The International Association of Kambo Practitioners (IAKP) has reacted strongly to last week’s Echo story, saying that the ceremonies and practices described by author Heidi Greaves ‘are not taught by us or used by our practitioners.’
As Greaves’s story explained, a Kambo ceremony is where a secretion of the South American tree frog is extracted, dried and administered to shallow burns on those seeking to lift ‘panema’, an indigenous word for dark or negative energy. The tradition is also used by Amazonian tribes to heighten senses when hunting and as a remedy for numerous ills.
Greaves explained that when signing up for the ceremony, she was asked a few basic questions on physical and mental health, yet was not asked for her full medical history. ‘The life change I was hoping to trigger has not yet manifested,’ she added.
And while claiming her Kambo practitioners were ‘lovely people’, she was critical of them as facilitators. She wrote, ‘I feel it was no fault of their own, but something that needs to be addressed by IAKP through more guidelines and training.’
Greaves also questioned how the ceremony can be conducted without harming the frog.
A representative of the IAKP, which is a not-for-profit foundation based in the Netherlands, told The Echo, ‘In this case, we have not been able to confirm that Greaves attended a ceremony with one of our practitioners and we do not believe it to be the case. Had she truly thought that she was dealing with one of our practitioners, then a quick email to us could have confirmed that.
‘We hold ourselves accountable, and we have a full and open complaints procedure if she or anyone else had any genuine issue with one of our people. The IAKP can only lay down the guidelines. We cannot watch every practitioner in every moment so we are happy for people to contact us if they have concerns about our members. Unfortunately, we cannot deal with complaints or feedback regarding practitioners who are not members of our association. Greaves has completely misinterpreted our organisation in this sense.’
IAKP’s Sophie Perkins said the article was ‘clearly a blatant attempt to discredit Kambo and the IAKP.’
‘Our practitioners are thoroughly trained to screen clients for contraindications, medications and sensitivity and a test point is used on first treatment. All our practitioners are trained in first-aid skills and follow very strict safety guidelines. Groups the size that Greaves describes would require multiple practitioners or several assistants to keep everyone safe and properly cared for.’
Perkins added, ‘You cannot “register” with our organisation; you have to be trained by us and maintain your practice within our strict code of practice to remain registered with us. Any practitioner who trained with us but who does not follow our code of practice will either be retrained or have their membership terminated. Our website lists all our practitioners around the world; if in doubt, please write to us.
‘Our code of practice lays down guidelines for the safe and responsible use of Kambo. The impeccable behaviour and thorough training of our practitioners and the way they work gives security and confidence to users. We advise people to check out a practitioner’s credentials and if you’re not 100 per cent happy with them then think twice before allowing them to give you Kambo.
‘The IAKP is self-regulating and is working hard to raise the bar with training, professional working practices, safety guidelines and more. With almost 300 trained practitioners around the world, we are continually expanding our knowledge and understanding of Kambo.’
As the largest body of Kambo practitioners in the world, the IAKP say they ‘work to support the ethical production of Kambo, which enables native people to stay in their forest homes and protect the upper Amazon from logging, oil and gas exploration.’
‘They are the guardians of the forest and once they are gone the forest is vulnerable to exploitation. Our work supports sustainable communities who in turn maintain the delicate balance of the great rainforest. Kambo frogs are in no way endangered or at risk from anything other than the destruction of their habitat.’
In terms of harvesting, Sophie explained that ‘the overwhelming majority of native people treat the frogs with great care and respect. Firstly because they believe that to do otherwise would anger the animal spirits and secondly because it would not be in their interest to harm such an important and valuable source of medicine for them. As human beings, there will always be the occasional person who does not follow traditions 100 per cent, but the IAKP is fastidious about ensuring that the Kambo we use is properly harvested by people we know and trust. The manner in which it is harvested is to protect the frog from harm during harvesting and, when done properly, the frog is treated with utmost care and kindness. While not everyone will approve of Kambo, using animal secretions as medicine has a long history in the Amazon. Most people see it as no different from eating honey, eggs or drinking, cow, goat or sheep milk so if you are fully vegan, then it may not be for you. It’s personal choice.
‘One of our best-selling blood-pressure and heart medications is derived from a peptide found in the venom of the Brazilian Lancehead Viper, which illustrates the importance of these ancient practices.
‘Had the author done any form of research, she would have discovered that there is a mass of evidence to support the function and effects of the individual peptides within Kambo. Over 800 scholarly articles and research projects exist dating back to the mid 1980s.’
And while IAKP’s website states there have been a small number of deaths after using Kambo, they explain that this has been either malpractice or the result of native people not understanding western health conditions. They believe that ‘Kambo is 100 per cent safe in the right hands’
‘We have tens of thousands of clients around the world whose lives have been transformed by Kambo.
‘Sometimes that transformation takes weeks or months to show up and sometimes it comes in ways we least expect. We believe that Kambo has an important role to play for humanity so we will continue to support the tribes and the rainforest and encourage safe practice, responsibility and research into this amazing substance.’