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They “treated themselves” with the secretion of a frog. Two people died during a kambo ritual

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Hearings are pending before a court in New South Wales to clarify the circumstances of the deaths of two Australians. Natasha Lechner was to die of an “acute cardiac incident”, Jarrad Antonovich – from the consequences caused by severe vomiting. Both deaths occurred shortly after the toxic secretion of an Amazon frog was used during a kambo ritual.

Dramatic events took place in the northern region of the New South Wales, which is famous, among others, for its popular alternative therapies. The probable cause of death of Natasha Lechner was indicated as an “acute cardiac incident”, Jarrad Antonovich was supposed to die from the consequences caused by severe vomiting. The investigation into the circumstances of the deaths of the two people showed that they had participated in a kambo ritual.

What is the kambo ceremony?

Kambo – or sapo – is a waxy substance scraped from the skin of a live frog Phyllomedusa bicolor. This species can be found in in the Amazon Basin BrazilColombia Bolivia and Peru. The amphibian secretes a substance as a defense mechanism – to kill or warn animals that try to attack it.

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Removal of kambo secretion from an Amazon frogShutterstock

The indigenous people of South America have used kambo for centuries, believing it to protect against misfortune and improve hunting skills. Currently, it is a shamanic ritual that, according to its adherents, cleanses the body of toxins, restores mental clarity and cures many diseases. During the rite, small burns are formed on the skin of its participants, and the substance is applied to open wounds. This causes your blood pressure to rise, your heart to beat faster, and your body to cleanse itself through vomiting or bowel movements – and often both. Symptoms vary in severity, usually lasting up to half an hour.

As the BBC points out, there are no studies to support the claimed health benefits of the kambo ritual. Australian health regulators Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) banned its use in 2021. Kambo has been linked to deaths, seizures, liver failure, and heart attacks. It has been included in category 10, which means the highest possible classification of danger for drugs and chemicals.

SEE ALSO: Swelling, fainting, severe vomiting. What is the kambo ceremony?

Death of Natasha Lechner after the kambo ritual

Natasha Lechner held a kambo ceremony on March 8, 2019 at her home in Mullumbimby. Alternative treatments were to help the 39-year-old overcome chronic back pain.

Present at the ritual, Victoria Sinclair, who identified herself as a “holistic educator and therapist” during the trial, admitted that Lechner was her “client” and they had known each other for five years. They had practiced kambo “three or four times” before. This time the ceremony started around 10:00 in the morning. It was led by Lechner, who had just completed a kambo administration course.

Lechner first applied Victoria Sinclair’s kambo, having previously made three small burns with incense on her left calf and on her left ear. As Sinclair said during the inquest, she experienced a quick and strong reaction, including uterine contractions, which she said “were not necessarily normal”. She then administered the substance to Natasha Lechner, having previously made five burns on her body. “(Natasha) felt faint pretty quickly and lay down in a semi-recovery position,” Sinclair said. “Then she sat down, grabbed my arm, just looked at me and said, ‘This is not good. Then she passed out sitting up.

Sinclair described that Lechner spoke in a whisper before losing consciousness, her lips turned blue, her hands trembled, and her breathing became labored. She attempted CPR but had no phone or emergency services number to call for help. It wasn’t until roommate Lechner returned home that an ambulance was called. The ambulance report shows that the first call was made at 11:16 am and the ambulance arrived five minutes later. He was pronounced dead then. The cause was listed as an “acute cardiac event”.

Death of Jarrad Antonovich after the kambo ritual

Jarrad Antonovich was attending a six-day retreat in Kyogle, an hour inland from Byron Bay, when he applied kambo. He suffered from chronic diseases. Two decades earlier, he suffered a brain injury in a car accident that left him speechless and unable to move.

An inquest conducted last week showed that on the day of his death, October 16, 2021, the 46-year-old looked bad in the morning, after nine to ten hours he was unable to walk unaided, and his face and neck were “incredibly swollen”.

According to the findings of the investigators, in the evening he also took ayahuasca – another drug that, in addition to causing hallucinations, often causes severe vomiting. At 11:30 p.m., the man lost consciousness, which eventually prompted someone to call an ambulance.

Paramedics testified at the New South Wales Coroner’s Court that there was a “ceremony” going on when they arrived. A woman attending it accused them of interfering with Antonovich’s “aura” and tried to drive them out.

No one told the paramedics that Antonovich had used kambo or ayahuasca. Instead, it was suggested to them that he was suffering from an asthma attack. In fact, there was a rupture of the esophagus. Death was reported to be “due to the effects of severe vomiting.”

The families of the dead ask

The investigation into both deaths found that both Natasha Lechner and Jarrad Antonovich consciously turned to alternative therapies and accepted kambo voluntarily. However, the families of the deceased are asking if security was properly taken care of during the “ceremony”. Glen Antonovich, Jarrad’s father, told the inquest that “something doesn’t add up” and “still doesn’t fit.” He stressed that “there were no medical personnel on site, no risk mitigation.”

IN Australia there is debate over whether banning alternative therapies or drugs actually increases safety. Although ayahuasca has long been illegal and kambo was banned in 2021, “if there’s a demand for it, people still use it… and you have no insight into what’s going on, either benefit or harm,” he stressed in Daniel Perkins, head of the Medicinal Psychedelics Research Network in Melbourne, told the BBC.

SEE ALSO: The woman died after the workshop. Kambo investigation discontinued

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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