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Kambo – the controversial frog poison healing ritual that could potentially kill you

4 min read

The so-called kambo is an ancient Amazonian ritual performed in many South American countries that involves putting the poisonous secretions of a frog into your body for a supposed detoxifying and health-boosting effect.
In short, a shaman healer performs the ceremony, which involves burning the person’s shoulder, leg, or foot, and then applying a kambo secretion to the wound. These burns may leave scars.
Named after the poisonous, waxy substance harvested from the backs of giant monkey frogs found throughout the Amazon, it has always been a controversial cleansing ritual because of the severe side-effects od coming into direct contact with the poison of the giant monkey frog, whose scientific name is Phyllomedusa bicolor.
Although symptoms associated with kambo vary in severity, in some cases, they are enough to cause serious health concerns, even death.

The shamanistic ritual has been used by the indigenous people of the Amazon rainforest to heal and cleanse the body for centuries, and it has been even promoted by naturopathic practitioners for its detoxifying effects.
Many indigenous tribes and urban populations use the cleanse for a number of reasons and, traditionally, hunters would participate in the ritual to heighten their senses and stamina before a hunt.
Proponents believe that the kambo can purify the physical body of toxic substances, as well as purify the mind and spirit of negative energy.
They also claim that the ritual can also bring luck, increase stamina and cure physical ailments, but also treat Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease, cancer, infertility, chronic pain, depression, anxiety, migraines, infections and addiction.
Researchers have studied kambo for years, but so far there has been no scientific research to support the beneficial medical effects, even if the negative side effects are well-documented.

In fact, unlike other, more mild methods of cleansing the body, kambo can be pretty brutal and its side effects can involve nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of bladder control, dizziness, heart palpitations, and abdominal pain, among others.
The ritual itself begins with the drinking of about a liter of water or cassava soup.
Then, the person conducting the ritual uses a burning stick to create a number of small burns on the skin of the person attempting kambo, usually in the shoulder area, but the practitioner may also apply it to the back, legs, or feet.
This creates blisters that are then peeled off, and the minor wounds are smeared with kambo, also known as sapo, the poisonous secretion of the giant monkey frog.
Because the poison comes into direct contact with the flesh of the person attempting the kambo ritual, it goes straight into the lymphatic system and the bloodstream, its effects are almost instantaneous.
As the poison races around the body scanning for problems, practitioners will begin to experience a series of side effects, especially vomiting, for periods of time that can vary between 5 and 30 minutes, and up to several hours in rare cases.
After the ritual, practitioners will need to consume water or tea to flush out the remaining toxin from their body, but even following instructions to the letter still leaves people exposed to risks like prolonged vomiting and diarrhea, muscle spasms, convulsions, and more.
Kambo is basically a poison, so it is banned in some countries. It is legal in the United States, but not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration or any other health organization.

Because giant monkey frogs are nocturnal, they are only active at night, which makes it difficult to collect kambo. However, they have a distinct call, which shamans use to locate their nests.
After capturing a frog, the shaman collects the waxy secretions, or kambo, from its legs. They will carefully scrape the secretions onto wooden sticks and leave them to dry. Once the shaman has collected the kambo, they aim to release the frog, relatively unharmed, back into the forest.

Either way, the Amazonian ritual has come under scrutiny during Australia’s recent investigation into the deaths of two people as a consequence of kambo.
In 2019, 39-year-old Natasha Lechner set up a kambo ceremony at her house, in an attempt to manage chronic back pain.
Within seconds of applying poison on her body, she passed out, and she died just minutes later.
In another case, 46-year-old Jarrad Antonovich died after attempting kambo at a retreat in Byron Bay, to treat a couple of chronic conditions. Witnesses said he looked unwell following the ritual, and nine or 10 hours later he was unable to walk anymore and his face was incredibly swollen.
By 11:30 pm, after reportedly consuming some ayahuasca, he passed out, and paramedics could do nothing to save him.

Despite the risks associated with rituals like shamanistic rituals like kambo, people are still inclined to use them as an alternative to conventional medicine, especially if they feel let down by the latter….

Images from web – Google Research

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