For centuries, Indigenous Amazonians have extracted frog poison for its alleged healing powers and utilized the venom in a sacred ritual known as a Kambo ceremony. Kambo ceremonies are believed to detox the body through an intense 20 minutes of flu-like purging, allegedly helping to dispose of toxins, while also strengthening stamina, promoting clarity, and addressing other health concerns such as anxiety and depression. But, is the bile worth the benefit? On the latest episode of Biohack-HERS, HigherDOSE Founders Lauren Berlingeri and Katie Kaps meet with Todd Shipman, a shaman-trained biohacking expert who guides them through the Kambo ceremony with a scientific twist.
What Is Kambo?
Kambo is a South American Indigenous ritual that calls upon frog medicine — aka the poisonous secretion from the giant monkey frog — to detoxify the body through an intense cleansing experience. The ritual is centuries old and was traditionally used to increase the stamina of South American warriors, protect against bad luck, and strengthen the body’s natural defenses.
Today, Kambo is growing in popularity as shamans guide biohackers and health enthusiasts alike through the intense cleansing experience, which involves 20 minutes of flu-like purging.
The Kambo Ceremony
On the latest episode of Biohack-HERS, HigherDOSE Founders Lauren Berlingeri and Katie Kaps experience the ceremony for themselves, through the guidance of Todd Shipman, a trained shaman and biohacking expert who puts a scientific spin on the centuries old ritual.
To begin their experience, Todd sat down with Lauren and Katie to discuss exactly what to expect during and after the ceremony. “Todd’s really amazing because he’s trained by shamans so he has the traditions and he’s very respectful of that, but he is really rooting this practice and this medicine in science,” Lauren explains. Before the ceremony, Todd had Lauren and Katie put Apple Watches on so that he can monitor their heart rate in real time. He also checked their glucose levels for a baseline test. “The vitals are a great way to quantify the biologial shifts through Kambo,” Todd explains, adding that he monitors glucose before and after the ceremony because the “blood sugar rises and then lowers at the end” of the ceremony. With their vitals checked and their Apple Watches in place, Lauren and Katie were ready for the ceremony.
The ceremony begins with a few minutes of breathwork to calm the mind and stop any anxious thoughts before going into the intense ritual. Next, Todd gave Lauren and Katie a few minutes of silence to set some internal intentions and goals for the ceremony. After that, Todd gave Lauren and Katie some Rapé (pronounced “ha-peh”) or shamanic snuff, which is inhaled through the nose. “The Rapé was really interesting,” says Lauren. “I’ve had it done before and it immediately gives you this buzz and takes you out of your head and into your body,” she adds, noting how it gives you a “crazy jolt and changes your state to prepare you for the Kambo.” The last step in this pre-ritual was to drink around 1.5 to 2 liters of water while Todd prepared the Kambo for application.
“Kambo is administered topically through burn marks on the skin,” Todd explains, noting that this is traditionally done in the Amazon with “a big thick vine” that is burned at one end and stuck to the recipient. Todd’s approach is a little less intense, as he opts for a smaller piece of incense to take the first layer of skin off before applying the frog medicine to the open wound. “Burning the skin is necessary to create an open gate for the Kambo to be absorbed into the body,” says Todd. “When the Kambo goes onto the skin, the bioactive peptides go in your system,” he adds, noting that, while it is poisonous, “it just so happens that, for mammals, there are hundreds of bioactive peptides that are beneficial for us.”
Once the Kambo is applied to the skin, it kicks in almost instantly, as some of the bioactive peptides acutely increase the heart rate, causing you to feel really hot, followed by the nausea and purging for 20-25 minutes. “It is a very vulnerable, sensitive, and intense experience,” Todd says of the Kambo ceremony. “There can be physical releases as well as emotional releases,” he adds, noting that it is an excellent bonding experience for those who go through the ritual together.
3 Things We Learned About Biohacking With Kambo
Kambo is an intense experience and, according to Todd, “not for everyone.” But, it also has incredible biohacking benefits that might make the extremeKambo ceremony experience well worth it. “It’s 15 to 25 minutes of extreme discomfort for long term benefits,” Todd adds.
Here are three things we learned about biohacking with Kambo, aka frog medicine.
Kambo Helps the Body Eliminate Mold, Candita, and Parasites: The whole purpose of the Kambo ceremony is to detoxify the body through a deep purge-induced cleanse. Despite the discomfort of purging orally — and in some cases, through the bowels — this ritual can help the body eliminate toxins and you will likely “purge out a lot of mold, candita, and parasites,” says Todd.
It Targets Physical and Emotional Conditions: Through the cleansing process, Kambo ceremonies help target a variety of physical and emotional conditions. “Kambo has an incredible cleansing and detoxifying effect,” says Todd, adding that “it can help with chronic disease, autoimmune, anxiety, and depression.”
It Increases Clarity and Energy: While the post-ceremony effects might be different for everyone, Kambo can increase clarity and energy levels for extended periods of time after the ceremony. “There are certain peptides that stimulate the adrenal cortex and pituitary gland, which is going to boost your energy for long term,” says Todd. After the ceremony, Lauren and Katie experienced this biohacking side effect for themselves. “It was pretty wild just how energetic and clear I felt for weeks afterward,” says Lauren. “The next day, I definitely felt energized, inspired, and just really alive,” Katie adds.