleep less. Kambo has also been used as a medicine for malaria, fevers, infections and snake bites. Kambo was also used as a way to clear dark and negative energy known as 'panema'. When panema is cleared, there can be a feeling of clarity and a greater connection with the natural flow of life. Anecdotally, there have been stories that Kambo has been used as a way to boost fertility, terminate pregnancies, increase sexual attraction and even behavioral correction in children.
The first observations of Kambo being used were made in 1925 by a French priest named Father Constantin Tastevin, while he was living with the Kaxinawá tribe in Brazil. In the 1980’s an American Anthropologist, Katherine Milton described the use of Kambo among the Mayoruna tribe in Brazil and also in the 1980's Peter Gorman wrote about his experiences taking Kambo with the Matses tribe in Peru.
During the 1990’s, those who were extracting the sap/latex from the trees in the Amazon learned about Kambo from the local Indians. Rubber tappers began taking Kambo out of the Amazon and into the towns of Acre, while also applying it to themselves. Francisco Gomes from Cruzeiro do Sol spent several years living with the Katukina people and was one of the first people to pioneer the use of Kambo outside the Amazon. The practice spread and soon people in the larger cities of Brazil were using Kambo.
What is Kambo?
Kambo is known as the Giant Green Monkey Tree Frog. Its scientific name is Phyllomedusa Bicolor - Phyllo meaning 'leaf' and medusa meaning 'guardian'. This beautifully colored leaf guardian is the largest of the hylid amphibians and can be found throughout the Amazon rainforest of northern Bolivia, western and northern Brazil, southeastern Colombia, eastern Peru, southern and eastern Venezuela, and the Guianas.
The Kambo frog can grow to be quite big with the male bodies measuring between 9-10 cm and the females measuring between 11-12cm. These frogs are nocturnal and arboreal, and because they have very few predators, they are found in abundance throughout the Amazon. In fact, the IUCN database lists them in the ‘Least Concern’ category because of the frogs large population and wide distribution. As of now, the only known threats to this species of frog are spawn predation and the potential destruction of their habitat, i.e. deforestation of the Amazon.
So why has this frog been revered by many tribes for thousands of years? As I mentioned above, another name for Kambo is 'Vacina da Floresta', or 'Vaccine of the Forest', and the people of the Amazon have been using the semi-milky secretion produced by the cutaneous glands of the Green Monkey Frog as a way to cleanse, heal and strengthen the mind, body and spirit.
An Italian scientist named Vittorio Erspamer of the University of Rome was the first person to analyze Kambo in a laboratory. He was twice nominated for a Nobel Prize and he was also the first person to discover Serotonin (an important chemical and neurotransmitter responsible for regulating mood). In 1986 Erspamer wrote that Kambo contains a ‘fantastic chemical cocktail with potential medical applications, unequalled by any other amphibian’. The chemicals that he referred to are called Peptides, but maybe more important to note about these peptides is that they are bioactive. The peptides studied by Erspamer have become essential to characterize the functional role of opioid receptors. Erspamer's discovery has gathered the attention of many scientists over the years and as a result, there are currently over 70 patents being lodged, primarily in the United States.
Using Kambo as a natural form of medicine is spreading throughout the world and as the scientific and medical research into the secretion increases, skilled practitioners are also developing new ways to work with this incredible substance, which allows it to be accessible to almost everyone in a safe and reasonable way.
Benefits of Kambo
Traditionally, Kambo was used as a way to increase strength and acuity, maintain or regain health, provide a boost in immunity and clear negative energy known as "Panema". Depending upon the tribe, the uses for Kambo vary and still to this day, tribes are continuing to use Kambo for these reasons.
Often, people come to Kambo for its cleansing benefits and it is common, but not always the case for people who receive Kambo to experience a variety of short term benefits that can last for several days or weeks following a session.
These benefits include but are not limited to;
a state of alertness
enhanced resistance to tiredness hunger and thirst
the capacity to easily concentrate and focus
the ability to maintain a calm and rested mind
Some people have experienced longer lasting benefits, such as
an increase in immune system strength
overcoming chronic fatigue
lowered blood pressure
an improvement in one’s overall state of health and well being
Kambo works with everyone in a unique way, so it is important when receiving Kambo to simply allow your own process to unfold as it may and to not attach to any outcome based off of other's experiences. In addition, Kambo is simply a tool one may use to support their overall health, but in no way is it a "cure-all". We must take full responsibility for our health and be willing to put in the needed work in order to receive the health and quality of life that we are seeking.
If you have any questions, please feel free to write to me below