KAMBO: The Ancient Healing Ceremony That’s Not For the Faint Hearted

WHAT: A Kambo Ceremony

In a world where GMOs, booze, Coca-Cola, and other toxins are rife, it’s little wonder the physical “cleansing” industry is booming. For most, this may involve drinking more water or dietary changes. For others, meditation practice or a week at a wellness retreat. Then, a select few are willing to grit their teeth, swallow the pain, endure the Kambo ceremony experience, and walk away with the scars.

The Kambo ritual begins with having small holes burned into the outer layer of one’s skin. After that, the exposed wounds are pasted over with the poisonous, peptide-stacked secretions from the skin of the Amazon dwelling Phyllomedusa bicolor, or waxy-monkey tree frog. This exotic chemical cocktail has been called the “warrior drug” and “the medicine of the jungle.” The most common name is “Kambo.”


Phyllomedusa bicolor. Waxy monkey tree frog
Photo Credit: Creative Commons


Once applied, participants have about a minute before the chemicals pass the subcutaneous tissues and enter the bloodstream. Hello vomiting, convulsing, profuse sweating, and other brutal side-effects of self-poisoning. Faces puff up and turn violet. Meanwhile, blood pressure and heart rate skyrocket, and the body’s organs immediately scream “WTF?” and switch to emergency survival mode. After that begins the 15-minute battle-royale between Kermit’s chemical weapon and your immune system. “Unpleasant” is an understatement only those who have received the Kambo scars can attest to.


Photo Credit: Maxresdefault


Western medical practitioners overwhelmingly associate Kambo ceremonies with ‘quackery’ and pseudoscience. On the other hand, tribes in South America and increasing numbers of westerners attest that Kambo provides all manner of health benefits. These range from alleviating depression and chronic pain to curing fevers and infections.


Let’s assume you don’t live in the Amazon basin or keep a waxy-monkey tree frog as a pet. Or, if you do, you have zero clue how to bind and extract the skin chemicals without harming the little fella – a do-no-harm policy indigenous tribes consider sacred. Option one is to scoot down to the Amazon, befriend Amahuaca or Matses tribes members, and hope for the best. Option two is to find a western provider, which is easy enough if you look online. Some Kambo ceremonies take place in a clinical setting. Most, however, are in a group setting and may integrate yoga, meditation, intention setting, and other rituals.

To begin the Kambo ceremony experience, the provider burns a series of spots on the skin with a piece of charred wood. Next, the Kambo, which looks like tiny blobs of wax or craft glue, is applied to the wounds. Then, it’s off to the races. Sit down, strap in, and brace yourself for a white-knuckle rollercoaster ride to hell and back.

Kambo ceremony
Photo Credit: Angela Lavoierre. ABC News


Proponents claim Kambo works by forcing the immune system to sprint an ultramarathon, whether it wants to or not. When the compound enters the body, the immune system has insufficient time to differentiate between the enemy or anything that resembles the enemy. It reacts by launching a scorched-earth assault on both the Kambo and any other toxins present in the liver, kidneys, gastrointestinal tract, and bloodstream. If Kambo is the main target, the rest of the crap (booze, dairy, captain crunch, etc) is collateral damage. This is indiscriminately rounded up into the same holding pen to be exiled by the quickest, most effective means possible. In this case, sweating, vomiting, urination, and occasional diarrhea.

Essentially, a Kambo ceremony is like subjecting the internal organs, digestive system, and bloodstream to a military-grade spring clean. If organic foods and detox vitamins are a light duster, Kambo is a water cannon.

After minutes that feel like eons, the roller-coaster finally pulls to a halt. Blood pressure and pulse return to baseline, normal skin color returns, and faces, tongues, lips, and noses deflate. Once you’ve stopped panting, you simply return to your day feeling like a brand new human. Or that’s the idea.

Some people partake in a Kambo ceremony to cleanse the body before a psychedelic journey. However, Kambo itself is a purely physical experience with no real psychedelic properties. Providers claim Kambo is best taken on an empty stomach, bladder, and bowels. Additionally, you should avoid alcohol for 48 hours beforehand.


Kambo ceremonies originated in the southeastern corner of the Amazon Basin. Nowadays, experienced western practitioners – many of whom learned their craft in South America – operate in the United States, Australia, Europe, Canada, and beyond.


  • The Kambo ceremony experience is an ancient indigenous tradition that isn’t without risks. A handful of deaths have occurred during Kambo ceremonies. Whether Kambo was directly to blame is unclear. Nevertheless, Kambo is a powerful compound. Only those with the relevant experience should administer it.
  • Remember to keep Kambo scars clean and infection-free.
kambo ceremony scars
Kambo scars. Photo Credit. Creative Commons


Following the Kambo ceremony, subjects claim increased endurance, alertness, focus, strength, and health and wear their post-Kambo scars like a badge of pride.  Western medical institutions may raise a massive eyebrow. However, advocates claim Kambo to be effective in healing addiction, depression, migraines, organ problems, chronic pain, fertility issues, fevers, infections, and much more.


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