I learned about Kambo through Brandy and Charese, two very experienced yoga practitioners who have been a part of our Ashtanga program at The Front for the past couple years. Both of these women are truly inspiring in many ways including that they have incredible resilience and athletic ability. They both seem to have supernatural yoga talents. Soon after they started coming to our classes at The Front, I saw little scars on their bodies that looked like tribal marks in different lines of dots. These dots turned out to be the “gates” that the kambo had been applied through. I loved the look of these marks and happened to be extremely intrigued, so they introduced me to a fascinating wellness practice. They connected me with their certified Kambo practitioner, Juls. I researched Juls and Kambo a bit and thought about doing the treatment for over a year.
Kambo is a deep cleansing treatment from the Amazon that is as old as legend. It is becoming more and more popular with the rest of the world these days due to its powerful effects. This treatment entails creating small burns in the skin and the application of a small mound of reconstituted venom from an Amazonian tree frog called Phyllomedusa Bicolor on each burn.
As my body ages, I feel my energy waning a bit. I’ve had some inflammation in my joints, tendons, and ligaments for the past 8 years or so. I’ve been adding new asanas and vinyasas to my own yoga practice which are very challenging to my body. I want to recover more quickly and to perform better. I’m always looking for ways to stay healthy. Since I was very young I’ve been interested in bodily, emotional, and mental wellness and am open to trying out different ways of eating and experimenting with natural supplements and mindfulness practices to stay optimally well. I’m very intrigued by culturally ancient healing traditions such as Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, and obviously Yoga. I’ve already been taking Chinese Mountain Ant tincture here and there over the years, so why not frog venom? The ants have to die to be in the supplement (other than this supplement, I eat a vegetarian diet), but the frogs are treated humanely and let go after having only about 20% of their natural coating is harvested by experienced practitioners in the Yawanawa, Shipibo, Matses, Inga, and Huni Kwun Tribes of South America who Juls has worked with. I adore frogs (and pretty much all other animals) so I was relieved to hear of the respect they are treated with. Many are even marked with a substance that disappears after about 6 weeks so if they are caught again before then, they will not be bothered. Being half Ecuadorian myself, I was really into the idea of trying something that some of my own personal DNA probably evolved with over history.
I finally decided to go for it because I am going on a Yatra in October; which is a trek in the Indian Himalayas to visit a variety of places of great importance in Indian culture, so I was spurred on to finally take the leap (yes, I made a frog pun), and try Kambo. This Yatra is not a “fun and relaxing” yoga retreat, it is not going to be easy living; I will be exposed to lots of things my body isn’t used to, including exercising in high altitude, very different living situations, infectious diseases such as Malaria, Japanese Encephalitis, and all the Hepatitis types imaginable. Last time I went to India, I got really sick from eating street food and had to miss a very precious morning of yoga class on top of other unmentionable problems! I will be practicing yoga with my Indian teacher, Sharath who is always a little intense to practice under in just a couple of weeks….Kambo is called a natural vaccine against all sorts of ailments and is said to increase one’s energy. Needless to say, I want to feel my best for this trip and let’s be honest, not only for the yatra but for every day.
I decided to do a treatment of 3 sessions close together. Juls informed me that this is a beneficial way of clearing out a mass of toxins in the body such as fungi, parasites, and imbalanced/unwelcome bacteria in a healthy person. Depending on individual circumstances, she recommends different spacings per person. I did 3 treatments within 5 days. The first treatment I did on a Tuesday together with Charese. I really appreciated going with her because she has done it so many times already and I was a little nervous, so it helped to go through it with her. The second and third I did on the Friday and Saturday of that same week on my own with Juls.
Juls administers her Kambo treatments in her elegant, clean, and orderly home. She has a treatment room which is comfortable and beautifully decorated with natural elements and artifacts. She encourages her clients to make themselves at home. We were welcomed into her living room where we sat on sofas loaded with soft white pillows. Since Charese and Juls are already well acquainted with each other, Juls focused the introductory conversation toward me. She presented her background in jungle medicine which is extensive. She has lived in Brazil and Peru with Amazonian shamans who have had this medicine in their tribes traceable back around 150 years but known to be part of their tribes since time immemorial. She asked me questions about myself and about what I was looking to find improvements in. She answered all my questions. I didn’t feel rushed or hustled. This woman was very easy to be around, fascinating to listen to and very kind and open. She is also glowing with health and has great personal style on top of being just a beautiful looking human. She is a Bikram Yoga teacher and also a personal coach and has the perfect personality to encompass it all comfortably. She strikes me as being real, sincere and intelligent.
