Medical News Today: The kambo cleanse: Can frog poison boost health?

By | November 15, 2018
The kambo cleanse is a traditional ritual that uses kambo, which is the poison of the giant monkey frog, to purify the body and treat various health conditions.

Many people have attempted the kambo cleanse. However, its beneficial healing effects remain scientifically unproven. There is no need to cleanse the body, as the kidneys, liver, and other organs do that already.

This article will look at the research behind the effects of kambo, the traditional collection and use of this poison, how people perform the kambo cleanse, what to expect, and its risks and side effects.

What is the kambo cleanse?

Phyllomedusa bicolor giant monkey frog
Kambo is a poison that the giant monkey frog secretes.

The kambo cleanse is a traditional healing ritual performed in many South African countries.

A shaman healer performs the ceremony, which involves burning the person’s shoulder, leg, or foot, and then applying a kambo secretion to the wound. These burns may leave scars.

Kambo is a poisonous substance that the giant monkey frog secretes. People sometimes refer to this animal as the giant leaf frog. Its scientific name is Phyllomedusa bicolor.

The giant monkey frog is native to the Amazon rainforest. They reside in parts of Brazil, Peru, and Venezuela. People in many cultures revere giant monkey frogs for their alleged healing abilities.

Many indigenous tribes and urban populations use the kambo cleanse for a number of reasons. Traditionally, hunters would participate in the ritual to heighten their senses and stamina before a hunt.

Proponents believe that the kambo cleanse can purify the physical body of toxic substances, as well as purify the mind and spirit of negative energy. They also claim that the ritual can:

  • bring luck
  • increase stamina
  • cure physical ailments

Some proponents believe that kambo can treat the following:

Does the kambo cleanse work?

Though there are plenty of first-hand accounts from people who have taken part in the kambo cleanse, none of the potential benefits described above are scientifically proven.

That being said, scientists and researchers have studied kambo as a substance for many years.

Researchers have discovered that kambo contains a number of compounds that have various effects on the human body, such as contracting or relaxing the muscles, dilating the blood vessels, and stimulating brain cells.

Currently, there is no research to support the beneficial healing effects of the kambo cleanse. They may be a result of the placebo effect. Regardless, further research is necessary to determine the effects, including potential dangers, of kambo on the human body.

Kambo is a poison. For this reason, it could cause vomiting, sweating, and a rapid heart rate. There have also been reported cases of death following a kambo cleanse. Even applying it topically can cause death, as the skin absorbs the toxins.

How to collect kambo

Because giant monkey frogs are nocturnal, they are only active at night, which makes it difficult to collect kambo. However, they have a distinct call, which shamans use to locate their nests.

After capturing a giant monkey frog, a shaman collects the waxy secretions, or kambo, from its legs. They will carefully scrape the secretions onto wooden sticks and leave them to dry.

Once the shaman has collected the kambo, they aim to release the frog, relatively unharmed, back into the forest.

The kambo cleanse ritual

Person with burn scars for kambo cleanse
A shaman will apply the kambo to burned skin.

During the kambo cleanse ritual, a shaman will burn small holes into the top layers of the skin using the end of a burning stick. They will then apply a small amount of kambo to each burn. The shoulder is the typical location for kambo administration, but the practitioner may also apply it to the back, legs, or feet.

Within minutes of applying the kambo, people tend to experience immediate and generally unpleasant symptoms, such as:

  • sweating
  • tachycardia, or a rapid heart rate
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • loss of bladder control
  • muscle contractions

Many people report feeling a burning sensation throughout their bodies. Dizziness, nausea, and violent vomiting, which can last for several minutes, quickly follow the burning sensation.

When the symptoms begin to decrease, a shaman may encourage the person to rehydrate by drinking water. Drinking water helps flush out toxins.

Kambo is a poisonous substance that can cause severe health complications if a person applies it incorrectly. The shaman will determine the dosage and placement of the kambo. The practitioner also oversees the ritual for safety.

Risks and side effects

Researchers do not yet understand the full effects of kambo on the human body. While people tend to perform kambo cleanses safely, some may experience severe side effects after taking part in the ritual.

Some side effects of the kambo cleanse include:

  • jaundice
  • itchy or irritated skin
  • fatigue
  • muscle weakness
  • spasms and cramps
  • abdominal pain
  • confusion
  • seizures
  • short-term memory loss

Can the kambo cleanse cause death?

Kambo is a toxic substance that can be lethal. There are reports of people falling seriously ill after participating in kambo cleanses.

A case study from 2017 describes a 42-year-old man who died after taking part in a kambo cleanse.


A person should always speak to a doctor when considering alternative treatments.
A person should always speak to a doctor when considering alternative treatments.

The popularity of alternative medicine has increased greatly over recent years and continues to do so. Kambo is a traditional healing practice within many cultures, but it is still relatively new to Western societies.

There is not currently enough research into kambo’s effects on the human body. Researchers have isolated several compounds within kambo that may have health benefits, but further research is required to determine whether kambo is suitable for use in a clinical context.

Folk medicine practitioners usually perform kambo cleanses safely. However, it is important to keep in mind that kambo is a poisonous substance, and people should beware of the potential side effects and potential for illness or death.

People considering taking part in a kambo cleanse should talk to their doctor first. The body is able to cleanse itself and needs no assistance with herbs or poisons from a frog. Doctors never recommend burning the skin, and if there is a burn, they will recommend traditional treatment approaches instead.

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