The toxic venom of the Amazonian Kambo tree frog is the latest craze in alternative and traditional medicines. Known officially as Phyllomedusa bicolor, the frog secretes a venomous substance, which has for thousands of years been used by the tribes of the Amazon for cures.
It was first exposed to the wider world in 1925, when a French priest stayed with the Kaxinawá tribe in Brazil’s upper Juruá River region. Now it is becoming the sought after cure-all for those who believe in ethnic alternative remedies.
The secretions contain the substances deltorphins I, II, and III, and dermorphin, which are peptides. Amazonian tribes take the substance to increase strength for hunting, reduce negative energy, and to protect against illness. Kambo’s advocates claim that these substances are effective at relieving pain, and may even have further benefits.
The International Association of Kambo Practitioners (IAKP) claims that it may have significant uses across a variety of illnesses. “Researchers believe that Kambo will open up a new world of treatments for chronic fatigue syndrome, chronic pain, cancer, HIV, Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s, depression, vascular problems, hepatitis, diabetes, rheumatism, arthritis, addictions and much, much more,” says the group’s website.
Kambo treatment is an intense procedure, and lasts between 30 and 40 minutes. The substance is dried and then mixed with water, and split into dots. Next, small drops are placed onto the skin, and then the extreme part begins. A hot stick is used to blister the skin, which is then peeled off to reveal the epidermis underneath. Small pin-pricks of Kambo are applied to these points, where it is then absorbed directly into the lymphatic system. According to the IAKP, users will experience a “hot flush to the upper body and face, along with an increased heart rate.”
Other side-effects vary by individual, and have reportedly included a tightening feeling, and abdominal discomfort. However, it claims, once these are completed, both the body and mind have been cleansed, after a purging on a “physical and emotional level”.
The Kambo venom has been the subject of clinical trials and medical studies for decades. Recently, it has been used in multiple clinics in the United Kingdom, and it is not illegal. It is freely available on the internet, and treatments in the UK can be found for around £85, according to the Sunday Times Style Magazine, in a recent analysis of Kambo.
Their report suggested Kambo has extremely strong emetic consequences, with one user vomiting frequently.
The research seems to show that there may be some merit to its traditional medicinal claims – and pharmaceutical companies and would-be pharmaceutical entrepreneurs are taking note. To date, more than 70 patents have been taken out on Kambo peptides.