What would cause a young medic to ditch her stethoscope for a purgative Amazonian folk medicine?
By Dr Alex Pardhy When asked to write about Kambo 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 that worked with it personally found the benefits remarkable and a slow but steady following began in the West. In a short time, the little Frog travelled far. The Medicine is harvested at dawn when the nocturnal Frogs are called down from the trees. They come fearlessly, having no natural predators. The process takes 5minutes 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 2 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. To administer the Medicine the dried poison is reconstituted using water (saliva in the Jungle!). 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 bodies Lymphatic system, our immune hub. The medicine is applied onto this opening, or dot as it is called, and rapidly disseminates throughout the body causing changes in blood pressure, temperature, smooth muscle contraction, tear production and much more. Kambo is not psychedelic and does not cause visual hallucinations. It is 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 30minutes-1hour depending on the person and what they’re working with. 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. It can bring up intense emotions or worsen physical conditions temporarily, as most of these Medicines that uproot the true cause of illness do, so the focus is always on self-care for this period. These last few years have seen a massive boom in its use. 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 it’s 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 detox… the list is endless. The results range from nothing visible to 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 etc.. Kambo works truly holistically, appearing to innately understand the role of emotions and repressed trauma in creating physical disease. I heave learnt not to question why something occurs in Ceremony. I always know the Medicine to be working for the good of my client, even if it is not apparent exactly how. To me the Medicine has a Spirit. Something 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. If you had told me 4 years ago I would have written this, I would have outright laughed in your face. How times change. How wonderful that they do! My personal journey into this realm and to this Medicine 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 became 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 Doctor’s, 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 excitement 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 profoundly paradigm shifting unraveling 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. 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’ 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. Of all the 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 has been quietly concerned about the situation with antibiotic resistance and what it meant for our future. This 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 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 skill to have in my arsenal as I began to think about leaving Medicine and my other options. I signed up for 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 needed. I was giddy to discover that all my inherent talents: singing, agility, rhythm and strong, healing hands, all melded perfectly 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. So much more suited to 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. 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. 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 Homo sapien this work seems most urgent in these arenas. 1. Grounding those stressed from a goal orientated tech-transfixed lifestyle so they can actually be present for life 2. Releasing repressed emotions hidden, sometimes for decades, to conform to societal norms or to achieve safety in some way 3. 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 my children’s' children. --
Alex is a Kambo Practitioner, Emergency Medicine Doctor and Transformational Health Coach. She is currently based in an around Mexico where she continues her studies into Sacred Medicines. Find her here.