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 in Brazil) 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 female spirit of the forest.
She brought in her hands a frog, from which she took a white secretion, and
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, his spirit lived on in the frog, where it continued its 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
Usage spread, and for thousands of years, Kambo has been used as medicine
by the Kaxinawá people, and by many other indigenous groups including the
Amahuaca, Katukina, Kulina, Yawanawá, Matses, Marubo and Mayoruna. It is
still used widely amongst indigenous people in the Amazon to this day.
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 in the
upper Juruá River in Brazil. In the 1980’s an American Anthropologist, Katherine
Milton described Kambo use among the Mayoruna tribe in Brazil and in the
1980s Peter Gorman wrote about his experiences taking Kambo with the Matses
tribe in Peru.
During the 1990’s, rubber tappers in Brazil learned about Kambo from the
Amazon Indians. They began to take it out into the towns of Acre and apply it
themselves. Having spent several years living with the Katukina, Francisco
Gomes from Cruzeiro do Sol was one of the first people to pioneer the use of
Kambo outside the Amazon. The practice spread and soon people in the larger
cities of Brazil were using Kambo.
In 2004, ANVISA, the Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária in Brazil prohibited
any advertising of the medicinal and therapeutic benefits of Kambo. This was in
response to representation made to the Brazilian government by the Katukina
people with regard to intellectual property rights. Aside from this restriction,
Kambo is legal everywhere in the world.
Geek out on the science of peptides!
Twice nominated for a Nobel Prize and the person who first discovered Serotonin; an Italian scientist, Vittorio Erspamer of the University of Rome was the first person to analyze Kambo in a laboratory. In 1986, he wrote that it contains a ‘fantastic chemical cocktail with potential medical applications, unequalled by any other amphibian’.
The chemicals he referred to are peptides. These peptides studied by Erspamer have become essential to characterize the functional role of opioid receptors.
Several peptides have since been isolated from the secretion and several have been synthesized. Currently there are over 70 Kambo patents lodged of these peptides, mainly in the US – mainly by pharmaceutical companies.
The popularity and use of Kambo as a natural support to healing is spreading worldwide. As the scientific research into the secretion of the Phyllomedusa Bicolor grows, skilled practitioners are also developing new ways to work with this powerful substance from the Amazonian Rain Forest, which allows it to be accessible to almost everyone in a safe and manageable way.
Not only do we now have a number of different traditional ways to take Kambo but we can also work with the Meridians, the Chakras, Nadis and Marma Points and even the ears – Auricular Kambo. Added to this, there are also new techniques to allow people to take Kambo in a way that is gentler on their system but still allows them to enjoy the maximum benefits.