One should fast for about 8 hours before Kambo treatment on nothing but water and electrolytes. This is easy if you are treated in the morning as we were, we just didn’t eat breakfast. We had to drink extra water which is no problem for me because I am always thirsty! We brought a couple extra water bottles along. After our conversation in the living room, we all went upstairs to the treatment room and got cozy resting against more fluffy white pillows, sitting on yoga mats across the room from each other with giant buckets in front of us. These of course, are for vomiting into! I didn’t mention the vomiting yet, but it’s a great and wonderful thing that might happen to one when undergoing the treatment. (It only happened to me 1 out of 3 times and didn’t happen to Charese so it may or may not happen if you do it. Weirdly enough, it actually felt great to purge the toxins that had gathered in my stomach.) Juls prepared her tray with the materials needed. I got to go first!
Juls had a small collection of sticks on her tray along with a bottle of water and other various instruments of healing. Some sticks of slightly different diameters were small and round, twig-like; to make small burns in the skin to create the “gates” to administer the Kambo through, as mentioned before. Other sticks that are more reminiscent of a tongue depressor that a doctor might use, (or a hot wax applicator, for those of you that are fans of body waxing!). The flat sticks are coated in frog venom which she reconstitutes with water. The reconstituted venom is kind of like a gel. She gave me 3 small burns on the inside of my ankle with one of the small twig-like sticks. These burns of course were a bit of a hot shock but call me crazy, I love the fact that I get a little burn in the treatment. Then again, I love putting my legs over my head while I stand on my hands so….anyway. She did all 3 little burns only a couple layers of skin deep (Kambo is absorbed through the lymphatic system, so there is not a deep enough burn to cause bleeding). She then applied just one little dome on the first dot, apparently so she could gauge my reaction to the tiny dose. I instantly felt a little zing of energy and my vision became more acute. Everything was chill for a couple minutes…
We sat back and had a relaxed conversation about nothing in particular and then I felt a strong rush of energy as the Kambo penetrated my blood-brain barrier. Juls and Charese commented that they could physically see the effects of it in me and then Juls applied two more little mounds over my other 2 burn dots. I had a very strong feeling of peaceful yet penetrating energy in my body. It felt a bit like the up-part of a rollercoaster as you get near the top of the first climb. I sat for 23 minutes as I absorbed the Kambo and then puked up some water, but as previously mentioned, it felt good! Some people may feel more nauseous, it is different for everyone, just like any other experience.
Kambo is a unique substance containing peptides which are similar in construct to proteins in that they are composed of amino acids, the main difference being that proteins are more highly structured and are composed of more amino acids. Many peptides have been isolated from the secretion and have been synthesized. As a testament to their medicinal properties, there are over 70 Kambo patents lodged, mainly in the USA. Ongoing research continues to find applications in the world of medicine and pharmacology.
The peptides discovered in Kambo trigger a variety of beneficial chemical reactions in the human body. Kambo has the uncommon ability to cross the blood-brain barrier enabling it to reach deep into the body and treat difficult to reach areas. Some of Kambo’s peptides perform specific functions in the human body such as hormone-like tasks and cellular processes. Some have a potent effect on the gastrointestinal system, pancreatic secretions, and blood circulation and some greatly reduce cortisol in the system. Some of these peptides are specifically used by neurons to communicate with one another. These neuropeptides effect on brain functions such as:
analgesia // reward // food intake // metabolism // reproduction // social behaviors // learning // memory
Following my little purge sesh, Juls removed the dots of venom from the burns and applied a lovely natural healing balm that comes from a tree in the same area that the frogs are from. It works just like a liquid bandage but it’s all natural. She’s got all the goods. Then we were spoiled with a big cup of steaming herbal tea and the treat of Juls reading from Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet. I felt very nurtured through the whole experience. As we were all very hungry, we went out to Indian food for lunch. My next two treatments were subsequently a little more and more intense but both times I felt completely safe and cared for by Juls.
Not only does this medicine have scientifically backed and sought-after health benefits, but the Amazonians who use it claim that it removes “panema” or undesirable types of energy from the body. So that’s pretty badass too. Whether or not they are right, I’m now on my 5th day since I finished my round of 3 treatments and I have to say I feel more grounded, content, and much more creative than I normally do. I have been much less reactive in stressful situations as well. The inflammation in my joints has almost disappeared except for in one place. Maybe it’s a placebo effect but regardless, I’ll take what I can get! Also, since the round of treatments, other than a slight stomach ache the night of the third session, my digestion has been amazingly perfect which I guess This treatment is not only popular with yogis and health freaks but also those suffering from cancer, immune disorders, addiction, and Lyme’s disease.