If you've spent any face-to-face time with me you may have noticed the series of small dots of scars somewhat delicately lining my arms and legs, reminders from my extensive Kambo use. For your information, not all people wear their Kambo markings for so long, I just happen to have fast keloid production and heal quickly forming small white raised scars. I have always been fond of them, reminders of each episode I have surrendered myself to the hands of an ancient natural medicine, and let go of more layers of my story, my attachments, and my pains.
Kambo is the Amazonian frog Phyllomedusa bicolor, also known as the Giant Monkey Frog. It resides deep in the jungles of the Amazon, and is a large, green, docile frog with no predators. This is due to the strong excretions of poison that it permeates from it's glands, making for an effective defence system and a life free from fear. These excretions hold great value to different tribes of Amazonia, who have for may centuries followed the call of the frog after the rains, and gathered this poison from the frog's glands before returning it to the wyld, making sure to not hurt the frog, which is considered bad luck.
The white sticky excretions are then dried over a fire onto the wood of Capirona tree also known as Mulateiro, Latin name Calycophyllum spruceanum. This large jungle tree holds medicinal value in unto itself, being used as an antifungal and antimicrobial herbal medicine. The venom is now wrapped up in dried leaves on the stick, and able to be reactivated with water for medicinal use when needed. The Matses are a well known tribe working with Kambo, but a few other tribes utilse this natural medicine as well including the Ticuna, Matis, Kanamari, Kaxinawa, Katukina, Kulina, Yaminawa, and Marubo, ranging across Eastern Peru to Western Brazil, and from Northern Bolivia up to Southern Colombia & Venezuela as well the Guineas.
Using the ember of a small stick, small holes are burnt into the skin, to remove the first superficial layer to reveal the pink skin underneath. Small dots of Kambo poison are then applied topically to these holes, also known as 'gates' and remain there for the duration of the process. This is the only way Kambo is applied, it is not ingested.
And now for the potential natural medicinal value. What's it all for?
Well such a revered and respected animal is giving these tribes a lot. There are stories of Kambo presenting itself to the Matses in an Ayahuasca vision at a time when their tribe was strife with illness, or so I’ve been told. The healing potential of the venom allegedly saved their tribe. Kambo venom is full of a multitude of identified opioid peptides, some of which cross our blood brain barrier and act on our own endogenous opioid system. It has powerful anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antiviral and immune stimulating/modulating actions on our bodies as well as understudied analgesic actions and anti-addictive and resensitising properties specific to opioid dependency. When used in combination with ample water (2-3L drunk immediately before use) this natural medicine has the potential to detoxify the whole system including the liver and biliary pathways, as it triggers both the immune response, as well as all eliminatory pathways, whilst holding strong in it's antimicrobial and antiviral nature to prevent pathogens from re-attacking. When properly hydrated pre-Kambo this gives the body an opportunity to flush heavy metals from cells, move toxins stored in the lymph and re-adjust its immune response to fight embedded virus', parasites' and autoimmune conditions. A small dose of poison can trigger the immune system to wake up and get moving. “The difference between a medicine and a poison is the dose,” according to herbal medicine genius Paracelsus. I liken it to how the painful injection of histamines that Nettle, when used as herbal medicine, offers through being touched. It re-sensitises and re-tunes the body's fight against itself in the autoimmune condition of arthritis.