• Kambo is a poison used as a traditional medicine in purging or cleansing rituals.
  • There is a risk of serious adverse reactions, especially if kambo enters the bloodstream. 
  • Symptoms are strong and immediate and may include severe vomiting, dizziness, fainting and swollen lips or face. 
  • Kambo is not commonly used in Australia but is available from specific practitioners at certain ceremonies. 
  • Anyone using Kambo and experiencing these symptoms should seek urgent medical assistance.

What is kambo?

Kambo is a poison used as a traditional medicine in purging or cleansing rituals, primarily in South America. It is a waxy substance collected by scraping the skin of an Amazonian tree frog, Phyllomedusa bicolor. 

Kambo contains many different compounds, some of which have been identified as potentially toxic (poisonous) in very small amounts.

How and where is kambo used?

At a kambo ceremony (or kambo circle), the top layer of skin on the arm or leg is blistered in several places with a hot stick and small amounts of kambo are applied to the open wounds. 

Kambo is not commonly used in Australia but is available from specific practitioners at kambo ceremonies. Kambo ceremonies are usually advertised on social media.

What are the risks of using kambo?

The symptoms after kambo has been applied can be strong and immediate, and include:

  • severe vomiting
  • dizziness
  • fainting 
  • swollen lips or face.

Anyone using kambo and experiencing these symptoms needs urgent medical assistance. Call 000 for an ambulance or go to your nearest hospital emergency department.

There is a small risk of serious adverse (negative)side effects or reactions in some people, including seizures and death, especially if kambo accidently enters the bloodstream.

Kambo is not a registered medicine in Australia

Registered medicines in Australia must meet Australian manufacturing and safety standards. Kambo is not registered in Australia, so its safety and effectiveness cannot be guaranteed.  
Medicines purchased in other countries or on the internet may not be manufactured to Australian standards.
If you are thinking of using any complementary medicines, discuss the possible benefits and harms with your healthcare professionals before you start taking them.

Where to get help

  • In an emergency, call triple zero (000)
  • Your GP (doctor) 
  • Victorian Poisons Information Centre  Tel. 13 11 26 – 24 hours a day, seven days a week– for advice about poisonings, suspected poisonings, bites and stings, mistakes with medicines and poisoning prevention advice.

More information

Complementary and alternative care

The following content is displayed as Tabs. Once you have activated a link navigate to the end of the list to view its associated content. The activated link is defined as Active Tab

Alternative systems and therapies

Content Partner

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:

Last updated: January 2019

Content on this website is provided for information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not in any way endorse or support such therapy, service, product or treatment and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. The information and materials contained on this website are not intended to constitute a comprehensive guide concerning all aspects of the therapy, product or treatment described on the website. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions and to ascertain whether the particular therapy, service, product or treatment described on the website is suitable in their circumstances. The State of Victoria and the Department of Health & Human Services shall not bear any liability for reliance by any user on the materials contained on this website.