Monday, January 06, 2014

Quick Sapo Note and then Another

Someone asked me this question about sapo and I answered. Here is the brief exchange.

Sapo question: Have you heard of people having reactions involving itching of the skin, particularly in the arms and neck? I was told to ask you. Thanks.
DEAR X: Not if the sapo was collected properly and dried properly. If it gets moise between initial drying and use, it can pick up a bacteria that is a sort of mottled bluish in color. I tend to toss any stick with that in the trash because it can cause rashes. So that might be the problem. In the jungle, sticks are generally placed in bags tied shut and placed on a cross beam or split bamboo sheath a few feet above the fire to keep them dry--and out of the reach of cockroaches, who can devour several sticks-worth of sapo in a few hours. Hope that helps.
Peter G

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:

Peter: Thanks for your expertise! Precisely what I wanted to know. The sapo was from someone in Iquitos I know somewhat well who said he got it from the Matses. I didn't see any blue coloring on it but sounds like there still may have been some bacterial growth. I noticed they sell sapo sticks online from a well known online store. Any idea if they are any good or trustworthy? Also, I've been told the Matses have the most powerful venom and the other tribes who call it by other names (kambo etc) use a more watered down version thus more points are used. Any truth to that?

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.

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