6 Ancient Rituals to Cleanse Yourself

BY Robyn Landau

Representation of the Kambo ritual with a knife touching a piece of wood with frog poison.


Practising rituals can be a great way to symbolically turn the page of a new chapter for yourself. Whether this means a reset, cleanse, or new ritual to keep you feeling grounded and level on a consistent basis, it’s about finding the right rhythm for yourself. One that keeps you feeling healthy in the broadest sense of the term.

This might mean purging your body, sticking needles in your skin, or inhaling shamanic tobacco up your nose. We’re all different, and health means multiple things to multiple people and cultures. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to feeling good, so we’ve put together some seasonally-specific ancient practices to help boost your immune systems and mental states of being in the months ahead.

Six Ancient Rituals to Cleanse Yourself
Frog poison collected on a bamboo stick for the Kambo Ritual

Kambo - The Ancient Frog to Cleanse The Body

Kambo (or Sapo), is the secretion of a specific Amazon tree frog (Phyllomedusa bicolor) used in a cleansing ceremony by indigenous tribes in South America. And while many might be familiar with the deep transcendental experiences of Ayahuasca or DMT, Kambo has no psychoactive properties, meaning there are no hallucinations. Instead of tripping, you vomit. The goal? To purge your body’s toxins, psychological burdens and general bad vibes. The whole experience is rather fast and intense, lasting roughly 60-minutes, which begins with a trained practitioner burning 3-6 spots on the skin with a piece of wood, where dried Kambo is then applied.

Nearly instantly, it triggers a very intense immune system response that leads to anything from fever, vomiting, diarrhoea, intense emotion or swelling of the body. Needless to say, most wouldn’t call this an ‘enjoyable’ experience, however many come running back for more after experiencing the effects. The peptides in the Kambo make the immune system hyperactive, with the goal of purging the poison from the system, and in doing so, purge out the other harmful toxins that have built up physically, emotionally and psychologically. That’s why people have been turning to Kambo for intense and rapid cleanses which helps to realign habits, overcome ailments, and build back the immune system. If this ritual calls to you, ensuring the facilitation by a licensed practitioner is important. You can find a local, trained and qualified practitioner here, and make sure to check out Double Blind’s safety checklist before assuming this cleanse is right for you.

Kambo ritual burning skin
A thin layer of skin is burnt before applying the frog poison
Kambo Bucket Sick Ancient Ritual
The poison triggers a very intense immune system response

Breathwork - Regulate the Nervous System with Your Body’s Natural Resource

Breathwork, otherwise known as the sanskrit term ‘Pranayama’ literally translates as breath control, and we should think of it simply as that. While its origins come from Eastern yogic practices like yoga and Buddhism, by now, it’s very likely you, or your friend, or your friend's friend has tried some form of breath-work to much acclaim. That’s because the breath is arguably the most vital and effective (and free) tool essentially everyone has available to intervene on our body’s system. We breathe about 20,000 times per day, without giving it much thought, except when perhaps we become nervous, or tense, and the breath noticeably accelerates. That’s because breathing is directly tied to our emotions, stress response and feelings of relaxation. That means controlling our breath can help to control our emotions and immune system as well. There’s a sea of techniques available, but slowing your breathing down to 5-6 second inhales and exhales, (known as Resonance Breathing) actually helps regulate our emotions and the body’s ability to heal. Plus, you can do it at a dinner, at work or on transport without anyone noticing. Or, perhaps you have heard of Wim Hof or circular breathing, which is a repeated process of 15-30 fluid deep breaths in and out, then holding the breath out for 60 seconds on the exhale. This works the body’s adrenaline and sympathetic nervous system to help boost the immune system and combat infection, among other things. As a zero cost cleansing ritual, building this into any routine has immense impact. You can learn more about the power of the breath in James Nestor’s Acclaimed book.


Thermoregulation - Optimising Homeostasis with Hot & Cold

Saunas, steams, ice baths, or simply a hot bath are rituals that shift our body’s internal temperature. Widely popular in the Nordic regions, saunas are thought to date back to 2,000 BC Europe, widely important to cultural life across Russia, Estonia and the Nordic regions. But these rituals are not simply reserved for the cooler climates, The Temezcal in Mexico is rooted in this same principle, known as thermoregulation. For our body to perform at its most optimal level, known as homeostasis, or a state of equilibrium, it needs to maintain its core internal temperature, which helps to fight disease and even keep us feeling clear.

