Saturday, December 03, 2016

Sapo/Kambo Frog Medicine Collecting

So on a forum to which I occasionally post, one thread has been discussing sapo/kambo, the medicine extracted from the Phylomedusa Bicolor tree frog that is such a great body cleanser. And one person wrote a long entry on the pain the frogs must suffer when they are tied up and stretched out between four little posts and sticks are rubbed along their bodies to collect the secretions which are the medicine. She wondered if the fear caused by the collecting process meant it was something we humans ought not to do--the fear creating an imbalance in the general universal harmony.
    Well, given that this is a topic I deal with a great deal, I weighed in with my two cents. Here's what I wrote:
Hello. In my experience, which is tons with this medicine, certainly the frogs are inconvenienced and probably scared to death for a few minutes while the medicine collecting is done. But then they are released. While they are tied up like green trampolines, the chambira fibers generally used to hold them leave marks around their wrists and ankles. The frogs are not collected again until there is no trace of those markings--which can be up to two weeks. In areas where there are large numbers of the P Bicolor frogs, some frogs are probably never caught.
   According to the Matses/Mayoruna who introduced me to the medicine in 1986, the story goes that they were going to eat the frogs but that the frogs suggested that their medicine would be better for the hunters than eating them would be. So they began to collect the medicine. And yes, it was much more valuable than the two ounces of meat (or so) they would have gotten in a soup would have been.
   In all likelihood, the Matses and other indigenous groups who utilize sapo or kambo collected the frog to eat when there was no bigger game around and the frightened frogs gave off their "venom" which went into cuts the hunters had on their hands and they quickly learned about the medicine that way. It's about 15 seconds from application (intentional or not) to effect, so the indigenous would have no trouble identifying what caused their initial sickness and subsequent strength and clarity. (As a result, all good collectors of the P Bicolor collect the frog by cutting off a section of the branch the frog is on and bringing that, with the frog, back to camp so that the frog is not disturbed and does not give off its initial, and most powerful medicine in the collection process.)
   While the medicine has a diminished value for indigenous groups that no longer depend on hunting, it remains valuable for breaking a fever, general well-being, and several other things. In my experience among people who depended heavily on the frog medicine for an extra edge while hunting daily, the frog was always held in high esteem. I never saw one injured, hurt, or abused beyond the abuse of the collecting of the secretions. I imagine that holds true among all groups that utilize the medicine.
   And I'll bet if the frogs could talk they would say that while they hate being caught and tied up, they much prefer it to being boiled in soup.

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