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Mystery Resolved: Frog Medicine from Phyllomedusa bicolor


It probably sounds like one of the weirdest things you will ever read. Although it is strange, frog venom with a healing effect exists, and today we will tell you more about it.

The valuable poisonous secretion of Phyllomedusa and the Ritual Kambô

First of all, it is important to clarify that the Kambo ritual (or Spo) is a type of voluntary poisoning. During this purifying ritual, a healer shaman from various South American countries deliberately burns a man's right shoulder with a hot stick of fire. Excretions from Phyllomedusa bicolor (the frog in question) are then applied to these fresh wounds. 

This ritual is used as a means of purifying the body, supposedly brings luck to hunters, increases endurance, physical and sexual strength. All peripheral and most of the central effects of secretion can be attributed to the extremely high content of active peptides, easily absorbed through the burned skin. [1] These peptides include: 

  • filinkeruline (hypotensive neuropeptide)
  • filometuzine (tahicinin, which excites neurons, causes behavioral reactions, constricts smooth muscles and is a powerful vasodilator and secretagogue)
  • filukin (induces relaxation of arterial smooth muscle by targeting bradykinin receptors)
  • dermorphins (opiate-like activity)
  • deltorfins (opioid-like activity)

As duly documented, after applying the poison within minutes, palpitations, sweating and nausea appear, which immediately lead to severe vomiting. After a few more minutes, the effects disappear, and it is important that the person receive water or tea to encourage the discharge of toxins and rehydration.  [ref. 1] 

Unfortunately, the beneficial effects have not been scientifically proven in randomized controlled trials, so it cannot be argued for sure whether they were induced by the poison or were placebo.

What do people use Kambo for?

Indigenous people from many countries in South America, including Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, French Guiana, have used Kambo over the centuries to treat and cleanse the body by strengthening its natural protection and preventing bad luck. 

Nowadays, shamans and practitioners of naturopathic methods apply it to cleanse the body of toxins, as well as to purportedly treat numerous health conditions. Despite the lack of research, Kambo supporters believe it can help in a number of conditions, including:

  • Addiction
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Anxiety
  • Cancer
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Hepatitis
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Infections
  • Infertility
  • Rheumatism

Are there any risks in a Kambo ritual?

Along with the intense and very unpleasant effects, which are considered a normal part of the ritual, the use of poison from Phyllomedusa bicolor for it is associated with several serious effects and complications.

Possible risks include:

  • Severe and prolonged vomiting and diarrhoea
  • Dehydration
  • Muscle spasms and cramps
  • Convulsions
  • Jaundice
  • Confusion
  • Scars 

There have also been reported cases of toxic hepatitis, as well as damage to the kidneys, pancreas and liver, which can be damaged by toxins.  [Ref. 2] 

Pregnant or nursing mothers, as well as children should not use Kambo!

Also, the use of this non-standard purification method is not recommended in the following health conditions:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • History of stroke or cerebral hemorrhage
  • Aneurysm
  • Blood clots
  • Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis
  • Low blood pressure
  • Epilepsy
  • Addison's disease  [ref. 3] 
  1. The valuable poisonous secretion of Phyllomedusa and the Ritual Kambô
  2. What do people use Kambo for?
  3. Are there any risks in a Kambo ritual?


The ritual use of frog venom by Phyllomedusa bicolor, or briefly "Kambo", is gaining popularity in North America and Europe despite the lack of scientific evidence. When trying to conduct the ritual, there are many risks, and the process itself can threaten the health of people in at-risk groups.


  1. Phyllomedusa bicolor skin secretion and the Kambô ritual - Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases
  2. Just a moment...
  3. Toxic hepatitis caused by the excretions of the Phyllomedusa bicolor frog – a case reportby the excretions of the Phyllomedusa bicolor frog – a case report

The author

Bettina Tsvetkova is a Bachelor of Marketing and Master of Entrepreneurship, a fan of healthy eating, power sports and cycling. Author of over 1500 scientifically based articles, product texts and promotional materials on a healthy topic for Bulgarian and foreign websites.

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