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7 Years with Kambo

Tulum, Mexico. 2016. Finally checking out the other coast of the country I’d called home for a few years. 

I was alone, since my retreat client ironically cancelled in favor of doing hard drugs at a music festival in nearby Playa del Carmen. Also ironic was that I was also kind of sick. The week before at home, after a long high season of non- stop cooking during the New Year which certainly compromised my immune system, I’d come down with Dengue Fever, a tropical disease from mosquito bites which in the worst case can actually kill you. Nevertheless, Dengue isn’t contagious and the first bout of symptoms were beat with a little bit of fasting and a lot of rest, so I felt good to go on my trip which turned out to be great.

Although I was in the clear for those first symptoms, there was potentially more to come. Dengue is weird, once you think it’s over here comes rashes and a hellish list of other things, but this is about recovery so I digress. Enter my old flatmate in Mexico city who’d just left Tulum as I was arriving so I made a pit stop to Mexico City  before I made it back to Oaxaca.

He’d already set up a session with a fellow shaman for his (now regular) kambo treatments. Kambo is the traditional Amazonian frog medicine used by various tribes all across the Amazon Jungle – for hunting prowess, curing physical ailments, and clearing out dark, negative energy from their lives. He swears by them. I immediately set out to research this before I agreed, as had not heard of it (I know a lot but not everything).

Turns out thousands of others swear by it too and the reports stated that the peptides found in Kambo can help to stimulate the immune system, making it more effective at fighting off infections and illnesses. It’s essentially one of nature’s most powerful anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antibacterial, antibiotic and anaesthetic substances on the planet. Across the globe, people have reported that Kambo has helped treat their anxiety, depression, PTSD, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, HIV, arthritis, diabetes, candida, herpes, high blood pressure, cancer, fertility issues, recurrent infections and much, much more.

Kambo works by stimulating the body’s natural defenses, causing a powerful purging effect that can cleanse the body of toxins and impurities. The application process (and the scars that remain) is quite simple although extremely unconventional. A trained practitioner (AKA shaman) will gently burn a small area of your skin (usually on your arm or leg), then apply the Kambo secretion to the burn. The whole process takes just a few minutes, and while it might be a little uncomfortable at first, most people report feeling a sense of euphoria and clarity afterward. The peptides found in Kambo are known to have potent analgesic effects, making it a popular treatment for chronic pain, migraines, and even addiction. And the best part? Unlike prescription painkillers, Kambo is non-addictive and has very few side effects. Last but not least, Kambo is also said to have mood-enhancing properties. Many people who have tried Kambo report feeling more focused, energized, and emotionally balanced afterward. 

See more on the science below…

I’d heard enough. I was in. Scars be damned. I was told to not eat twelve hours prior which was pretty easy since I spent part of the day sitting in the super Americanized Cancun airport with less than stellar food options. My big problem was the water rule. It’s advised to drink a minimum of 3 liters of water as close to kambo time as possible to insure hydration. And chugging 3 liters of anything in the span of 15 minutes is not fun.

Fast forward to late afternoon past the incense, singing and the sight of my friend already “in” banging in agony on the floor as if that would really help him. In that moment, I thought about backing out, for the exact reasons (tired, was just sick, went through some drama) why it’s highly recommended so I got my mind (and my belly) right and prepared to go “in.”

Within 30 seconds I was vomiting, mostly water. Although like most people I hate vomiting and will do anything to avoid it, what scared me more in these moments was what I saw in the daytime reflection, myself. Like Narcissus seeing his reflection in the mirror, I began to sink down to the ground in shock and despair. I’d been warned about this but since my friend got nothing more than a red face, I figured I was in the clear. But alas, it was my first time.

After the first glance, every upchuck thereafter I kept my eyes closed tight out of fear of seeing myself again. I was seriously unrecognizable – and was flying home early the next day. Although I felt pretty refreshed and greatful all I could think about was how was I supposed to get past airport security with a face that currently didn’t match my passport photo. The shaman assured that it would be ok in the morning but I wasn’t as convinced although I was 100% positive I’d go back to my face, eventually. 

After 20 more minutes of vomiting (and a little pooping) I woke up cold and alone in my old roommate’s bed (since mine was now occupied). It was dark by now but nevertheless I spent the next 2 hours in a burqa-style wrap, passing his new roommates with a photo of me the day before trying to convince them this is what I look like “for real.” Oh vanity…



Then came the hunger, which was understandable given the circumstances. Since I’d actually lived there and knew the neighborhood, I was summoned to go to the corner store to get avocados for the big veggie dinner we were about to partake in. Luckily since it was 40 degrees my wrap didn’t seem so out of the ordinary. By midnight, belly full, I took my crazy face to bed.

After a great rest, the morning brought good changes, I immediately grabbed my phone to see the results. Overnight, I had upgraded from Jocelyn “The Cat Lady” Wildenstein to a Little Kim and by the time I made it to the airport by 11am I had a “Hollywood Face” which in all honestly wasn’t terrible lol.

