“The fellow wrote back asking about the strength of Kambo, which is sapo by a different name, used by a couple of indigenous groups in Brazil. It’s my belief that their use of the medicine is very recent, within the last 10-15 years at best; gringos who have done the medicine with those groups swear that the’ve used it for hundreds of years. Remember though, that the first written account of anyone using sapo by any name was my 1986 report. And since the quite acculturated groups now using Kambo are alleged to have used it for a long time, it would be a surprise to me that no one who spent time with them would have mentioned it in the literature.
In any event, this was the follow up question and my follow up response:


Dear X: I have never done or seen a stick of Kambo. I know it’s sapo, and I’ve met a lot of people who’ve done it, but I’ve never seen a stick of it to personally compare strength. I will say that the people I’ve spoken with who have used it say they moisten it with water, not spit. That would prevent an awful lot of the peptides from becoming accessible in the blood stream and essentially leave them just sitting on the subcutaneous layer of skin rather than getting into the blood. It’s literally “watering it down.” And coincidentally to that, I’ve never met one of those people who have done kambo in a dozen or more “dots” at a sitting who could take more than two of my sapo burns. Nearly every one of those people to whom I’ve administered sapo in small doses of two burns, has asked “what did you give me? What is that?” so there is clearly a difference. One is the watering down, rather than spitting; the second might well be in the way the material is collected. But I wouldn’t know that until I saw some kambo sticks and tested them for strength. They might be fantastasic but just watered down; they might be weak from over collection of the frog’s material–a Matses hunter who depends on sapo will rarely fill a single stick with a frog’s material; those who sell sticks for a living tend to collect as much material as they can, sometimes two or even three sticks worth, from a single frog. Most of that material would be worthless–like snake venom beyond the initial venom released to kill its prey: The snake has more, but it’s not yet at near full strength. Or it could be a combination of both: Watering down the frog’s material and over-collecting it. But certainly no one could take 10 sapo burns–I saw one very experienced Mestizo person try it and we had to wipe it off within maybe 10 seconds. With sapo, three nice burns is a good cleansing; four is a bit piggish; more than that is just showing off unless you’re a Matses hunter. My opinion, of course, nothing more.”

—- Peter Gorman

Key Differences:

  • Sapo uses salivia to reliven the peptides in the frog medicine VS Kambo uses water which does not activate the medicine fully, resulting in a lighter application and need for 3-4 times as many burns.
  • Sapo uses tamishi vine for traditional burnapplications (LEFT) VS Kambo often much much smaller insense sticks (RIGHT) resulting in the need for 3-4 times as many burns as Sapo for similar results.
  • Sapo you show up with an empty stomach to allow for deeper purges and for the medicine to go where it needs VS Kambo drink 2-3 liters of water right before ceremony resulting in easier purging of water.
  • Sapo is traditionally applied to the shoulder/upper arm for best application to blood stream VSKambo applied to many diff chakra and meridian points – a mixture of Indian, Chinese, and new age beliefs.