Kambo, Poison Frog Medicine

The theme of this month’s Muse is fire so I’d like to share with you a fiery experience that I recently had during my trip to Peru. Many people turn to alternative medicine for different reasons. One reason for me came after the realization that the conventional medicine experts were unable to improve my condition; as evidence of this they diagnosed my allergic reactions as idiopathic angioedema, which translates to swelling caused by an unknown origin. As a result I turned to an excellent Ayurvedic practitioner who helped me manage this reaction through a highly disciplined diet. Unfortunately he was unable to eliminate the reaction entirely through diet alone during the time we worked together. Eventually I decided to visit Peru on a mission to improve my condition, and while I was there discovered a therapy called Kambo.


Modern science has relatively little understanding of exactly how Kambo works. This lack of understanding may be viewed as an enormous risk to some potential candidates of the therapy. However, if Western medicine doesn’t understand an indigenous medicine practiced for centuries must we then declare it dangerous and ineffective? There is a risk to anything in life, including pharmaceuticals and surgeries, and the claimed benefits of Kambo are quite intriguing. The three primary benefits are: relief from depression, improved immunity from future disease, and relief or even cure from existing conditions.

Are You Experienced?

You can usually recognize somebody who has had Kambo therapy by the tattoo like markings on their skin. Kambo is introduced into the body through small circular burns that tend to leave a permanent mark on the skin. While this may seem crude, it is really quite creative as indigenous cultures never had access to tools such as modern syringes. The burns provide an entry point into the blood stream that allows doses to be controlled. A small amount of frog poison paste is applied over the burn, so three burns equals three doses. Typically a patient receives three treatments in one month, so in my case it was three, five and finally seven doses. After the process is complete the paste is wiped off and the treatment is turned off like a switch.

Preparation and Process

Prior to performing the therapy the practitioner asks about your history with surgeries, medications, heart problems, blood pressure, diseases, bee sting reactions, etc. The primary concerns are that your heart cannot handle the altered rate caused by the poison, or if you are prone to systemic bee sting reactions then your throat could potentially close and prevent breathing. After determining that the therapy is appropriate for you, a twelve hour fast is initiated the night prior to the therapy. The next morning two liters of water are consumed in about forty minutes, and yes this is an uncomfortable amount of water to drink in a short time. Following the application of frog poison paste I immediately felt my heart rate increase, a burning sensation on my shoulder where the paste was applied, and heat generated on my face. A fiery experience indeed. During my second treatment my face swelled considerably, and there was a slight closing of the throat. Though the feeling in my throat was disturbing at the time, it was quite common and nothing to worry about as I experience only localized bee sting reactions instead of the systemic kind. Within about twenty minutes of applying the paste the vomiting began and continued in waves for the next sixty minutes. Due to the overnight fast, only water is vomited and the water provides a medium for the toxins to exit the body. The water also acts to flush out any toxins circulating through the blood.

Post Kambo Effect

The theory is that the body believes it is dying and immediately goes into emergency mode pushing all toxins out of the system. As patients, we can take advantage of this bodily response because the body is thought to not only purge the Kambo poison, but also any other toxins stored within our tissues. I felt tired as you would expect following such a traumatic experience, and continued drinking large amounts of water for the next three days to ensure any toxins released during the process were flushed out. It was also important to scrub thoroughly in the shower to rinse any toxins released through the sweat. The following day I felt surprisingly light and energized, and following my second and third treatments I saw a youthfulness in the mirror that I haven’t seen in years. In addition to the cleansing process, some believe that the chemicals within the poison have some medicinal purposes. The burning sensation reminded me of a wildfire that sweeps across the landscape clearing the land of debris. When the fire passes life returns to the area and a new cycle of growth begins. Similarly, the Kambo therapy seems like a reset button that is pushed to bring your body back to balance.

Worth It?

In terms of discomfort the cost of this therapy is high, though the rewards can be even greater. The real test of course will be how I respond to my food allergens. If three days of discomfort and vomiting are necessary to eliminate a food allergy that I have endured for 5 years then I would say Kambo was definitely worth it. If the allergy persists then at least I can still enjoy the claimed benefits of a cleansed body, reduced depression, and strengthened immunity. I feel good knowing that I actively used all the resources available to me rather than depend on symptom masking pharmaceuticals, and one month following the therapy I have yet to experience any allergic reactions despite introducing suspect foods into my diet.

Eric writes about the connections between agriculture, environment, food, and health at sattvicplanet.net and facebook.com/sattvicplanet