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Gracias, Kambo

Tulum, Mexico. Finally checking out the other side of the country I’d called home for almost 4 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 Flu, 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 my little beach town.

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 this secretion was one of the most potent ways to strengthen the immune system, and that it was 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.

I’d heard enough. I was in. Plus it was actually legal. 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 and for a second I completely understood the allure of artificial fillers. 

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. Her God complex kicked into high gear… and she proceeded to curse out her creation. Several expletives later ended in her blessing to now “smoke all the weed you want to” in lieu of what she called  “frog juice.”

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 ransom which was pretty cool. 

All in all, Kambo is definitely worth putting into your self-care toolkit if you don’t mind the scars and the temporary bout of sickness. Since I already have tattoos the scars don’t bother me much.. Plus I kind of like the design it makes? Shrug.

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