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By Dr Alex Pardhy
When asked to write about my Kambo journey, I felt both excited and nervous. Excited to share my experiences of this medicine as a Kambo Practitioner. Nervous to do this incredible medicine justice. As the saying goes, there’s no time like the present, and I truly believe that this medicine has come out of the Amazon at this time for very good reason. I see now that I am here to facilitate that process, for the healing of many, including the Amazon Rainforest. Having worked with this medicine for some time now I feel the time is right to share my journey with it for this purpose. And so, I begin.
Kambo is the poisonous secretion released as a defense mechanism from the back of the Giant Green Tree Frog (Latin – Phyllomedusa Bicolour). This frog is native to the Amazon Jungle and its secretion has been used medicinally for hundreds, if not thousands of years, by many of those that dwell within her. The main traditional uses include the healing of physical ailments, obtaining keener hunting skills and protection from, or the releasing, of unwanted energies.
In the 1940s the medicine moved from the tribes into the towns as the rubber industry boomed. Then in the early ’90s, a few Americans brought Kambo out of the Brazilian Amazon. They took samples to labs and the strength of the compounds within this complex bioactive substance became clear, leading to scientific research, patents and the isolation of specific compounds for pharmaceutical use. Those who worked with it personally found the benefits remarkable, and a slow but steady following began in the West.
The medicine is sacred, and should be harvested at dawn when the nocturnal frogs are called down from the trees. They come fearlessly, having no natural predators. The extraction process takes five minutes and causes no harm to the frog if done skillfully and gently. They are handed as little as possible and quickly released, not to be harvested for at least another two months – this is so that both they and the medicine can be strong before the next harvest. This is how the frogs should be treated, not kept in boxes or over harvested. It is of utmost importance that all those who chose to work with this medicine are sure it is sourced ethically. Your practitioner should know.
A Careful Process
To administer the medicine, the dried poison is reconstituted using water. Small burns are lightly made on the skin and the top layer is scraped off, revealing the shiny wet lymph below. This is the highway into the body’s lymphatic system, our immune hub. The medicine is applied onto these openings, or dots as they are called, and rapidly disseminates throughout the body, causing changes in blood pressure, temperature, smooth muscle contractions, tear production and much more. Kambo is not psychedelic and does not cause visual hallucinations. It’s a deeply purgative substance, causing one to vomit primarily, though purging can take the form of crying, diarrhea, sweating and so on. One never knows quite what frog has in store.
Whether surprisingly easy or a real ordeal, you are always invited to welcome this medicine in with gratitude and deep breath. As they say, “resistance is futile” and the ceremony is a truly visceral event, a commitment to experiencing your reality NOW. Kambo is without a doubt an initiatory experience, (something we are sorely lacking in society today), with the energy of the Warrior at its core. This does not mean a gentle release cannot occur, too. Indeed, I have seen many cry the whole way through, finally releasing the sadness or grief they carried for so long. A powerful cathartic medicine, Kambo works in many mysterious ways. To try to understand too deeply would be to do it a disservice. The proof is in the frog, one could say!
The process lasts about 30 minutes to 1 hour, depending on the person. After a short period of rest, most people can continue about their day. You may feel completely Zen, exhausted or hyperactive. Either way, it is advised to take it easy for the remainder of the day. As with most Medicines that uproot the true cause of illness, it can bring up intense emotions or worsen physical conditions temporarily. As such, the focus is always on self-care for the immediate recovery period until these pass.
A New Trend Towards Alternative Health
These last few years have seen a massive boom in Frog Medicine. Often administered before Ayahuasca to cleanse the physical body prior to the visionary substance, today it has become a sacred medicine used by many in its own right.
The main ailments I see people seek it out for today are: depression/apathy, addictions, recurrent infections, allergies, chronic pain, inflammatory diseases of all varieties, heavy or painful periods, candidiasis, HIV, insomnia, cancer, general detoxing… the list is endless. The results range from almost nothing notable to the near miraculous. A familiar saying within the medicine community is that “the medicine will go where it’s needed”, and what you get is not always what you thought you wanted or needed.
Many report increased energy, decreased pain, recovered sleep patterns, greater stamina, the clearing up of skin conditions/infections and so on. Kambo works truly holistically, appearing to innately understand the role of emotions and repressed trauma in creating physical disease. I have gradually learnt to relax my overly analytical, reductionist thinking around why any little thing may occur in Ceremony. If applied to those who have no contraindications in a safe way with a preliminary test dot, I believe this Medicine to always be working for the good of my client in some way. Even if it is not readily apparent exactly how. To me, the medicine has a Spirit – an energy to be admired, thanked and trusted. It is this way with all sacred plant/animal medicines, as healers from many countries over thousands of years will tell you.
My Own Journey
If you had told me 4 years ago I would have written this, I would have outright laughed in your face. How times change. And how wonderful that they do!
