In the last days of 2016, in San Pancho, we had an opportunity to participate in an indigenous medicine circle and become aquainted with an Amazonian “plant” medicine called Kambo. I say “plant” medicine because Kambo is often classified under the umbrella term of plant medicines although it actually is not plant-based, rather, it is literally the venomous wax that is secreted from a highly poisonous tree frog. The phyllomedusa bicolor, or giant monkey frog, to be exact. Rather than ingesting it, which can be fatal, it is administered via small burns on the surface of the skin. It has been in use in indigenous cultures of Columbia, Brazil, and Peru for thousands of years. Kambo is used to treat a broad range of illnesses and is also used prevantatively to remove toxins and boost the natural function of the immune system as well as strengthen the senses, reflexes, and endurance of the body, while also invigorating the spirit.
I first learned about Kambo in the summer of 2016, in Utah, from a close friend who told us about this strange and exotic medicine. I remember, at the time, that the phrase “poisonous frog venom,” really sounded extreme to me, especially following his description of “burning blisters,” and “intense swelling of the face and throat,” and a “violent purging.” I had never heard of anything quite like this before and like all things completely foreign and new, my first impression was a mixture of frightened and awe-struck. But like all ancient medicines, including Ayahuasca and San Pedro, they say that it will call to you when you are ready to know its mysterious teachings.
It was on November 13th, the night of the supermoon, that I first heard the call. We had been in San Pancho for only a couple of days, and late one night, I was restlessly stirring in bed. Maybe it was the moon, or the high tide of the roaring ocean, or the small gathering of dancing strangers, but I decided to get out of bed and walk to the beach. The air was the perfect temperature, the sky was clear, and in the distance, I could see the flickering amber glow of a bonfire and hear the faint musings of acoustic guitar. I sat down beside this group of ecelctic young people all sharing the warm glow of the flames and the beautiful songs sung in Spanish. This was my introduction to this romantic town and its welcoming people. After enjoying countless songs, laughter with these new friends, and a halo'ed view of the luminous moon, I decided to walk back to where we were camped for the night.
I strolled quietly over the cobble-stone streets when suddenly I heard a few plopping sounds and felt something suspiciously brush against one of my feet, and out from under my long skirt, jumped a big, fat frog! It was enormous, a dark murky algae color with a bumpy back resembling a nice crunchy pickle, and it croaked at me as I knelt down next to it! Now, if you know me, you know that I am a big believer in the spirits of animals, holding the whimsical opinion that when we cross paths with any wild thing, it surely contains a message for us. The frog has been associated with many cultures throughout the ages, and can be symbolic of many different things, ranging from earth magic to life changes to midwifery (and actually, the last time I felt really aligned with the frog spirit was when I was preparing for a homebirth with our son). But this time, the message I was getting was different. My first thought was purification.
Surely, I was in need of a detox, traveling for several months, enjoying many new foods, alcoholic concoctions made from mezcal, and even a few cervezas, which I rarely partake in, coupled with the fact that my yoga routine is out of shape, and we are traveling in a place where there is no regulation for auto emissions, etc etc... My body had been feeling exhausted and heavy from my lack of self-care and I knew it was time for me to do some clearing and return to a moderate level of discipline. Also, in numerology, 2016 is known as the Great Year of Purification, and as it was coming to an end, I knew that there was some energy I did not want to be carrying into the new year. Time for a cleanse!
Then, coincidentally, a few of our friends from home came to visit us in San Pancho in the following weeks and they shared more about their recent endeavors into the cleansing world of Kambo. This time, I was a lot more open to learning about what this exotic frog medicine was all about. I set the intention that I wanted to try it. And, low and behold, only a few days later, I met Andrea.
She was a vibrant and youthful Swiss woman backpacking through Mexico conducting plant medicine ceremonies. She spoke German, French, Spanish, and English. She had studied indigenous medicine for over 35 years, traveling to remote areas of the jungle, studying ceremonial medicina, and now sharing these practices with other Westerners. After many years of conducting Ayahuasca circles, she has now, for about five years, been including Kambo into her practice. I was interested in knowing how these treatments were performed, and had many questions before we embarked on this journey, mostly about her training and the authenticity of her work. She described her education, the setting in which the medicine is administered, and importance of adhering to the strict rituals she had learned in Amazonia. I was curious and excited! I have a deep respect for the practices of the ancients, and, after my experience doing Ayahuasca with two Shipibo shamans, I understand the power of the songs and instruments used in ceremony.
And so, we began what was, for Mark and I, four ceremonies over the course of four weeks, each one progressing in the number and location of points on our bodies. I went first. In my first ceremony, I was initiated using only one point- or burn- in the front of my body, over my solar plexus. Other practitioners may do this diffently, but I liked Andrea's gentle approach, of starting with only one point so that your body is slowly introduced to this potent substance.
We began in a circle with five other participants. Andrea smudged us all with sage and invited us to share in the use of a liquid tobacco, which is inhaled in the nose, to open the ceremony. The tobacco opens the heart and mind to allow the medicine to work at a deeper level. She spoke of it being an instrument of truth, connecting us to Source and allowing open communication of our intentions. The intention is a very important part of this process, as Kambo can be used for many different purposes, it is helpful to voice and focus on your intentions, and this facilitates the medicine in delivering the desired effects. Andrea played the flute, and we were invited to meditate. Then, we went around in the circle, each introducing ourselves, discussing our intentions, and exploring how placing the points on different areas of the body can result in different effects.
For me, I was hoping to achieve a greater sense of balance, to cleanse energetic impurities, and “return to myself,” which is a difficult thing to explain, but what I can say is that in the past three years, and even more so, the past six months, I have undergone tremendous changes. And as these changes have aided me in furthering my own personal evolution, I was needing to call back some of my energy, ground and re-claim my own identity. I wanted to work with the chakra points, as these are what I am familiar with as a reiki practitioner and yoga teacher.
