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What is a Bufo Toad?

I have a special interest in reptiles and amphibians and love to share that with others who hold similar interests. I hold a Bachelors of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife, and a certificate in Master Herpetology and have learned about frog and toad species during my studies for school. Currently, I work as a zookeeper and particularly enjoy the section working  with reptile and amphibian species. 

Therefore, I know a lot about Bufo Toads:

A Bufo Toad is a member of the taxonomic family Bufonidae, otherwise known as the True Toads. There are more than 350 species in this amphibian family that is distributed naturally around the world, except for Australia. Bufo toad skin contains a poison that can be psychedelic and toxic to predators but may have medicinal benefits as well. 

In this article we will discuss what a Bufo toad is and their characteristics. We will give a few examples of common Bufo species and explain where they can be found.

We will then talk about their poison and what properties it has. What past civilizations used it for, and what the future may hold for it.

Bufo Toads Are True Toads (Bufonidae)

Toads in the family Bufonidae have a wide world range in a variety of climate regions, concentrating mainly in desert and temperate areas.

They do not occur naturally in Australia or oceanic islands, except the invasive introduced Cane Toad. Being a ‘True Toad’ refers to their physical characteristics (glands). 

According to AmphibiaWed, there are over 50 genera of Bufonidae with more than 350 species worldwide.

Bufo toads have short forelimbs and hindlimbs meant for walking and hopping. Teeth are absent from their upper and lower jaws.

Frogs in the Genus Bufo include but are not limited to:

  • Cane Toad (Rhinella marina) 
  • American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus)
  • Ejia Toad (Bufo ailaoanus)
  • Spineless Stream Toad (Bufo aspinius)
  • Taiwan Common Toad (Bufo bankorensis)
  • Common Toad (Bufo bufo) 
  • Earless Toad (Bufo cryptotympanicus) 
  • Eichwald’s Toad (Bufo eichwaldi) 
  • Asiatic Toad (Bufo gargarizans) 
  • Japanese Common Toad (Bufo japonicus) 
  • Luchun Stream Toad (Bufo luchunnicus) 
  • Menglian Stream Toad (Bufo menglianus)
  • Tonkin Toad (Bufo pageoti)
  • Spiny Toad (Bufo spinosus)
  • Korean Toad (Bufo stejnegeri) 
  • Japanese Stream Toad (Bufo torrenticola)
  • Qinghai Lake Toad (Bufo tuberculatus) 

Toads of this family are also characteristic of having the parotoid gland, located behind the eyes. These glands produce a toxin that is excreted on their skin.

This poison is distasteful to predators but may be useful in medicine, and is often used as a psychedelic. 

Bufo species are unique in that they have a Bidder’s organ, which is a reproductive and endocrine organ similar to an ovary that is developed in male and females.

It persists from early development stages through adulthood. However, its use is still uncertain to herpetologists.   

What is “Bufo Toad Ceremony Therapy”? 

Bufo Toad Ceremony Therapy refers to the use of Bufo Toad secretions as a psychedelic for “spiritual exploration.”

Depending on the species and level of maturity, toads may naturally secrete:

  • Bufotoxin
  • Bufotenin
  • 5-MeO-DMT
  • Bufotalin
  • Bufalitoxin

Since this is not common knowledge, many people think that they can lick any toad and “get high.”

This is a dangerous thought process because as all toads can carry salmonella on their skin which can lead to fever, nausea, vomiting, and death in some rare cases.

Very few toad species actually carry 5-MeO-DMT which is the cause of hallucinations.

Most toads carry Bufotoxin which is not known to have any psychedelic side effects. This toxin mostly causes nausea and vomiting in humans, but can lead to death in pets.

However, Cane Toads and Colorado River Toads naturally secrete 5-MeO-DMT.

Many cultures and civilizations are known have used the secretions of toads that produce 5-MeO-DMT for its hallucinogenic effects during rituals.

According to Uthaug, 2019, inhaling vapour derived from Bufo toad in adapted quantities may be used to facilitate spiritual exploration and have had the effect of helping improve participants mental health, anxiety, and dissolution of ego.

However, both of these toad species also secrete Bufotenin which can cause serious health side effects and damage neurological, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and gastrointestinal systems.

Therefore, ingesting any toad poison carries risks including irritation, nausea, swelling, vomiting, and in some cases death.

Currently, it is illegal to possess Colorado River Toads in many states across the USA.

Proper dosage, adapted usage, and the side effects of toad-secreted 5-MeO-DMT are still being researched.

All Bufo Toads are Poisonous

All toad species in the Bufonidae family contain a parotoid gland situated behind their eyes that secretes a peptide toxin.

As we have already seen, not all toads secrete the same toxins.

Poison is different from venom in how it’s delivered:

  • Poison is delivered into the body through ingestion or absorption after being secreted on an animal’s skin.
  • Venom is injected into the body through channels, such as fangs. 

Toads cannot bite and inject it into a predator or human. 

The toxins toads secrete are only toxic if ingested by the body in some way.

Toads and frogs are amphibians and very similar, their differences lie in the fact that all toads are poisonous and not all frogs are.

Since the toxin is secreted over the amphibian’s skin, which is also used for respiration and as the first line of defense for the immune system, the toxin can protect the toad from pathogens, bacteria, and fungus. 

This article was written by Melissa M. who holds a Bachelors of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Sciences, and a Master Herpetologist certificate. The article was edited and published by Daniella, Master Herpetologist in the author profile below.


Bufonidae. AmphibiaWeb. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://amphibiaweb.org/lists/Bufonidae.shtml

The Clinical Pharmacology and potential … – wiley online library. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdfdirect/10.1111/jnc.15587

Heying, H. (n.d.). Bufonidae (bufonidĂŠs, Bufonids, crapauds, Toads). Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved from https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Bufonidae/

Krzysztof Kowalski | clinical professor | PhD | Case western reserve … (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Krzysztof-Kowalski-7

Miller, N., & Search for more articles by this author. (1970, November 1). The American toad (bufo lentiginosus americanus, LeConte) a study in Dynamic Biology: The American naturalist: Vol 43, no 515. The American Naturalist. Retrieved from https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/10.1086/279098

Uthaug, M. V. (2019, April 13). A single inhalation of vapor from dried toad secretion containing 5-methoxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (5-MEO-DMT) in a naturalistic setting is related to sustained enhancement of satisfaction with life, mindfulness-related capacities, and a decrement of psychopathological symptoms – psychopharmacology. SpringerLink. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-019-05236-w#Sec16 

Daniella Master Herpetologist

Daniella is a Master Herpetologist and the founder of toadsnfrogs.com, a website dedicated to educating the general population on frogs by meeting them where they are in their online Google Search. Daniella is passionate about frogs and put her digital marketing skills and teaching experience to good use by creating these helpful resources to encourage better education, understanding, and care for frogs.