The process of sweating increases the temperature of the body which then forces it to cool itself off - think about it as strengthening the ability of your body to balance our temperature naturally. An ice bath on the other hand, reduces the body’s temperature, and increases blood flow and circulation through constricting the blood vessels. Pairing these two together is really the best of the best, but you really don’t need to fill your tub with ice or visit a sauna to get the benefits. Steaming up the bathroom with a hot bath for about 15 minutes will give similar results to help release toxins, increase immunity and leave you feeling relaxed. Wim Hof has got you covered with some additional resources. We also have an episode from our Roots and Ritual podcast series on The Temezcal which you can listen to here.

Temazcal Thermoregulation - Optimising Homeostasis with Hot & Cold
A sharman tends to the fire of a Temazcal
Ice bath Thermoregulation - Optimising Homeostasis with Hot & Cold
An ice bath

Rapé - Shamanic Tobacco to Clear The Chattering Mind

Rapé (pronounced hay-PAY) is a sacred shanamic snuff which has been used by tribal cultures in the Amazon region for ritual, medicinal and recreational purposes. Contrary to how most people view tobacco today, it is a respected and highly sacred herb used as the base and prepared with other powdered medicinal herbs to make Rapé. Most commonly, it uses Nicotiana rustica, a high-strength tobacco which elicits feelings of alertness and elevation that surpasses the average nicotine high from tobacco. Rapé is taken through a 2-person pipe (or ‘tepi’), one tube which goes up your nostril, and one which the 2nd person uses to blow into, shooting the plant mixture straight up into the receiver's nostril to inhale. This creates a powerful and instant rush, release, and sometimes nausea or sickness. If you don't have a friend who can help you, you can use a self-applicator pipe (‘kuripe’) where you both blow into through your mouth and inhale through your nose. Though while the herb is used to overcome physical, psychological and emotional blocks, realign energy channels, and detoxify the body, it is essential to ensure it is administered in the appropriate set and setting, alongside trained facilitators to both ensure its safety and commune with respect to the plant, honouring the way indigenous cultures do.

Shamanic Tobacco to Clear The Chattering Mind Rapé
Rapé is blown high up into the nostrils with a pipe made from bamboo or bone

Acupuncture - Activating Meridians for Healing

Acupuncture, which stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is based on the principle that the body’s energy (or chi) circulates through a cascade of meridians which map the body from head to toe and are connected to its vital organs and functions. Over time, these lines of energy can become blocked or disrupted which can lead to anything from fatigue to illness, pain or hormonal imbalance. Acupuncture uses tiny needles to penetrate the skin and activate these meridians to open the channels and create an energy flow. By maintaining the body’s flow of energy, it can help to improve its natural healing abilities, promote physical and emotional wellbeing, and help reverse ailments. And while a quick Google search might turn up with the word 'pseudoscience’, science has recently shown certain acupuncture points activate nerve endings which help to reduce inflammation across our entire system to help strengthen the immune system. It goes without saying, it’s essential to see a trained acupuncturist in your local area to support your specific needs.

Acupuncture - Activating Meridians for Healing
Acupuncture - Activating Meridians for Healing

Vedic Fire Ritual - Clearing the Old to Make Room For The New

A fire ceremony is a traditional Shamanic practice of making offerings into a sacred fire to release energy, attachments or beliefs to make room for new intentions. Rooted across ancient traditions, the ceremonies are often used to mark the change of seasons or year by cleansing the air and connecting with spirit through the smoke, and using the fire to break down, burn and release the old. It can be a powerful way to welcome in new parts of ourselves, habits or simply clear space for new things to enter our lives. Over time, we hold on to specific patterns of thought, people, beliefs, or general ways of moving through the world. As these become more established or rooted, the more difficult they become to shift in our mindset, forming rigid patterning. Just like a fire does to the wood and embers, the hot and powerful flames can break down these older ways of being, thinking or feeling, leaving space to feel lighter, and more open to new ways of experiencing ourselves in the world. Instead of a new year’s resolution, perhaps think about a fire ceremony to help both reflect on, and release from your year, and welcome in the new one to come. You can try writing down things you’d like to release, and throw individual pieces of paper into the fire, reciting a mantra, or watch the flames intentionally, thinking about the new aspects you’re looking to call in. After all, there is science to show belief is all we need to make lasting change.

Vedic Fire Ritual
Vedic Fire Ritual

Photography: Jason Henry and James Owen