Kambo – Breakfast of Champions?

Kambo – Breakfast of Champions?

Eating and licking frogs and toads is nothing new. The skin and secretions of amphibians in the Bufonidae genus (about 150 species) contain all sorts of psychoactive compounds like 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin which are both hallucinogenic tryptamines and serotonin agonists and can induce all sorts of altered states.  People that lick the toads or eat the skin generally do it to get high – people report a total-body flushing sensation and pretty powerful visual and auditory hallucinations. So if you can overcome your revulsion at French-kissing a slimy creature that lives in a swamp and sleeps in crocodile crap, you can afford yourself a cheap, temporary trip to the other side. Unless you overdose on the toad secretion and your heart stops – the bufotoxin is chemically related to digitalis, a cardiotoxic steroid with powerful effects on the myocardium – the heart muscle – to slow it down, create total heart block, drop your blood pressure and kill you. 

This is a first-person account of the ingestion of kambo, a drug made from the secretions of an Amazonian tree frog. The user is ingesting the frog secretion in an attempt to self-medicate for depression. Interestingly, kambo is being touted for use in treatment of a variety of mental illnesses including drug and alcohol addiction. There is obviously a great deal of non-science going on here. People are exposing themselves to the frog “venom” in a variety of ways including smoking it, ingesting it orally or burning holes in their skin (the holes are called “gates”) and applying the kambo to the burns. The burns are clearly part of some ritualistic practice:


The collection of the frog secretions is terribly undignified:


So can burning holes in your skin and rubbing gooey frog sweat cure your drug addiction and alcoholism? I doubt it. It can probably make you hallucinate and possibly stop your heart from beating. I really don’t recommend it, Rangers. 




Written by Poison Boy

Gerry O'Malley (a.k.a Poison Boy) is a board certified ER doctor and toxicologist with a interest in the unusual, terrifying and occasionally hilarious world of poisonings and toxicology. This site is an exploration of poisons of historical interest as well as in current events and pop culture.

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