Kambo…the skin secretion from one of the largest tree dwelling frogs known as the “Giant Green Monkey Tree Frog”. Scientific name: Phyllomedusa Bicolor (‘phyllo-medusa’ meaning ‘leaf guardian’) .
The frog is nocturnal and due to the fact that it has no natural predators is found in abundance across the Upper Amazon rain forest areas of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, French Guiana, Suriname and Venezuela.
They are large frogs, with bodies 3-6 inches long. The back of the frog is a vibrant green; the belly white/yellow, and spots on the sides of the torso and legs.
No one is completely sure what the catalyst is for the frog producing the secretion. It’s widely believed to be derived from their diet. This is likely reason why the frogs do not produce their secretion when removed from their natural environment.
The Kambo secretion is collected by the indigenous tribes who live among the region of the upper Amazon. The frog is never harmed, but treated with utmost care and respect. The people believe that to harm the frog will anger the animal spirits that they live in harmony with.
Each tribe has its own legend or story about how they came to use Kambo. The most prevalent legend comes from Brazil.
This Kaxinawá legend tells that the Indians of the tribe were very ill and their medicine man (Pajé) had done everything that was possible to cure them. All medicinal herbs known were used, but none helped.
Under the effect of sacred plant medicines, he entered the forest and whilst there received a visit from a great spirit of the forest.
The visiting spirit brought a frog; of which produced a white secretion, and the spirit taught the Pajé how to apply it. Returning to the tribe, and following the guidelines he had received, the Pajé was able to cure his brothers and sisters. From then on he was known as, Pajé Kampu, or Kampum.
After his death, it is said his spirit lives on in the frog, with the continued mission to protect the health of those who defend the forest. The secretion became known as Kambo but in some tribes it is called Sapo, Dow-Kiet, Kampu or Vacina da Floresta (vaccine of the forest).
Usage spread, and for thousands of years, Kambo has been used as medicine by many tribes such as the Katukina, Kulina, Matses, Marubo, Kaxinawá, Yawanawá, and many other indigenous groups . Kambo is still widely used by many people in the Amazon today.
Some of the first observations of Kambo use were made by a French priest, (Father Constantin Tastevin) in 1925 whilst he was staying with the Kaxinawá tribe Brazil. In the 1980’s, an American Anthropologist Katherine Milton described Kambo use among the Mayoruna tribe in Brazil. In the 1980s Peter Gorman wrote about his experiences taking Kambo with the Matses tribe in Peru. Gorman is the author of the book “Sapo in My Soul”.
In 2004, ANVISA (Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária) in Brazil, prohibited advertising of the “medicinal” and “therapeutic” benefits of Kambo. This was created in response to the Katukina people’s representation made to the Brazilian government regarding intellectual property rights to Kambo. Aside from this advertising restriction, Kambo is legal everywhere in the world.