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Matses-Mayoruna Indians - Poison Frog - Phyllomedusa bicolor

Mayoruna Poison Frog Ceremony

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The Mayoruna (sometimes spelled Mayuruna) Indians of Brazil (usually called the Matsés in Peru, and not to be confused with the Matis) practice a unique native ceremony involving the use of the poison obtained from the skin of a frog.  Phyllomedusa bicolor, an arboreal dart frog commonly found in the canopy of the Amazonian rainforest, excretes a toxin from its skin that the Mayoruna inject into their bodies. Although the poison frog ceremony has probably been practiced for hundreds of years by the Mayoruna and Matis tribes, it is only recently that scientists have become aware of it and have begun to study the chemical components of the toxin and its effects on humans. While not as well-known as the hallucinogenic plant ayahuasca (Banisteriopsis caapi), some of the chemicals found in the poison frog toxin may prove of medicinal use with a number of brain malfunctions, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, and clinical depression.  According to some reports, experiments involving this toxin are opening up new areas of research involving brain functions. 

Why do the Mayorunas inject this frog poison into their bodies? The answer to this question is complex and you need to study the Mayoruna culture to understand their fascination with the toxin and the ritual. According to Steven Romanoff, this medicine is referred to by Panoan-speaking tribes (Mayoruna, Matis, and Marubo) as "hunting magic."  In their language, it is called "kampuc," "kampu" or "acate" while non-Panoans call it "kambo," and it has been referred to as "sapo" (Spanish for frog) in the popular press.


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