Iboga: The Sacred Plant
Tabernanthe iboga is a perennial rainforest shrub found in western Central Africa, and is commonly referred to as simply iboga. Iboga is considered to be a psychedelic with the main active ingredient being ibogaine. Ibogaine works by stimulating the central nervous system in small doses, and induces hallucinations when it's taken in larger quantities. The plant can grow into a small tree which carries elongated oval, or spherical orange fruits. The fruits are edible, but are mostly tasteless and sticky.
Iboga contains five known alkaloids, namely Coronaridine, Ibogaine, Ibogamine, Tabernanthine, and Voacangine. Ibogaine seems to be main active alkaloid, which is responsible for the psychoactive effects. The highest concentration of ibogaine is found in the root-bark of the plant. The root material is extremely bitter, and causes anesthetic sensation in the mouth when chewed.
The plant is mainly used by the Bwiti tribe of West-Central Africa during ceremonies. It is common for the Bwiti tribe to use massive amounts of iboga for initiatory rituals. Smaller doses are usually taken on a more regular basis with tribal dances, and other rituals. They also use iboga as a stimulant in very small doses while hunting for food. The Republic of Gabon(one of the main countries where the Bwiti resides) declared Tabernanthe iboga to be a national treasure in the year 2000.
The effects of iboga depends on the amount consumed. Small doses usually only produce stimulating effects, while larger doses produce psychedelic effects. There are two phases produced by iboga, namely the visionary phase and the introspection phase. The visionary phase produces a dreamlike state which can last anywhere from 4 to 6 hours. The introspection phase is responsible for the psychotherapeutic effects. The plant causes an altered state of consciousness similar to dreaming while being fully conscious, and therefore allowing people to process memories, negative emotions, traumatic experiences, and life experiences.
Iboga is said to have anti-addiction properties, but it is currently not approved for any medical uses. There was studies being done on iboga in the early 1990s, but it was soon terminated due to concerns about cardiotoxicity. There are still alternative medicine clinics that administer iboga to patients who have trouble with addiction. Reports state that iboga reduces cravings for opiates, alcohol, and other recreational substances.
Toxicity and Legal Status
Iboga causes a number of adverse effects, especially in larger doses. These adverse effects may include ataxia(difficult to coordinate muscle movements), dry mouth, nausea, and vomiting. Iboga can cause cardiovascular problems by blocking potassium channels in the heart. Iboga is not neurotoxic, but there are certain contraindicated conditions that can pose serious health risks.
Iboga is currently labeled as a schedule 1 drug in the United States because of the hallucinogenic, and cardiovascular side effects. In other countries, namely Belgium, Poland, Denmark, Croatia, France, Sweden, and Switzerland it is only outlawed, or restricted. In most other countries, however, it is legal to possess and consume iboga. Countries like South Africa, Mexico, Canada, the Netherlands, and more have opened up a number of ibogaine treatment clinics that operates in a "legal gray area". There are also treatment clinics in the United States, despite DEA surveillance.
Iboga is a beautiful plant with a long history of use. Iboga does show potential to be used in the medical world for addiction problems, and depression. More studies are definitely needed before then though, since there are possible safety issues. Iboga does, however, give us a whole new way of looking at addiction treatment.