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A close up of the Phyllomedusa bicolor (giant leaf or monkey frog) native to the Amazonian basin, which secretes the Kambo medicine used by Rhonda Smith on her trip to the jungles of Peru. Photo submitted

From Peru to Portola: The Kambo experience

Smith and the Kambo frog regard each other serenely from the depths of the Amazonian jungle.

Rhonda Smith is a Portola native, born and raised through graduation at Portola High School, as a second-generation Plumas County native.

After leaving the area for about 20 years to follow a career path that led through corporations such as JP Morgan and Bank of America in Las Vegas; Orlando, Florida; Chicago, Illinois; and Boston, Massachusetts, Smith began to experience, as she put it, “some upheaval in her life” in 2006 when she returned to the Bay Area.

“This upheaval in my life led me on the path to face myself and to find healing in my life. This was my path to become my own healer. I was suffering with incredible anxiety, severe addiction and depression,” Smith went on.

“I ended up ultimately finding immense healing through the use of plant medicine and Kambo Treatment. The healing was so profound that I knew I wanted to support others in finding healing in their own life, so I become a practitioner of Kambo.”

What is Kambo?

But what exactly is Kambo, many may wonder.

Smith summed it up in a few choice words, saying, “Kambo is health and life.” Kambo is a Peruvian treatment that comes from the skin secretions of the Phyllomedusa bicolor (giant leaf or monkey frog) native to the Amazonian basin.

“In the Amazon, Kambo is a staple in the medicine cabinet, very commonly used for a wide variety of health complaints such as the common cold, allergies and detoxification — not only spiritually but also physically, mentally and emotionally. The belief in this indigenous culture is that to heal, one must get toxins out of the body,” Smith articulated.

After much research, Smith decided to go beyond the books and travel to the depths of the Peruvian jungle for herself to become a Kambo practitioner with a group of nine others.

“It was my first time in Peru,” Smith smiled. “I traveled to Iquitos, Peru, where you only can get there by boat or plane, because there are no roads. It is one of the largest cities in the world that cannot be accessed by roads.”

The travelers in Smith’s group stayed at a place whimsically titled the Ecommunity Aroiris and, according to Smith, the community grows most of its own food and is very self-sustained, with people that travel through and share medicine and teachings.

“They are really LIVING the change that we wish to see!” Smith exclaimed passionately.

The Amazon was a whole new world for Smith. ““I felt like I was home,” she mused. “The energy of the jungle is very intense. When you land and open the plane door, this incredibly deep smell hits you that is very alive. There’s a slightly indescribable aroma of living, breathing jungle and an incredible, smoky wood smell.”

“There were so many giant butterflies, tarantulas, scorpions — many creatures in the jungle and it was humid and hot,” Smith described. “We bathed in the Amazon River, which is a deep, chocolate brown in color and very slow moving. It was definitely different to be so vulnerable in nature.”

Smith explained that prior to the Kambo experience, she was required to cleanse on what is known as a “dieta.” Her 7-day dieta (Kambo diet) meant no fats, salt, or sugars were to be consumed. “My diet was very limited and bland,” Smith laughed. “A key part of the dieta is cleaning to bond with the spirit of the frog.”

Catching the frogs

After the dieta, Smith then went on an expedition after dark into the jungle, a prospect that might make many hesitate. “A member of the Matsés tribe cut through the jungle, leading us to do calls that these frogs answered,” Smith said.

“Sometimes our guide would end up climbing 60 feet up a tree filled with snakes to collect the precious frogs. Once you got to them, they just come to you, however. You would just hold out a stick and the frog would climb right on and then we would place all of the caught frogs on a tree, where they would sit and stay.”

“Once caught and ready for the Kambo experience, the frogs would be harmlessly tied to sticks and they then secrete from their legs and a gland on their head. This is when the secretions are gently wiped onto a bamboo wooden splinter,” Smith explained, gesturing.

One of the simple huts at the Ecommunity Aroiris in Iquitos, Peru, which housed the Kambo practitioners during their experiences and certification process. Photos by Rhonda Smith

According to Smith, the Kambo can be stored upwards of a year without losing potency, and the secretion obtained from each frog is slightly unique, with females typically giving off more potency.

“Kambo has a range of potential therapeutic applications, both medical and psychospiritual,” Smith added. It takes the frogs about three months to make more of the medicinal secretions after being rubbed down.

