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Kambo: the ancient frog healer of the Amazon

It's safe to say that most of what comes out of the Amazon is intense. Nature has so much to teach us, and the offerings she provides through the medicines of this wild jungle are often profound, challenging, and force us to look deep within and find our inner strength.

When I learned about kambo in 2018, I distinctly remember thinking to myself ‘I will be receiving this medicine some day’.

What is kambo?

Kambo is a medicinal ritual that has been used by Indigenous groups in South America for centuries for its healing properties. It is known around Peru and Brazil as “the vaccine of the forest”. It is the venomous secretion of the giant monkey tree frog, called Phyllomedusa Bicolor, that live in the Amazon.

It is said to help heal and cleanse the body by strengthening its natural defences, warding off bad luck, increasing physical strength and stamina, and so much more. It contains bioactive peptides that are easily absorbed into the body and our cells via the lymphatic system, and is effective at clearing toxicity, pathogens, parasites, and waste out of the body.

Finding my practitioner

A lovely friend of mine had recommended a few months ago that I follow Bharat, a shamanic practitioner living in Toronto, knowing that I had the intention of working with kambo.

Bharat offers treatments out of his home in Toronto, facilitates healing retreats with other practitioners, and serves kambo on a monthly basis in Wakefield for those in Ottawa and surrounding areas.

I spoke with him about a month prior to the treatment to go over details, figure out if the medicine would be a good fit for me and figure out what my intention(s) were for the experience. He was happy to answer any questions that I had.

Diet for Kambo

I was curious if there were any specific dietary or lifestyle recommendations to follow for the days leading up to kambo, as there are plant medicine rituals stemming from the Amazon that require a special dieta, or dietary regimen that supports the process.

Although there are no specifics, Bharat recommends coming in with less 'layers'. Foods that are stimulating, damaging to the gut, and more highly inflammatory put extra stress on the bodies detoxification organs and nervous system. These foods/substances include:

  • alcohol

  • caffeine

  • gluten

  • dairy

  • processed sugar

  • soy

  • corn

  • processed seed oils

Reducing or eliminating these foods in the diet may benefit your experience in treatment as well as improve the health of the body in general, but it is not a strict rule. Do what you can, and try not to overthink it!

Because I am already on the path of creating more space in my body and mind I understand how to feed myself properly to maximize my vitality. Not saying that I always follow my own suggestions, but in the days prior to my treatment I eliminated/reduced the foods above in my diet, practiced daily yoga or breath work to prepare my nervous system, and put extra effort into proper sleep hygiene.

Working with an intention

My intention heading into the experience was to feel more grounded into my body, and to release some heavy energy that I have been carrying in my heart space.

I really gravitate towards practices that provide an opportunity to create a deeper connection with myself, that cleanse the body physically and also energetically, and anything that reminds me how strong I really am. The strength that is within us all.

I suggest taking time and space prior to treatment, if you decide to try it, to sit with yourself and get really clear on your intention with the medicine. If it is physical, like parasite or mold detoxification, support with a health condition, etc., that's more straight forward. But if it is energetic/emotional, use your time to explore your current energetic state. Try to visualize where the heavier emotions are being held in the body, the details of what they look or feel like. Heading into the experience with as much clarity as possible is never a bad idea, and could potentially be a more powerful healing tool.

What happens in the body during treatment?

As with basically all medicines from the Amazon, it’s intense. It does not have any psychoactive effects, like many plant medicines do, but it does two major things. It grounds you deeply into the body, into your physicality, and it causes you to purge.

I don’t know many people who enjoy purging, so this part was on my mind prior to the ceremony. Growing up I actually had a full fledged phobia of vomiting-- oh how far I've come! And as with anything new, it’s certainly a challenge to go into an experience not really knowing how you are going to feel, but releasing expectation and channeling your inner warrior is part of the magic of kambo.

In some cases, people really need to purge. There are things going on in the gut, toxins that the body wants to release from its tissues. The purge can go either way— up or down. But I want to say that vomiting is most common.

In other cases kambo reacts more psychologically. It has the ability to bring past experiences to the mind, bring about ah-ha moments and revelations, and help you discover subconscious patterns you may not have been aware of. An emotional or energetic release is common— crying, screaming, shaking. I'm no expert here, but I want to say anything goes. If it comes up, let it out.

Everyone reacts to the medicine differently and will have a different experience, so it’s important (in my humble opinion) not to get too attached to the details. If you decide it is the right path for you, it’s time to practice the art of surrender.

The day of

I don’t want to go too deep into my experience because I wouldn’t want it to create any expectations for anyone. I really think it’s important to just be with what is.

What I will say is that Bharat often does two rounds, each lasting about 20-30 minutes. The intention behind this is that for the second round you know what to expect and can hopefully settle more deeply into the experience.

The 'gates', or portals of entry, are burned into the skin using a thick incense stick, and the venom, made into tiny little balls, is placed on each gate. This administration allows the kambo to almost immediately be released into the lymphatic system and then circulated throughout the body.

Common reactions that you may experience are swelling of the face, rapid heart rate, heat and flushing of the skin, temperature changes, waves of nausea, yawning, shaking/shivering, purging.

I have to say that despite hearing many stories of people resisting the medicine, wanting the points to be taken off, wanting it to be over, etc., I felt the total opposite. I think it had been so long since I was really IN my body, fully, not caught up in my head that I almost didn’t want it to end.

I left that day feeling really amazing, and thinking about when I would be able to receive again.

The after effects

I often talk about this when it comes to microdosing as I recommend a 1 day on, 2 days off dosing schedule, but the magic of many healing plants/rituals is what comes after the ceremony. The "after glow" is what I like to refer to it as. A perspective shift that may linger post-treatment.

In the days following kambo I have found myself feeling more ready in body and mind to tackle some deeper inner work. I think that my experience with kambo loosened some things up inside me that are ready to be released. It has given me the understanding that I have been working around many of my issues, not actually through them.

My intention in the coming weeks is to prioritize soothing and nourishing my nervous system, creating a safe place within myself so that my body feels at ease and capable of feeling what I need to feel so that I can finally let some shit go. For herbal support post-ceremonies (kambo, mushrooms, Ayahuasca, even post-therapy of any kind), please refer to this blog post, where I touch on the vagus nerve, and my fave herbs and supportive practices.

Because I went into the ceremony with the intention of releasing some heavy energy in my heart space, I am now integrating my experience and allowing it to propel me further into my healing. I never looked at kambo as the thing that would “heal” me, but rather a potential helper along the way.

Is kambo for you?

We are experiencing a massive shift in consciousness as a collective, and many of us are drawn to these plant/animal medicines as a way to facilitate deeper connection to self and to source. Many of us are struggling with health conditions, autoimmunity, and mystery symptoms, too. The potent physical and energetic/emotional benefits that kambo can bring into your life are perhaps worth investigating. I certainly recommend it, although I understand that only YOU know what is right for you and your body.

Love you always and forever!

Please reach out to Bharat if you are feeling froggy. <3 Here is his instagram handle: @heart_of_god_shamanic_healing


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