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Kambo (Phyllomedusa bicolor)

A tree frog known as kambo (Phyllomedusa bicolor) or Giant Monkey that inhabits the Amazon (mainly between Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Brazil) is traditionally used by some tribes, among which the Katukina, the Yawanahuá and the Cashinahuá have been mentioned.

It is used not only as a remedy against bad luck and as “hunting magic” but also as:

“…a powerful medicine against snakebite, malaria, yellow fever and other epidemic diseases.”

Lattanzi, G. (2013). Kambô: scientific research and healing treatments.

Indigenous use of kambo

The indigenous people scrape the skin of the live frog and apply it to self-inflicted burn wounds on the arms during rituals.

The first reaction is a very strong purge from which, after recovering, those who submit to this poison feel reinvigorated.

kambo (phyllomedusa bicolor)
Kambo (Phyllomedusa bicolor) or Giant Monkey Source: Photo by David J. Stang[CC BY-SA 4.0].

Medical potential of kambo

Some of the diseases that it is believed could be treated thanks to its bioactive peptides are:

“…depressions caused by Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, migraines, blood circulation problems, vascular insufficiencies, skin and eye problems, fertility problems in men and women, AIDS, epatitis and cancer among others.”

Lattanzi, G. (2013). Kambô: scientific research and healing treatments.

Peptides with similar anti-tumor properties are also found in another venomous anuran from the region. This is the case of the cane toad, the giant toad or rhinella marina species that invaded Australia under unusual circumstances.

Kambô (Phyllomedusa bicolor) or Giant Monkey Source: Photo by David J. Stang[CC BY-SA 4.0].

On the other hand, the use of kambo has become popular in Brazilian cities as “scientific medicine” and as “medicine of the soul” among the ayahuasca religions, who consider the substances secreted by these frogs as equivalent to the substances of a master plant such as the “kambo”. ayahuasca but from the animal kingdom. (Labate, 2015)

Rituals in Europe

In addition, these shamanic rituals with kambo have even reached Europe, according to information provided by a research work. (Agüero-Gonzales 2019) according to which a 30-year-old woman “suffered rapid and symptomatic severe hyponatremia” following her participation in a kambo purging ritual in Spain.


Agüero-González, Pané-Vila, Gil Víctor, Castro Pedro. 2019. Purification rituals with an Amazonian frog (Kambô): A dangerous reality in 21st century Europe. Vol. 31, No. 5 (2019) Scientific journal of the Spanish society of urgencies and emergencies.

Labate, B. C., & de Lima, E. C. Medicament or Shamanic Substance of Power: The Use of Kambô in Brazil. PDF

Lattanzi, G. (2013). Kambô: scientific research and healing treatments. PDF

Daly, J. W., Caceres, J., Moni, R. W., Gusovsky, F., Moos, M., Seamon, K. B., … & Myers, C. W. (1992). Frog secretions and hunting magic in the upper Amazon: identification of a peptide that interacts with an adenosine receptor. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 89(22), 10960-10963. pdf:

Prada, P. (2006). Poisonous tree frog could bring wealth to tribe in Brazilian Amazon. New York Times, 30.

Rodrigues, E., de FL Santos, J., Souza, S. M., & Lago, J. H. G. (2012). The mystery of the ‘resin-of-canuaru’: A medicine used by caboclos river-dwellers of the Amazon, Amazonas, Brazil. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 144(3), 806-808. PDF

Shinnick, P., Porter, L., Raichel, M., & Beato, L. Whole Person Self Healing: The Green Tara Medicine in the South American Amazon and Influences to North America. PDF

This post is also available in: Español (Spanish)