The Origins of Kambo


The Origins of Kambo

Kambo has been used by several tribes for thousands of years, and many stories and legends exist as to how each tribe came to use this medicine. The most widespread story comes from the Kaxinawá tribe of Brazil. It is told that the tribe had fallen very ill. The medicine man (Pajé in Portuguese), after unsuccessfully trying all the medicinal plants to help his people, in desperation he entered the forest under the influence of a sacred plant medicine where he was visited by a female spirit bearing a frog in her hands. She showed him how to carefully remove the white substance from its back and taught him how to apply it. When he returned to his people, he did as she had instructed him, and his tribe regained their health. From that time forward he was known as Pajé Kampu or Kampum. Upon his death he lived on in the frog to maintain the health of those that protected the forest. This is how the secretion became known as Kambo, although other tribes refer to it as Sapo, Dow-Kiet, Kampu, or Vacina da Floresta.

In 1925, Father Constantin Tastevin, a French priest, was the first outsider to observe Kambo while staying with the Kaxinawá of Brazil. In the 1980's Katherine Milton, an American anthropologist gave accounts regarding the use of Kambo while with the Mayoruna, a tribe also from Brazil. Peter Gorman, the first person to gain access to the medicinal knowledge of the Matses of Peru, began to write about his experiences in the 1980's.

The rubber tappers in Brazil came to know about Kambo from the Amazonian Indians in the 1990's and took it out into the towns of Acre and began applying it themselves. Francisco Gomes from Cruzeiro do Sol, who lived with the Katukina for many years and is one of the first to initiate the use of Kambo outside of the Amazon. Before long, others began to give Kambo to people in the larger cities of Brazil.

As of 2004, the Agência Nacional de Vigilância Sanitária (ANVISA) in Brazil prohibits any advertising that makes claims of any medicinal or therapeutic benefits of Kambo. This was the response of the Brazilian government to the representation made by the Katukine people with regard to intellectual property rights. Other than this restriction, Kambo is legal everywhere in the world.