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Toxicon. 1993 Sep;31(9):1099-111.

Pharmacological studies of 'sapo' from the frog Phyllomedusa bicolor skin: a drug used by the Peruvian Matses Indians in shamanic hunting practices.

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Institute of Medical Pharmacology III, University of Rome La Sapienza, Italy.


The dried skin secretion from Phyllomedusa bicolor, 'sapo', is used by the Matses Indians of the Northern Peru, in shamanic rites mainly designed to improve luck in hunting. When rubbed into burned, exposed areas of the skin, the drug causes the prompt appearance of violent peripheral gastrointestinal and cardiovascular effects soon followed by remarkable central effects (increase in physical strength, heightening of senses, resistance to hunger and thirst, exalted capacity to face stress situations). All the peripheral and most of the central effects of 'sapo' can be ascribed to the exceptionally high content of the drug (up to 7% of its weight) in potently active peptides, easily absorbed through the burned, inflamed areas of the skin. The concentration in 'sapo' of the single peptides (phyllocaerulein, phyllomedusin, phyllokinin, demorphins and deltorphins) has been determined by bioassay, and peptide contents were correlated with the different symptoms of the 'sapo' intoxication.

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