Like many nervous first-timers, Kambo participants often may wonder, Has anyone died from Kambo? Is this really safe? The short answer is, Yes. There have been several reported deaths associated with Kambo. It’s not always clear if Kambo is the cause of death. Deaths associated with Kambo are often attributed to practitioner error or negligence and usually are considered to be avoidable accidents.
One case describes a 42-year old man who had unknown heart disease at the time of receiving Kambo.
In 2019, an Australian women died after receiving Kambo. There is debate about the cause of her death. Articles report that she died of cardiac arrest, while other sources say she died of hyponatremia.
What causes Kambo deaths?
Most deaths associated with Kambo are caused by something called hyponatremia, which is when electrolyte levels become too low, and water intake too high. Hyponatremia is caused by excessive consumption of water, perhaps combined with low salt intake.
In 2016, a 30-year old polish woman died after receiving Kambo. She was observed to have severe electrolyte imbalances at the time of hospitalization, suggesting hyponatremia.
For this reason, it is good practice to consume salt and to not drink excessive amounts of water before your Kambo ceremony. Ask your practitioner what water-drinking protocols they have in place to keep you safe.
Other accidents related to Kambo can be attributed to improper medical screening for contraindications by the practitioner. While Kambo is likely safe for most people to receive, certain health conditions may not be safe for participation. A simple medical questionnaire and screening is an easy way to make sure someone is not receiving Kambo who is contraindicated.
Mixing Kambo with Ayahuasca or Bufo
Individuals who are on a specific no-salt diet preparing for an ayahuasca ceremony may be at an increased risk of hyponatremia. While it is quite common to do Kambo the day before, or even the day of an ayahuasca ceremony, a good amount of deaths and hospitalizations occur when people are combining these two substances. Avoid Kambo 3 days before or after an ayahuasca ceremony to be safe. If you insist on consuming ayahuasca and Kambo in close proximity, please consider NOT abstaining from salt, and adding some sea salt to your water to reduce the risk of hyponatremia.
There have also been numerous reports of people doing Kambo shortly after Bufo and having severe physical reactions. While it’s unclear if this reaction is deadly or not, individuals who recently did bufo/5-meo-DMT may undergo hours or even days of prolonged vomiting, “reactivations” and other physically and psychologically challenging symptoms.
By estimation there may be up to 2,000 Kambo practitioners worldwide, administering an estimated 100,000 sessions per year worldwide. It’s unclear exactly how many deaths have been associated with Kambo due to poor documentation, but it is likely somewhere close to 20 over a span of 30+ years of Kambo use in the west. With hundreds of thousands, if not millions of applications, the death rate pails in comparison to other activities such as driving a car, taking prescription medications, and suicide.