Connected to the spirit of the frog: An Internet-based survey on Kambô, the secretion of the Amazonian Giant Maki Frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor): Motivations for use, settings and subjective experiences

J Psychopharmacol. 2021 Apr;35(4):421-436. doi: 10.1177/0269881121991554. Epub 2021 Mar 4.

Abstract

Background/aim: Kambô is a name for the secretion of the Giant Maki Frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor), which has been used by indigenous cultures from the Amazonas basin and has recently become popular in alternative healing circles in Western countries, with a certain overlap with psychedelic self-exploration.

Methods: We carried out an online-based survey in English (54.92%) and German investigating motivations for using Kambô, settings in which rituals take place, and subjective experiences during and after the application.

Results: Participants (n = 386, mean age: 38.08 years, (standard deviation = 9.95)) were well-educated individuals with an increased lifetime prevalence of the use of ayahuasca (67.88%). A plethora of motivations for using Kambô was reported, including general healing, detoxification and spiritual growth. Acute effects included severe physical reactions and mild psychoactive effects, most surprisingly, the feeling of being connected to the frog's spirit (41.97%), whereas predominantly positive persisting psychological effects were reported. Few participants reported long-lasting physical (2.85%) or mental (1.81%) health problems which they attributed to Kambô. Of the participants, 87.31% reported an increase in personal well-being or life satisfaction, and 64.26% considered Kambô to have been at least of 'very much' spiritual significance for their lives.

Conclusions: The majority of users claimed beneficial effects including more health-orientated behaviors, whereas only very few participants complained about new health problems which they ascribed to Kambô. In retrospect, Kambô was given a high personal and spiritual significance by many participants. Additional research is needed to determine in how far reported effects are modulated by setting and subjective expectations.

Keywords: Amazonas; Giant Maki Frog; Kambô; Phyllomedusa bicolor; Rapé; Sananga; Sapo; alternative medicine; ayahuasca; motivation; psychedelic.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Anura / metabolism*
  • Banisteriopsis
  • Biological Products / pharmacology
  • Bodily Secretions / chemistry*
  • Ceremonial Behavior*
  • Complementary Therapies / methods
  • Complex Mixtures / pharmacology*
  • Emotions / drug effects
  • Female
  • Hallucinogens / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motivation*
  • Neuropeptides / pharmacology*
  • Self Report
  • Spiritual Therapies / methods
  • Surveys and Questionnaires

Substances

  • Biological Products
  • Complex Mixtures
  • Hallucinogens
  • Neuropeptides
  • phyllomedusin