Nevertheless, my mother didn’t seem to agree. In fact, she was quite angry that her “first born” had temporarily sacrificed her face for the strength of an Amazonian tribesmen. 



It’s hard to debate alternative medicine especially to someone who’s survived breast cancer twice with modern medicine. So I didn’t. Regardless of her opinions, my mother is one of my heroes. Her double win over cancer is a testament to the power of positive thinking and a true #fuckcancer mentality which I think is a huge survival tactic.

To be honest, I was pretty bugged out too –  in those moments I really did look like a frog and that was not cool so imagine when I set up my most recent kambo session I was prepared to “own my ugly” for a few hours. Low and behold, nothing really happened besides the puffiness from vomiting for half an hour which is obviously understandable.

That part was definitely the same and since it’d helped me beat a case of Dengue Flu I figured it could exorcise the current demon from my being. It definitely did. In these two short weeks, it’s helped to take me to the next level of conscious in a way (although this stuff is not psycho active at all) but then again  it’s pretty hard not to get “psycho” when you can truly feel close to death during the process.. In fact I spent the first 5 days post-session smiling at random which was nice.


2016 – the present

These days I try to have a kambo session at least twice a year, although for acute issues its suggested 3 sessions within a month (more specifically moon cycle). No matter how frequent, the experience will always be different from your intention to whether or not your face will change much at all.

All in all, Kambo is definitely worth putting into your self-care toolkit if you don’t mind the scars and the very temporary bout of sickness. Since I already have tattoos the scars don’t bother me much.. Plus at this point I kind of like the design it makes – both of my arms now are now a cycle of filling and fading. It’s become a part of my identity – and a hell of a conversation piece. 

Please note that Kambo is not approved by the FDA (as of now) for any medical conditions, and its use should be discussed with a healthcare provider.


Learn More…

12 things you must know about kambo before getting pricked here

Kambo: Matses Medicine  here 


Kambo Science

Kambo contains a complex mixture of biologically active peptides, which are short chains of amino acids that can have a variety of physiological effects when introduced into the body. While the exact composition of Kambo peptides can vary depending on the species of frog and the environment in which it was collected, some of the peptides that have been identified in Kambo include:

  1. Phyllomedusin: This peptide is one of the most abundant components of Kambo and has been found to have potent analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. It works by activating a specific type of receptor in the nervous system called the delta-opioid receptor, which is involved in pain perception and stress response.

  2. Dermorphin: This peptide is a potent opioid receptor agonist, meaning it binds to and activates the same receptors in the brain and nervous system that are targeted by prescription opioid medications like morphine. Dermorphin is thought to be responsible for some of the pain-relieving and mood-enhancing effects of Kambo.

  3. Adenoregulin: This peptide is a potent vasodilator, meaning it helps to widen blood vessels and improve blood flow throughout the body. It is also thought to have anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating effects, and may play a role in the healing and regenerative properties of Kambo.

  4. Tryptophyllin: This peptide has been found to have antibacterial and antifungal properties, and may help to strengthen the immune system and protect against infections.


While the specific effects of Kambo peptides can vary depending on the individual and the context in which they are used, some of the reported benefits of Kambo include:

  • Pain relief: Many people report significant pain relief after receiving Kambo, particularly for chronic pain conditions like arthritis and fibromyalgia.

  • Improved mental clarity and focus: Kambo is often used to improve mental clarity and focus, and may help to reduce brain fog and improve cognitive function.

  • Increased energy and vitality: Kambo is believed to have stimulating and energizing effects, and many people report feeling more energized and focused after receiving Kambo.

  • Immune system support: Kambo is thought to have immune-modulating effects, and may help to boost the immune system and protect against infections.


Kambo Ceremonies


  1. Eeckhout, G. et al. “The Amazonian medical frog secretion, Kambo, has an antithrombotic effect in vitro.” Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases, vol. 24, 2018, doi:10.1186/s40409-018-0154-5.

  2. Fabbrocini, G. et al. “A case of Kambo induced contact dermatitis.” Dermatitis, vol. 28, no. 5, 2017, pp. 318-320, doi:10.1097/DER.0000000000000303.

  3. Lopes, L. et al. “Kambo, a potential natural drug, shows structural and pharmacological similarity to opioid peptides.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 215, 2018, pp. 364-371, doi:10.1016/j.jep.2017.12.002.

  4. Neuwirth, J. et al. “Kambo, a traditional Amazonian frog secretion used as a natural vaccine for prevention of infectious diseases and cancer: A review.” Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine, vol. 11, no. 3, 2017, doi:10.4172/1747-0862.1000323.

  5. Siani, A. C. et al. “Kambo: A potential natural product for drug development in humans.” Journal of Applied Pharmaceutical Science, vol. 9, no. 5, 2019, pp. 113-118, doi:10.7324/JAPS.2019.90516.




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