What is Iboga?
What is iboga? Both an ancient, sacred forest medicine and a breakthrough tool to treat problematic substance use. Let’s look at this poorly understood plant…
What is Iboga? Tabernanthe iboga is a small, evergreen, shrub growing wild in Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon and Cameroon. It grows in well-drained soil, partially shaded by larger canopy trees. It has deep green narrow leaves, small clusters of tiny white-to-yellow flowers. Iboga fruit are olive-sized and yellow-to-orange. Iboga is known best for its alkaloid-laden root bark. These alkaloids, scraped and powdered, are also called ‘iboga.’
History Of Uses
West African cultures, especially the Bwiti sects of Gabon and Cameroon, use iboga to initiate their young people. Iboga is also used as an aid for spiritual discovery and as a stimulant. Iboga consumption and the Bwiti religion has increased over the last 50 years, as a force against the encroachment of Islam and Christianity.
Iboga’s story in the West begins with Howard Lotsof, ibogaine pioneer. In 1962, he discovered that iboga, or more specifically, ibogaine hcl, could eliminate withdrawal symptoms for opiate addicted people.
Chemistry Involved With Iboga
Indole alkaloids make up approximately 6% of the scrapings of the root bark. Ibogaine, ibogamine, ibogaline and tabernanthine are four key alkaloids present, with most of the pharmacological knowledge about ibogaine. Also found in iboga are coronaridine, voacangine, isovoacangine, and conophararyngine, which have unknown qualities.
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What Is Iboga? Gift of the Forest of Gabon
What is iboga? Iboga has been used for certainly hundreds but probably many thousands of years. It is a powerful, activating plant “teacher” and spirit. Its origins lie with the forest people—”pygmies”—of central west Africa, and it is in popular use today in Gabon and parts of Cameroon. It is the key sacrament of the Bwiti spiritual system, with more than 300,000 practitioners.
What is iboga? Iboga is the Bwiti initiation tool, with a surrounding technology to contain and exalt the rite of passage. Iboga comes from the scraping of the second layer of root bark of the shrub-like tree, usually pounded into a fine powder for consumption. Ibogaine is a processed isolate of the single indole alkaloid. It is capsulated and is much easier to consume than iboga.
Bwiti is the reason Gabon has been called “The Tibet of Africa,” and iboga is at the center of Bwiti spirituality. What is iboga? It is both a sacrament and a traditional staple of initiates, or “ngangas”. Taken in small doses, iboga stimulates the central nervous system and heightens the senses. In larger doses, it will temporarily provide the initiate with deep visionary journeys, the processing of which can lead to long-term psychological recovery as well as beneficial life changes. The dramatic “peak” experience is what provides the participant with their “Bwiti,” during ceremonies lasting many days.
Iboga and Ibogaine Outside Africa
Some estimate as many as 20,000 non-Africans have experienced ibogaine. Interest in the process is ever-growing, propelled by plant medicine fans and spiritual practitioners with interest in shamanism. Also interested in ibogaine are those tracing the influence of African traditions throughout the Americas.
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