My personal journey into this realm began as a Medical Doctor. At the age of 24 I graduated from Medical School in the UK and began working a grueling Junior Doctor Rota in London. Just as I began my training, my dear stepfather was diagnosed with bowel cancer. As his disease progressed, I moved into my long awaited oncology rotation in the esteemed St. Bart’s Hospital – A regional referral Centre for Cancer within the UK.
My sights had been set on becoming an Oncologist, but the overwhelming presence of cancer in my personal and professional life day-in-day-out became too much. As is the way for many doctors, I drank and partied myself into oblivion on my days off. I left my Junior Doctor years depressed, confused and lacking in any passion for life. At that time, I knew I had to take a year out. It was decided. A friend and I would travel to Mexico for the end of the Mayan Calendar before heading down to South America for 6 months.
I arrived in Mexico, feeling excited for something new, anything! I was ready for change, whatever that meant. On the night of the Full Moon of Dec 28th 2012 I went out to a party and met some incredible beings. After a night of getting to know one another, they told me that it was time for me to drink Ayahuasca. I trusted them and accepted their offer of drinking with a Shaman they knew a few weeks later. What followed was a profound, paradigm shifting unravelling of all I thought I knew to be true. If everything hadn’t been so weird in my life already this could well have been a massive sidewinder, but like I said, I was asking for it.
I was blown away. I connected to my heart and intuition in a way I could not remember since being a child. I invited my mother and brother to come and drink it with me. Then I decided it was time to head to the Amazon for a 10 day Dieta – this is where you eat a very clean diet and develop a special connection with a specific plant that you ‘diet’ with in the form of tea every day. Ayahuasca is drunk every other night. Towards the end of this experience our Shaman asked if anyone there wanted Kambo. Most of our group raised their hands. I had no idea what it was so I didn’t! Unfortunately he was unable to get hold of any, so that was that. So deep in my Ayahuasca experience, I was not particularly interested to find out anything more about it. I returned back to England none the wiser.
A few months later, now back in London, a good friend of mine asked if I would like to join him for a Kambo Ceremony the following week. London, of all places! Vague recollections of this word ignited my interest. I did a bit of research and was amazed by what I read. Ever since microbiology lectures in my second year of University, I had been quietly concerned about the situation with antibiotic resistance and what it meant for our future. My brief research on Kambo displayed good evidence that Kambo was an excellent antibiotic, alongside an array of other physiological benefits. I was sold. Handing out the same antibiotics to increasingly desperate individuals for the same recurrent infections was doing my head in!
My First Experience
Kambo felt quite quick and easy. I was still very much in my logical left-brain when I first partook and was coming more for reconnaissance than a true wish for any deep healing. The main thing I noticed was that I couldn’t smell myself for a week afterwards. Most peculiar! The detox was profound and I definitely felt light and energised the following days. I read more and became convinced that this poisonous secretion was a truly valuable tool to have in my arsenal as I began to think about leaving medicine. I signed up for Kambo training and had the great fortune to study with Karen Kanya-Darke, lead Practitioner of the International Association of Kambo Practitioners (IAKP) in Portugal that summer.
It was a truly life changing experience, and I came back not realising just how much a part of my life this was to become. Within a few weeks I was running 1-2 circles every few weeks, then it became 1-2 a week. The benefits speak for themselves and word of mouth was all the marketing I needed. I was giddy to discover that all my inherent talents: singing, agility, rhythm and strong, healing hands, all perfect for this work. I was in heaven. I had found my ‘Ikigai’ as the Japanese call it, a reason for being. This is a balanced and potent combination of that which you are good at, that which you love, that which you can be paid for and that which the world needs. It so much more suited me than the fluorescent lighting and rigid system of ‘Hospital Medicine’! Kambo also allowed me to practice deep gratitude, and this has been a medicine in itself for me.
My Life Today
That was 18 months ago. Though still a baby in this arena, I have seen many incredible things through this work, and continue to do so. As a doctor, it has been, at times, quite hard to reconcile what I witness Kambo facilitate in the psycho-spiritual realms with ‘medical thinking’. So, I have learnt not to think that way. It has been a journey into surrendering to the greater consciousness and trusting that this force of nature is here to do deep work on this planet now. To the average person, this work seems most urgent in these arenas: a) Grounding those stressed from a goal orientated tech-transfixed lifestyle so they can actually be present in life b) Releasing repressed emotions hidden, sometimes for decades, to conform to societal norms or to achieve safety in some way c) Reminding us of our connection to nature, specifically to the home of this precocious frog and to the need for us to protect it.
Amazingly, the frog’s secretion is completely inert when it is transported from its natural habitat into captivity. I believe the Amazon is communicating with us. She is calling for our help. As such, I, and many other practitioners, donate a percentage of every treatment towards protecting the Amazon. And so, in this way, the cycle of life continues – hopefully for much time to come.
Alex is a Kambo Practitioner, Emergency Medicine Doctor and Transformational Health Coach. She is currently based in and around Mexico where she continues her studies of Sacred Medicines. https://pardhy37.