This is how they extract “kambo”
This is strange, because you would think frog poison would be very healthy.
It was unusual enough for a previously healthy 37-year-old man to suffer from a sudden perforated oesophagus, an uncommon and potentially fatal condition usually caused by prolonged, forceful vomiting.
But even more strange was that the man, who was also suffering from severe abdominal and chest pain when he arrived at a Sunshine Coast hospital, had three small, dark burn marks in a line on his left shoulder.
As hospital staff asked him standard questions about what he had been doing before becoming unwell, the man said he had taken part in a kambo ritual.
“What the heck is kambo?” junior doctor Christopher Darlington recalls asking himself as he assisted his colleagues in treating the patient, who required surgery to repair his oesophagus and spent 18 days in hospital.
“I’d never heard of it. And then I found out its use had come out of the Amazon as part of a tribal ritual and that somehow, as a result, we were dealing with an oesophageal perforation on the Sunshine Coast.
Kambo is the name given to secretions from a species of giant leaf frog native to South America. It is used as part of traditional cleansing ceremonies conducted by Indigenous tribes in the Amazon.
A 2022 paper published by Brazilian doctors in the journal Frontiers in Pharmacology describes how the slow movements of the frog mean it can be easily captured by shamanic healers. Once captured, it is stretched out in the shape of an X over branches, its front and back legs bound.
The frog is poked and prodded until the kambo is secreted from the skin, which is then scraped off with a stick. Then the frog is released – Indigenous healers believing harming the frog angers animal spirits.
During purification rituals, a shaman healer burns a line of dots into the participant, with the number of burns varying depending on factors such as the body part and the gender of the participant. The kambo is then applied to the burns. The participant drinks large amounts of liquid before the kambo is applied.
“Reactions are often strong and include tachycardia [increased heart rate], sweating, and severe vomiting … followed by a state of apathy and drowsiness,” the Frontiers in Pharmacology paper said.
This ritual has been adopted by the alternative health movement, including by people claiming to be shamanic healers in Australia, who incorporate its use as part of cleansing rituals.
In his paper, Darlington wrote: “The rise of the global alternative health movement has seen the spread of many cultural rituals far from their origins. This is problematic as people may undertake such practices unaware of possible risks, steps in preparation or traditional dosages.”
Kambo use has now been implicated in deaths worldwide, two of them in Australia.
Jarrad Antonovich, 46, died after using kambo at the Dreaming Arts festival in New South Wales in 2021. His oesophagus ruptured after severe and repeated vomiting due to kambo and consumption of ayahuasca, a South American psychedelic. Natasha Lechner died in 2019 aged 39 in a shamanic kambo ritual in Mullumbimby that went tragically wrong.
While kambo is banned in Australia, it is sold illegally online and there is no way to tell whether the substance is legitimate or sourced without harm to animals, says Prof Roger Byard, a forensic pathologist at Adelaide University.
He describes the adoption of kambo and other Indigenous rituals by so-called wellness healers in Australia and other countries as “an example of western arrogance”.
“A lot of these western wellness practitioners are exploiting people’s gullibility and exploiting those who are sceptical about western medicine,” Byard says.
“But the techniques of shamans and healers in Indigenous communities have been used for hundreds of years and they have been trained to safely use these substances for certain, specific situations.
“Yet it is being promoted here in Australia that kambo can be used for everything from chronic fatigue syndrome, anxiety, vascular problems to Parkinson’s disease when there’s no evidence for that. To think that we can go into a community or spend a bit of time in another country and then take one of their time-honoured, cultural practices and then just take it for our own use is absolute western arrogance.”
People think they are so clever.
If you have a health problem, the best thing you can do is drink vodka and eat fermented herring.
That’s the real health science.
Did you know that a frog secretion from Phyllomedusa bicolor (Kambo or monkey frog) can heal people? The peptides and enzymes can detox the body & reduce inflammation. It’s offered mostly in the jungle of Brazil and Peru where the frog lives. You can read up on this & learn more. pic.twitter.com/c6ggIV3nTb
— Melissa Lyran (@MelissaLyran) April 15, 2022
— Tripsitter (@Tripsittermag) April 8, 2023
What’s the hottest new cleanse for tech bros? Kambo, a frog poison cleanse that causes people to purge. It’s been used by Indigenous tribes in South America, but now, tech workers are using it to “optimize” productivity. @ManishaKrishnan went to try it. Here’s what happened: pic.twitter.com/cARpKY03Ox
— VICE News (@VICENews) August 12, 2022