Mayoruna Poison Frog Mayoruna




Matses-Mayoruna Indians - Poison Frog - Phyllomedusa bicolor


he Mayoruna (sometimes spelled Mayuruna) Indians (also called the Matsés, not to be confused with the Matis) of Brazil and Peru practice a unique native ceremony involving the use of a 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 Matsés-Mayorunamay prove of medicinal use with a number of brain malfunctions, including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and clinical depression. Experiments involving this toxin are opening up new areas of research involving brain functions.

Why do the Mayoruna Indians inject this frog poison into their bodies? The answer to this question is complex and you need to study the Mayoruna culture to truly understand their fascination with the toxin and the ceremony. This poison dart frog is known by Panoan-speaking Indians (Mayoruna, Matis, Korubo, and Marubo) as “hunting magic.” The Mayoruna believe that the toxin increases ones endurance and strength, making them invincible hunters. Additionally, they give it to individuals that are perceived as lazy, believing it will make them better workers. Almost immediately after taking the poison, one experiences a rapid heartbeat, vomiting and incontinence, and later one enters a dream-like state. After awakening from a deep sleep, the Indians say one can hunt for long periods without feeling hungry or tired, and that their hunting arrows always hit their prey. Some have remarked that taking frog poison is similar to getting high, but in reverse. First you get a hangover (vomiting) and later you feel euphoria.

I first experienced this ceremony when I traveled with my Canadian friend Jason to the Yavarí Valley which occupies the frontier of Peru with Brazil. Jason and I visited a Mayoruna tribe maloca (long house) near thMatsés-Mayoruna Indian Man | Womane Yavarí River where we witnessed and participated in the ceremony. At the Mayoruna maloca we met Tchampicassi, a beautiful teenage Mayoruna girl. Shortly after arriving I asked her to boil some water for us as we had run out of drinking water. While the water was being heated, she showed me some of the plants in her garden. She showed me a plant they call “Awaka” which she explained they use to kill fish. Next she showed me a poisonous plant that she said some Mayoruna women use to kill their husbands. Shortly after, she brought me the boiled water. The water was muddy and murky, and after viewing the collection of poisonous plants in her garden, I just couldn’t bring myself to drink it and went the whole day without water.

Matsés-Mayoruna Indians - Poison Frog CeremonyTchampicassi is a natural blonde, which is not unusual among the Mayoruna. It seems that until recently, the Mayoruna kidnapped white women and integrated them into their tribe. Using my camcorder mounted on a tripod, I filmed Tchampicassi injecting frog poison for the first time in her life. At the beginning of the ceremony, she was cheerful and laughing. I watched as her mother used a stick from a fire to burn two points on her abdomen. Next the frog poison mixed with human saliva (to activate it) was applied to the wounds. Within a few minutes, the formerly bubbly teenager, drifted-off into another world. To truly appreciate how frog poison is used by indigenous Amazonians, you need to view my Matis videos that are 
available on DVD and instant download.

My friend Jason also participated in the ceremony. First he drank a type of chicha that was bright orange. Next he snorted a tobacco mixture (nu-nu) that was blown into his nose by one of the Mayoruna. Three small points were burned on his arm. After peeling off the outer skin layer, the poison frog mixture was applied. Within several minutes his heart rate accelerated and his body and mind responded to the toxin in a manner that could only be described as intense. Although not hallucinogenic in the sense that LSD or ayahuasca is, my friend experience a dream-like state and later euphoria. Jason said that his perception of the world changed and he would never see things the same after this experience.

Matsés-Mayoruna Indian GirlLater that night, I remember one of our group teasing Jason that the frog toxin was changing him and that his face was beginning to resemble a frog. Cheerful and cordial as always, Jason smiled and winked at me and I could see that our friend that had made the comment had missed something; my friend Jason had dared to explore a world few outsiders ever see – not the realm of the frog, but the world of the Mayoruna.

If you would like to learn how you can meet the Matsés-Mayoruna and find out how you can help them preserve their culture, please contact me at Extraordinary videos of the Matis tribe are available.   Additionally, if you are interested in authentic Matsés bows and arrows, hammocks or other crafts, please contact


For more information about the Matsés-Mayoruna Indians, please visit  In addition, please view the documentary films of my expeditions to the Matis Indians which are available on video


The author, Dr. Dan James Pantone, is the editor of Amazon-Indians and an ecologist currently working with the Movement in the Amazon for Tribal Subsistence and Economic Sustainability (MATSES), a nonprofit association that is helping indigenous people so that they themselves can preserve their culture and lands in a sustainable and independent manner.  


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