It was another beautiful day in Southern California. The windows were down as we cruised along PCH. My eyes gazed fiercely at the ocean wishing to lose myself in the waves to dull the beating of my nervous heart. It was a perfect day to spend at the beach, I thought. But alas, as we approached Malibu, we were not headed to play in the sparkling waters. Rather, my partner was dropping me off to participate in my first Kambo ceremony.
I had learned what Kambo was just three days prior. An immunity-boosting medicine hailing from the Amazon that claims a range of potentially therapeutic applications from medicinal to spiritual.
Kambo appeared three times in rapid succession when I finally entered it on Google. A few clicks later, I was sure of two things: 1) I was definitely going to do Kambo, and 2) I was totally freaked out.
Kambo comes from the secretion of the Phyllomedusa Bicolor, the bright green tree frog native to the Amazon rainforest. Kambo has long been used by indigenous tribes medicinally as a treatment for a variety of ailments — from defeating malaria to increasing hunting performance — but its main use revolves around lifting ‘panema,’ the name for dark, heavy, or negative energy that manifests as bad luck, depression, loss, laziness, and lack of clarity.
According to the International Association of Kambo Practitioners, outside of its use in the forest Kambo has been the subject of decades of research. While it’s important to note that its efficacy has not yet been proven in clinical trials, research shows that Kambo contains dozens of peptides, some of which are bioactive, meaning they have an affinity for binding with receptor sites in humans. Kambo’s ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, a unique characteristic uncommon in many other natural and pharmaceutical substances, allows it to reach otherwise difficult to treat areas of the body. The properties of Kambo peptides suggest the medicine as a potentially promising treatment for a wide variety of conditions and much research is being carried out, specifically with regards to cancer.
But what caught my eye specifically about Kambo was its powerful cleansing attributes. Kambo is touted as one of the strongest, natural anti-inflammatory, antibiotic, and anesthetic substances. Even more, it is one of the world’s most powerful natural ways to strengthen the immune system and detoxify the liver. I have suffered with severe eczema for years that I was told by doctors was incurable. My condition was eventually worsened by overly prescribed topical steroids as I developed steroid-induced eczema. At my breaking point, my face and several areas of my body were covered in eczema lesions, my immune system weak, my liver toxic, and fighting a mystery illness had left me feeling lost — or as the tribes would call it, I was in a cloud of panema.
So here I was in a Malibu home brimming with beautiful indigenous and spiritual adorations. I met my guides for the ceremony and the other brave souls called to be there. The first part of the ceremony beautifully intertwined several healing modalities, including intention setting and chakra meditation. But before I knew it, we were invoking the spirit of the frog medicine.
One-by-one, we went up for individual consultations to determine how much medicine we would receive and where the medicine would be placed on the body. As is tradition for one’s first ceremony, females receive the medicine on their right ankle (close to the womb where they hold collective trauma) and males on the upper left arm (close to the heart chakra where they are typically less open). Using a thin piece of heated vine, burn points are placed onto the skin, producing an instant opening. The medicine is then applied to these points.
Prior to receiving Kambo, it is tradition to drink a large amount of water to balance the ‘fire’ energy of the frog. The water also serves as the conduit for which toxins and impurities will be cleansed from the body. While no two Kambo experiences are the same, almost all will experience the purgative effect.
Within seconds of receiving the medicine, I felt a heat-like sensation moving through my body. The energy moved rapidly almost as if scanning my body for where to focus its attention. My face turned hot but my body began to shake with shivers. I could hear others further along in their journey purging and with each forceful blast of liquid into the buckets provided, a ceremonial “Ajo!” was cheered. This served as encouragement that the medicine was working.
Unlike other plant medicines, Kambo is not hallucinogenic. In fact, with the body in such a state of physical turmoil, the mind becomes more sharp. You become acutely aware of the voice in your head that you (knowingly or unknowingly) listen to all day. You are either being told that you can, or that you cannot. Either way, you realize that both are true depending on the choice you make in that moment. Kambo all but forces you to come to terms with the stories that replay in your head about what you are capable of. This was a very real experience for me during my first ceremony. I chose to listen to the truth that I could in fact do it, even opting for rapé (a healing tobacco tribal snuff) which purposefully intensifies the Kambo experience to induce further cleansing.
While purging is the name of the game with Kambo, it is much more than just a physical purge. The purge is symbolic of the immense ‘letting go’ that Kambo directs you to do on many levels.
Mentally, I let go of the stories in my head that I was not strong enough to make it through this experience. A lesson that still translates to my daily life when I am determining what I am capable of (secrets out: the only one limiting us is ourselves). Emotionally, I experienced a deep letting go when tears came flowing unannounced, and spiritually I let go of the barriers that had separated me from my own inner guidance. As with life and Kambo alike, it is in the moments of immense challenge that we are more readily able to feel and hear our own internal guidance that has been directing us all along.
What is fascinating about Kambo is that this all happened in less than an hour. While every experience is different, the peak is typically only 20 to 40 minutes. After we all felt like there was nothing more to ‘let go’ of we were invited to rest. There was an offering of one last Amazonian plant medicine called sananga. A potent eye-drop said to energetically cleanse the inner (third-eye) and outer vision (sense of sight). And then we closed the ceremony in community sharing about our experiences and insights, each of us a newly minted Kambo warrior.
I’ve since done it two more times. Each experience has been different from (and more intense than) the last. While the experience is no walk in the healing park, I do feel I’ve reaped benefits with regards to my overall health, cleansing of toxins, increased clarity, and personal/spiritual growth. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned on the healing path it’s that there is no one-size-fits-all. However, with knowledge of alternative healing methods comes the power to choose that our healing potential is not limited to pills that profit pharmaceutical companies. Perhaps healing is returning back to the medicines of the Earth?
Marcia Paige Hamelin is a 20-something trying to make sense of this world and hopefully help others along the way. A reiki master, meditation guide, yoga teacher, writer, photographer, and world traveler, Marcia delivers honestly from her own journey of self-discovery and hopes to empower others to find home in who they are. Connect with her at marciapaigehamelin.com or on Instagram at @marciapaigehamelin.
Photo credit: Marcia Paige Hamelin.