There have been four high-profile deaths linked with kambo in Western ceremonies, and probably more that have not gone reported. In 2021 the Therapeutic Goods Administration of Australia banned the use of Kambo in Australia and classified it as a schedule 10 poison. It is listed in the category for “substances of such danger to health as to warrant prohibition of sale, supply and use”.
Those that feel icky usually have a higher toxin load than others, so it’s important to listen to your body and address what is needed, if possible. Kambo is a very deep cleanse and it’s very important to be present with your experience when interacting. If you are looking for a kambo ceremony, search for an educated and responsible facilitator who will take your safety and wellbeing as a priority. This will not only maximize the chances of you having a positive experience, but will also raise standards of kambo facilitation and help the medicine become available to all.
Interest spiked again in the 1990s, presumably due to the Mexican government’s 1991 listing of peyote as an endangered species and the 1994 amendments to the American Indian Religious Freedom Act. Published mentions steadily decreased over the next decade or so, possibly because of the rising popularity of other psychedelics like LSD and psilocybin. The first non-natives to encounter peyote use in the Americas were probably Catholic missionaries and conquistadors during the 16th century. Spanish friar Bernardino de Sahagún, for instance, described a Huichol peyote ceremony held in the desert and estimated that such practices may have been at least 1,980 years old. More recently, with evidence from the Shumla Caves site in Texas, researchers have been able to date ceremonial peyote use to at least 5,700 years ago.
Unfortunately, some benefits may not last for longer than a few months after taking the substance. In the end, a safe facilitator has to be someone who is willing to answer your questions, and who you feel comfortable with. They should take your wellbeing as a priority, and be honest with you about the risks and how they will work to minimize them. Even modern qualifications, such as those offered by the IAKP, do not necessarily confer trustworthiness with a medicine we know so little about.
The Tarahumara, for example, have used it for long-distance endurance foot races and as a topical treatment for wounds, burns, and painful joints. Among the Huichol, it has also been used by pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Peyote only grows naturally in Northern Mexico and small areas in South and West Texas. It’s also a slow-growing cactus, taking more than 10 years to mature from seed. Add to the mix the rampant and ongoing issues of unsustainable harvesting practices, the black market, and the prohibition of peyote cultivation, and what you get is a rapidly declining population lacking the ability to replenish.
In April 2019, a homicide investigation was opened into the death by “severe cerebral edema” of a young person who had taken kambo toxins in Chile; the import of the frog and its secretions is illegal in Chile. In October 2021, Australian man Jarred Antonovich died at a festival in New South Wales from a perforated oesophagus suspected to be caused by excessive vomiting after being administered kambo and n,n-dimethyltriptamine. After a car accident in 1997 from which he had to learn to walk and talk again, he was left with lasting impediments, the inquest heard, which may have contributed to the esophageal rupture. Mescaline can be detected in the urine for one to four days after use, but it’s not included in either standard or extended drug screens. Virtually all labs require a specific test for the substance, so unless your employer is a real stickler and worried that you’ve been spending your free time at peyote ceremonies, you should be fine. This shortage of peyote endangers native traditions that have been in practice for generations.
In modern times, self-experimenters around the world are reporting a much wider range of benefits, including personal insights, mood enhancement, increased empathy and creativity, lifestyle changes, and even lucid dreams. Mescaline could also help reduce suicidal thoughts, according to researchers at the University of Alabama. Using data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, the researchers found that people who have used a psychedelic drug at least once in their life show lower rates of suicidal thinking. Some researchers have found that the antidepressant benefits of mescaline correlate to a subjects’ willingness to engage with the experience, to face themselves and to act upon the insights received. In one mid-century study, some of the most significant transformations or breakthroughs came about months after the experience itself, even if the initial psychedelic therapy session seemed to be a failure.
Kambo is a secretion of the Phyllomedusa bicolor tree frog, also known as the giant leaf frog. The kambo secretion is collected by causing the frog stress and then scraping the milky substance from its back. The Australian Medical Association supports the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administrations ban on the sale, supply, and use of kambo, saying it considers kambo to be a “significant health risk”.
Read more about Kambo training in the Amazon here.
How to Self-Administer Sacred Amazonian Hapé Medicine – Step by Step
There have been cases of liver toxicity, seizures, psychosis, and prolonged vomiting after kambo use . The secretion is then applied to small burns on the skin, to allow it to enter the bloodstream. Usually people will vomit or defecate within the first few minutes, and the nausea and disorientation will continue for some time afterwards. Traditional practitioners claim that it aids fertility, cleanses the body and soul, increases strength, and brings good luck to hunts, though there is no evidence for these claims. It is used by natives to who attempt to expel “panema” and to induce abortions. The secretions are also commonly used in people who suffer from laziness, a condition perceived as unfavorable by the Noke Kuin as the person stops participating socially. Pomada de peyote in English basically means “peyote gel.” This Mexican peyote cream or ointment, which also contains marijuana, is sold as a remedy for aches and pains, cramps, coughs, angina, and other conditions.
In Canada, although extracted mescaline is illegal, fresh peyote and other mescaline-containing cacti are specifically exempt from scheduling. Peyote is also a Schedule I substance in Mexico, where harvesting the plant from the wild is controlled due to peyote’s endangered status. Surprisingly—and rather promisingly for such a powerful psychedelic—the legality of peyote is often ambiguous. In fact, studies suggest that mescaline may increase blood flow and activity in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain in charge of planning, problem-solving, emotional regulation, and behavior. It is hard to be precise, however, due to the varying levels of mescaline in any given peyote button. Growing location and season of harvest can also affect their potency, as can age—older peyote tends to be more potent. If you’re now interested in learning how to administer a soplada of hapé to someone else, check out our step-by-step guide here.