Silicon Valley tech executives have been experimenting with kambo, a type of frog mucus indigenous Amazonian people have used for centuries to detox themselves mentally and physically.
When a person takes kambo and essentially poisons themselves, their face will swell up and they'll either vomit or have diarrhea. Afterwards, users have reported increased strength, mental clarity, and calmness.
Trained practitioners give kambo, but it does come with risks. If a person drinks too much water and lowers their blood salt levels, it could lead to death.
Silicon Valley elites are employing an ancient Amazonian frog-mucus ritual to rid themselves of stress.
The practice, called kambo, involves burning the skin with a smoldering vine or wooden stick and then smearing frog mucus on top so it absorbs into the bloodstream for its poisonous and vomit-inducing properties. This ritual, as kambo expert practitioners told the New York Times, is meant to cause a physical and mental exorcism of sorts.
Practitioners apply a paste made from kambo resin mixed with water or saliva to pencil eraser-sized burn holes in the arm or ankle. Moments later, users' lips swell up, they feel nauseous, and often end up with diarrhea and vomiting.
Afterwards, users have reported feeling physically stronger, more mentally sharp, and less anxious.
It's the latest drug to become popular in tech industry circles due to its potential mental health benefits.
"Last year, none of my patients had ever heard of kambo," Dr. David Rabin, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist in Monterey, California, told the New York Times. "Now, I would say 20% to 30% of my new patients already know about it. I have a lot of patients who are like, 'Oh, I'm going to do kambo this weekend.'"
Previously, Silicon Valley executives have both invested in and experimented with psychedelics like LSD, ayahuasca, ketamine, and MDMA as a mounting body of research suggests psychedelic drugs have the ability to rewire the brain and reduce anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms.
Kambo has ancient roots and comes from frog mucus
Kambo is a poison derived from the giant monkey frog in the Amazon Jungle in South America.
The bright green frogs secrete a poison on their legs and back when stressed, and that poison is scraped off and dried for human use, according to psychedelics education and advocacy organization The Third Wave.
Before the drug became popularized in the Western world around 1994, indigenous Amazonian people used kambo for centuries as a way to ward off disease and offer spiritual and full-body detoxification.
Now, practitioners around the world offer kambo sessions in group settings. In San Francisco, the kambo curious can try the drug for $150, the New York Times reported. On the outskirts of London, one practitioner offers five-person sessions for $85 per person, Vice reported.
Right after taking kambo, you'll vomit or poop
When you take kambo you're poisoning yourself, and the effects - swelling of the lips and eyes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, increased heart rate, fever, faintness, and chills - are almost immediate.
"They call it 'frog face,'" Julia Allison, a media strategist in San Francisco, told the New York Times. "It kind of looks like a celebrity plastic surgeon went to town on your face, like Kim Kardashian in a fun-house mirror. And then, suddenly, you are unbelievably nauseous. You're basically going from zero to the worst flu of your life within 60 seconds."
Another user, Emma, told Vice's Max Daly that kambo made her feel "like my brain was being punched from the inside."
These effects are short-lived though, and tend to subside about 40 minutes later once practitioners remove kambo from the skin. After a kambo session, people tend to feel tired and might fall asleep.
Kambo users have reported increased energy and physical strength
Hours or days later, users start to experience the benefits, and people have reported increased physical strength and stamina, mental sharpness, and less anxiety.
Kambo hasn't been studied as much as psychedelic drugs like "magic" mushrooms, or psilocybin, LSD, ketamine, and MDMA, but researchers believe the poison could offer similar benefits because it shocks a user's system.
"Kambo is not scientifically proven for treatment, but I would not be at all surprised if kambo worked well in cases of depression, because there are so many substances in it that affect the brain," Chris Shaw, an emeritus professor at the School of Pharmacy at Queen's University, Belfast, and a global expert on the study of frog skin secretions, told Vice. "Taking kambo leads to a massive rearrangement and overload of the nervous system; it changes our neurochemistry."
Indeed, kambo interacts with the brain's opioid receptors that change a person's "mental state," Harry Sumnall, a professor in substance use at the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University, told Vice.
Using kambo comes with risks
There are risks associated with using kambo.
There's also one reported case of a man dying suddenly after likely self-administering the drug. That's why experts recommend people thoroughly vet and hire trained practitioners when taking the drug.
The small wounds created to administer kambo through the skin can also lead to scarring as they heal.
According to Psychedelic Times, people with brain injuries, heart conditions, pregnancies, and low blood pressure should avoid using kambo.
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