Each person had the Kambo administered one by one. Before you begin, you must consume 2 liters of water. Andrea uses a knife to scrape the wax off of a flat piece of wood, which it comes on. She has a number of pieces, packaged in some kind of jungle palm, which she has obtained directly from the Shamans of the Amazon. (The frogs are not harmed in the process of harvesting the wax. Rather, these Shamans wait until after a heavy rain and then they sing the songs of the tree frogs. When the frogs come out of the trees, the Shamans massage their toes, causing the venom to be released. They preserve it by allowing it to harden on these pieces of wood. It is a whitish, waxy substance. This ritual is done with enormous respect for the animals as they are considered to be sacred allies.) After deciding how many points you desire, she molds the wax into the corresponding number of balls. You can see this pictured below
Next, she uses a small stick to make the points. It is lit with a flame, resembling a smoking stick of incense. She quickly makes the burns on the surface of the skin. It is painful but very fast- less discomfort than a misquito bite. The skin from the blister is wiped off, revealing a small white dot on the dermis. This is where the ball of wax will sit atop the skin, quickly entering the body. Within a minute, you can feel the venom flushing through your system. For me, I first noticed a lot of heat. It started near the point and slowly spread all over my body. Then, there was a pulsing sensation. It seemed my heart was throbbing and pulsing rapidly, and soon I could feel this throbbing everywhere- my fingertips, my temples, my chest. My throat felt as though it was swelling, and my head began to “fill” with this swollen, pulsing sensation. Following was a feeling of nausea and a strong need to vomit. I had a bucket in front of me for this reason. The purging is an important part of this process. As the nausea set in, she reminded me to breathe, to be open to these sensations, and try to embrace the discomfort. She burned sage all around me and told me to focus on my intentions.
Then, she took out a drum and began to sing. The drumming is so powerful, it aids in this process of collecting whatever energy no longer serves us, so it can be released with the purge. The songs are ancient and mysterious, in a language I couldn't make out. She used a rattle to really break up this dense, toxic energy. Panema, is what the ancients call it. The dark negativity that clouds the aura. With every purge, I could feel myself getting lighter and going deeper into the sensations of the medicine. And then, after about 10 minutes of sweating and vomiting, I started to feel “complete.” There was nothing left to purge away. The discomfort was dissipating, and the nausea subsided. I was instructed to lay on my left side.
In a few minutes, I returned to feeling somewhat “normal.” I could stand up, I could talk, I was feeling hungry from fasting all morning. The difference was that I could still feel this venom pumping in my veins. I noticed that all the colors around me were brighter. The sounds of the jungle were more distinct. The leaves on the tree all quivered rhythmically and I felt as though I could sense all of it, every single leaf. On every single tree. It was all connected to me. The breeze tickled against my skin and I felt more alive. I observed these changes throughout the day, and that night, I fell into a very deep sleep. My dreams were intense and vivid. By the next day, the changes were even more intense. I felt amazing! I had boundless energy. My appetite was lessened. My spirits were high. All of my senses seems to be heightened. Food tasted better. Sex felt better (hell yeah!). My feelings and emotions seemed to flow with so much ease and Mark and I felt more connected than ever. I could chase our two-year-old around endlessly and I did it with so much pleasure. I had a lot of gratitude for all the experiences in my life, good and bad, and I could see how everything led me to be the person that I am today, standing exactly where I am. My understanding of my life and my place in the world was so clear. I knew I wanted to do another ceremony and keep unveiling more and more of myelf. So I prepared to do another Kambo session with Andrea.
Mark and I did four ceremonies in all. In each, we did a progressing number of points in different areas of our body. Adding more points definitely ups the intensity of the experience, but each time, I felt I was able to cope a little bit better. It became easier to just surrender and focus on my intention instead of the discomfort. In the second ceremony, I chose to give more support to my root chakra, doing three points over my tailbone. Mark did three points to connect his throat chakra to his heart chakra, allowing him to speak more in a more heart-centered way. For our third ceremony, I did five points connecting all of my lower chakras, and Mark did four points over his solar plexus. And on our last ceremony, we did ear points. Within the ear, every system of the body is represented. I chose three ear points, and two heart points, one over the spiritual heart connecting me to Source and one over the physical heart grounding me. Mark did five points, all in his ears, pictured below. He liked the ears the best!
It has been two weeks since our last ceremony and we are feeling very happy with the results. I have noticed that my anxiety has been pretty much eradicated. I am feeling grounded and vital. Physically, I feel about as healthy as ever. I have a lot of energy and physical endurance. My dreams have been vivid, my cravings for alcohol and tobacco have subsided, my monthly moon cycle has been easier, and I am feeling present and clear. The best part is that many of the benefits of Kambo, like other healing modalities, are experienced in the long term, so I am excited to see what other surprises are in store for me as a result of this medicine. Time will tell.
Why am I sharing this with the world? Well, because many people have never heard of such a thing. Because western medicine doesn't work for everyone, and because Kambo has such a wide range of uses, from infertility, inflamation, arthritis, cancer, malaria, snake bites, etc. It is one of the strongest natural antibiotics and anesthetics in the world. It can help support emotional issues and mental health problems alike and is especially effective at treating fear-based illnesses, like anxiety, paranoia, and phobias. In fact, it is believed that because these frogs have no predators, they also have no fear, and becoming allies with the frog can help conquer fear on any level. With all of this being said, you must use caution with this substance, like any other shamanic healing modality. To find a trusted practitioner, you should reference the International Association of Kambo Practitioners, or IAKP.com
Hope you enjoyed hearing about my experience with Kambo.
Thank you for reading~
Love and Light,