Deadly frog mucus used in shamanic rituals in Australia has been banned by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
In “Kambo” ceremonies, a participant’s skin is burned and scraped, and secretions from the South American giant leaf frog (or giant monkey frog) are rubbed into the wound. There is no medicinal benefit to Kambo and it can be fatal.
The TGA has classified it in the list of poisons in Annex 10, in the category of “substances presenting a danger to health as they justify the prohibition of sale, supply and use”.
He noted that Australians have adopted Kambo rituals from traditional indigenous ceremonies in South America.
“There have been reports of deaths from the use of Kambo in ceremonies, and as a result, it has been declared not to be safe for humans,” a spokesperson said.
“The use of Kambo is usually part of a ritual ceremony, involving a burn to the participant’s skin followed by direct application of the substance to the burned areas,” the spokesperson noted, adding that there had had “rare” deaths, as well as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, liver damage, stomach pain and other adverse effects.
There is no evidence of any medical benefit from Kambo, the TGA found.
NSW Police investigate death of local woman after cardiac arrest during a Kambo ceremony in 2019. Australian practitioners are listed on international “accreditation” sites and can be easily found online.
Guardian Australia has seen users claim, without proof, that this is a natural antibiotic and that “cleansing” with frog venom can strengthen and heal the spirit. Some present it as a “vaccine”. Videos of the ceremony often include a vision of people vomiting afterward.
In his submission, the Australian Medical Association backed the ban, saying it viewed Kambo as a “significant health risk.”
“In addition to its harmful effects, both intentional and unwanted, blistering the skin and applying Kambo to the burned area can lead to other health problems such as infection,” said WADA’s submission.
“There is also a risk that the use of Kambo will prevent a patient from seeing a doctor for their condition and delay the diagnosis.”
South Australia’s Health and Community Services Complaints Commissioner Associate Professor Grant Davies issued restraining orders in 2019 against an Australian couple trading as Two Wolves – One Body for having offered Kambo services.
Davies said their opinion was that the substance was “very dangerous to humans” and that he hoped the TGA ban would make people aware of the danger.
“In an age when people are more aware of the importance of good health care for their general well-being, it is dangerous to burn holes in the skin and scratch a toxic frog secretion in the wound to induce a “Cleaning,” he said.
While practitioners claim that the frog is not injured when Kambo is harvested, it must be stressed before it secretes the toxic mucus. This is done by stretching the frog or placing it near a fire.