“I don’t want any scars,” my friend told me.
“With proper care, the scars will fade,” I assured her. “And you can have the dots placed in a discreet location.”
“But what if we just take it orally?” she insisted.
We were talking about kambo, an Amazonian medicine that can treat ailments ranging from depression to cancer. Its traditional application requires you to burn small dots into your skin and then apply the wet kambo paste to these areas. Some people, nervous about this method of application, may consider other ways to use kambo, such as taking it orally or snorting it. What my friend and others like her do not know is that kambo, when taken orally, sometimes leads to what shamans call “frog disease”—a condition that can cause heart problems, weak muscles, and even death.
While kambo is relatively safe when following traditional medicine guidelines, it is still important to take the correct dose and properly prepare for your first treatment. Kambo is a powerful medicine, and as such, you should follow certain safety precautions when taking it and only use it under the guidance of a skilled practitioner.
Educate Yourself About Kambo
Before you take any medicine, it is a good idea to become familiar with the substance’s effects, including both its risks and benefits. While generally safe for healthy adults, kambo can sometimes cause dehydration, disorientation, and mild tachycardia, making it important that you are well-informed before undergoing a treatment. There is limited information about kambo available online, but in many large cities, there are groups where you can meet people who have experienced kambo and ask them questions.
Learning the basics about kambo— how it is applied, its physical and emotional effects, and where to get ethically sourced kambo— will prepare you to have an informed conversation with your kambo practitioner of choice. You will be able to discuss any concerns you may have about the ceremony and set your intentions regarding the outcome of your treatment.
Consider Common Contraindications
In general, kambo is a safe medicine, but there are some medical conditions that could become exacerbated by the medicine, including:
- Heart problems or a previous bypass surgery: During the initial 5-10 minutes, kambo will increase your heart rate, which may put too much stress on an already weak heart.
- Pregnancy: Kambo causes contractions of the smooth muscle tissue in your body—including the uterus—which could cause miscarriage or preterm labor.
- High or low blood pressure: Kambo contains has several vessel dilators which will affect your blood pressure during the treatment. This means it is important you have a normal blood pressure when you begin.
- Age: Kambo can be an intense physical experience that can overwhelm the very young or very elderly. You should talk to an experienced practitioner about the specific ages they are willing to treat.
- Eating disorders: Because one of the main effects of a kambo treatment is physical purging, it can potentially cause relapse in people being treated for bulimia.
- Addiction: Kambo creates a strong opioid response, which can be an issue for those currently addicted to opioids. While kambo can help treat certain types of addiction, it is important to discuss your kambo use in-depth with a therapist if you struggle with addiction.
If you have one of these contraindications or another potentially concerning condition, you should talk about it with an experienced kambo practitioner before attempting your first treatment. Even if the condition does not prevent you from taking kambo, it may influence factors such as the size of your dose or its placement on your body.
Take a Test Dose First
Although allergic or adverse reactions to kambo are rare, if you have never taken it before, it is a good idea to complete a test dose. A test dose usually consists of a single dot of kambo being applied. With this small dose, you will likely not experience any physical effects except for possibly a slight increase in pulse or a rise in body temperature if you are very sensitive to kambo.
Some practitioners will apply a full treatment of kambo an hour or so after a test dot is done if you do not have any negative symptoms. However, others will prefer you wait at least a day to make sure no allergic reactions develop on the skin near the test site. Either way, discuss any odd sensations you experience during the test with your practitioner so they can adjust your dose if necessary.
Work With an Experienced Practitioner
By now you will have probably noticed that every aspect of a safe kambo experience relies on working with a skilled, experienced practitioner. Kambo is legal to obtain in the U.S. and can be ordered online, but if you do not have much experience with it, it can be difficult to apply the medicine safely and effectively. Instead, you should always work with an experienced practitioner who can help you set goals for your kambo treatment and walk you through your first experience. A guide will not only help with placement and dose amount, but they will also let you know when you should drink water during your treatment, whether you should lay down or sit up, and other aspects that will make the experience more pleasant.
Finding a the best kambo practitioner for you depends on why you are seeking treatment. Basic treatments meant simply to cleanse the system and introduce you to kambo can be administered by any experienced practitioner. However, if you have a specific ailment you want to treat or if you have a condition that increases the risks of a kambo treatment, you should seek out a practitioner with experience in that particular field. For instance, some practitioners specialize in fertility treatment or addiction treatment; others blend kambo with acupuncture or chakra treatments. You may want to interview a few practitioners before you find one you want to work with. And if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, the staff at Psychedelic Times can help put you in contact with local kambo practitioners.
Communicate Any Concerns With Your Practitioner
A good practitioner open up a dialogue with you and make sure you are informed about the ceremony before you begin. But they cannot know about any ailments or concerns you may have if you do not voice them. You may want to set up one or more meetings with your practitioner before your treatment in order to develop a sense of trust and communication with them. It may also be helpful to watch a kambo ceremony before participating in one yourself.
Finding an experienced kambo practitioner is the first step to making sure you are physically and mentally safe during your kambo treatment. A knowledgeable kambo guide can walk you through the rest of the safety measures to ensure your treatment goes well. But, ultimately, we are each responsible for our own safety when choosing to take traditional medicines. Even an experienced practitioner may not fully anticipate all the various factors that will affect your personal kambo experience, so it is critical that you are informed about the medicine you are taking and follow basic safety precautions to make it a positive, healthy experience. If you are unsure of where to find a practitioner you trust or if you are anxious about the kambo treatment in general, you may consider a few sessions with a psychedelic therapist to help prepare you for the experience and find the best practitioner to suit your specific needs.