Experiencing Kambo

Once extracted, the secretion dries on the stick or bamboo splinter to await application. Smith went on to describe her experience with the Peruvian treatment, saying, “The immediate effects of Kambo are intense and a bit unpleasant, but that phase lasts no more than 30 minutes. There are a variety of ways in which people react to Kambo — some feel heated or flushed in the face, some may have sweating or shivers, dizziness, and heart rate increase. Blood pressure may rise or fall, but usually drops. There is a burst of heat experienced, which then drops back down into the abdomen, where peptides start to evoke an intestinal purge.”

Kambo frog secretion has many peptides that are currently being researched worldwide for what Smith terms, “incredible medicinal properties.” Some of the areas of medical research have been in bringing healing to those who suffer from Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, with peptides also claimed to help kill some types of cancer cells, as well as a “great detox from chemotherapy” according to Smith.

“Kambo has been observed to support healing with a variety of conditions, including allergies, skin diseases, asthma, rheumatism and joint disorders, chronic pain and infections, malaria, diabetes, hepatitis, epilepsy, depression, addiction, disease prevention and many more. Kambo is not a magic pill, but accompanied by a healthy lifestyle and diet, it can support healing with many ailments,” she said.

Kambo is administered by first heating a piece of root, or tamachi, with a candle, before taking that root and tapping it against the skin to open the very top layer of the epidermis,” Smith went on to explain.

“While the burning is taking place, you are drinking two liters of water. The Kambo is then administered to the points or open skin, and then the process begins.”

Smith said, “About two or three minutes in, this is typically followed by nausea, purging and voiding. There might be a feeling of pressure in the head, neck or torso and at different times, I felt these things. This is followed by rest time to recuperate, which can be from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the person.”

Smith said that often, after a Kambo experience, people feel great physical strength, a kind of “lightness,” sharpened senses and heightened mental alertness. Normally the secretion stays on the skin for 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the individual’s experience. Smith had a small dose of the secretion rest on her skin for an hour, to work through what she termed as “deep depression,” and said with a serene smile, “It was well worth the experience. I felt amazing afterwards.”

After Kambo

Smith went on to describe the integration that takes place in the hours, days and weeks after the experience. “It all depends on the level of work that individuals have done within themselves. Spending more time in nature allows you to process the experience alone and when you do that, Kambo is teaching you.

“The Kambo frog has no natural predators in the jungle,” Smith went on. “We take on the spirit of Kambo and bring that energy into our own lives. Changes are profound and lifelong, if you’re willing to make the necessary adjustments in behavior or lifestyle patterns.”

Smith said that it is important to keep the body clean — really, it is considered essential. “Set an intention about the healing that you want to bring, because it is incredible what happens when you’re clear about your intentions,” Smith enthused. “My goals were more spiritual. My experience was profound, and it is hard to find the words to describe the experience. There are a lot of infinite possibilities in the exploration of Kambo, if we can be open to the idea of healing with Kambo.”

“It is so important for me to be able to bring sacred and spiritual healing back to this community, my home,” Smith said. “It’s amazing to be able to help educate and support alternative healing modalities. The healing isn’t always about a physical ailment, it can bring healing internally as well- addressing issues such as codependency, addiction, depression, bringing in boundaries — there is a lot going on with this treatment spiritually.”

Sharing the experience

Smith now travels, sharing Kambo with any that ask. “I can come to your home and do this,” Smith exclaimed. “Thus far, I have traveled and administered Kambo in the U.S., Canada and Peru. When people ask what I hear from those who have tried Kambo, ‘profound’ is the word that I hear most, and it was especially so when I was practicing in Edmonton, Canada. There were 11 people there that were experiencing things such as depression, chronic sleep issues, weight issues and more.”

Smith said education around this treatment is very important. “The ailments or things given to us in life are the doorway. The ‘dis-ease’ is a gift that helps us to step into healing, which helps us to heal the world,” she said. “Kambo isn’t for everyone, but for those who are ready, it can support healing in life. Truly, I feel that the only way out is through Kambo.”

Smith is available as a certified Kambo practitioner to those in the local area and says that her sessions are all about safe healing. She can be reached as Kambo Soul Medicina via email at [email protected] or by phone at 707-718-0708.

More information and educating on Kambo can be found at kambonaturista.com.

One thought on “From Peru to Portola: The Kambo experience

  • Great article!
    As someone relatively new to the Kambo experience, I’d welcome any advice or support in establishing a new natural medicine retreat, including welcoming guests, connecting with Shaman who can host workshops and ceremonies, or guest speakers.
    All expenses paid!

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