Tabernanthe Iboga - A Drug To End Drug Addiction?
The Tabernanthe iboga plant is a shrub that grows to roughly two meters in height, and it is originally from in western and central Africa, principally in the countries which contain significant amounts of equatorial forests such as Congo, Cameroon, Guinea, Gabon & Nigeria.
This plant thrives on proper cultivation, as it grows best in well drained, composted, and shady areas but due to heavy overexploitation it has become rare meanwhile and is hardly found anymore. but since the plant is central to certain religions in Africa it is cultivated for ritual use in religious ceremony (but also used casually in very low doses as a stimulant). Tabernanthe Iboga can be grown and propagated by cuttings as well as by seeds. I personally didnt try do propagate the plant by cuttings yet but growing by seeds isn't really difficult as long as the iboga seeds are still fresh because they will loose their viability fast. Additional basic information about growing Tabernanthe iboga from seeds can be found in our shop where you will also be able to buy viable Tabernanthe iboga seeds
How else can we determine the Tabernanthe Iboga from other shrubs? Well, in addition to being short in stature it also has distinctive narrow, dark green leaves as well as white flowers which are tubular in shape. These flowers bare a fruit which is about as big as a grape or a olive, the colors of the fruit is a deeper yellow, or perhaps even a bit orange, so darker and richer than the white flower stage.
The part of the iboga plant in which the medicine resides is the root bark, which is generally and approximately 6% Ibogaine. There are other alkaloids contained in the plant which are also important and may have medicinal qualities, however, the main isolated compound is Ibogaine.
Some of the other compounds found in the medical bark are vocangine, isovocangine, coronaridine, ibogaline, and conophararyngine. It has been proposed by researchers that one or more of these compounds could also be successful in treating addictions. As will most things in nature, it is probably safe to assume that the actual plant extract works much better than a blatant extraction of just one compound. It will take further research to discover what works best, however, that research is obviously slowed down by the fact that the plant is illegal in many countries with powerful medical research facilities, such as the United States.
It is a small harmless looking evergreen that grows in the undergrowth of the tropical rain forests, but let us not make the mistake of underestimating this plant, as it has extremely powerful medicinal properties, especially for those addicted to hard drugs like cocaine and heroin, those you have PTSD, and for mental illness.
Many illegal drugs, and even quite a few legal ones (alcohol and tobacco come to mind) are addictive in nature; they produce changes in a person’s brain structure, as new science has discovered over the past few decades. In fact, all addictions work through the same pathways in our brains, even behavioral addictions, as difficult as that might be to imagine. However, for the purposes of this article we will focus mainly on addictive substances and also on their relationship to addiction treatment from the African plant known biologically as Tabernanthe Iboga.
Addiction is an extremely powerful structural brain change which is terribly stubborn and difficult to treat, often times rehabilitation is unsuccessful even after many attempts, therefore, there is a huge need for new and better treatment options, out of the box thinking, even radical ideas, ideas outside the mainstream medical doctrine. Thousands of addicts and their families and loved ones are looking for answers, and no price is too high to pay because with addiction the alternative is often long jail terms, a life with zero joy or productivity, and eventually death. Addictions of such a nature are a life and death battle.
One such newer addiction treatment involves the Iboga plant, it’s claimed that ingesting this substance will cure heroin, cocaine, or alcohol addiction, sometimes with just one usage. Although not dealt with in depth in this article (we will focus on addictive substances as mentioned earlier), this plant is also used to treat mental illness, anxiety, and PTSD. There may be some clues as to why this is, as this plant as well as other psychedelics is known to encourage neurogenesis, which can aid in repairing damaged brain neurons. Other theories of how the plant works involve literal spiritual introspection, in which the addict can for the first time actually see how his behavior is ruining his or her life and the lives of others. Addiction is a self centered disease of the brain, and though it may be hard to understand from the point of view of a non-addict, addicts are often so absorbed in getting their fix that they have tunnel vision and can’t even see the damage and destruction that they are creating. It’s scary but very true.
Unfortunately, large medical studies are generally lacking when it comes to Ibogaine because it is illegal in countries where huge amounts of medical research are usually funded (the US). They may be changing though and there are some studies leaking out of clinics in places were this “drug” is not regulated by the state.
For serious addicts the time is often right now for pushing the envelope, when all else has failed; and, in certain out of the way, often off the grid places, people are forging new directions in addiction treatment with Ibogaine (the chemical alkaloid from the plant); people in many first world countries like the US are driven outside their borders to take Ibogaine because it is illegal in their home country, a fact that is resented by many.
Thankfully, there are many countries outside of the US and Europe in which Ibogaine is not a controlled substance. Also, it must be noted that even though this plant is illegal in the United States and many parts of Europe, it does not mean that many people aren’t willing to break the law in order to attempt to treat themselves, however, nobody recommends breaking local law, however, when someone’s life is at stake it would be very short sighted to not understand how some people might take a risk and break the law.
As hypocritical as it may sound to many of us, Ibogaine is listed a schedule one drug in the United States, which is truly laughable considering that hundreds of heroin addicts and other addicts have literally turned their lives around after ingesting the plant. By definition a schedule one drug should have no medical benefit (which is what makes it’s schedule designation laughable), any schedule one drug should basically be a poison and highly addictive, however, the Tabernanthe Iboga plant does not produce addiction.
That being said, it is a dangerous substance (and not to be taken lightly), like all powerful plant substances, there have been deaths reported when using it, this is why it’s always suggested that taking anything like this should always be done under direct medical supervision. How is Ibogaine dangerous? Well, it can produce seizures and shock from which a person could potentially die, so yes, it is very potent and not to be messed around with if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Of course, in the US, it’s illegal so officially direct medical supervision is impossible, driving this technique underground and making it even more dangerous. Caution is advised for anyone considering using Ibogaine; it should never be taken in larger doses without proper supervision.
The danger in taking Ibogaine is usually dose related, as is usually the case with any drug, if you take the right amount it’s as harmless as taking baby aspirin. If you take too much you could suffer from shock, liver problems, heart problems or even death; the alkaloid Ibogaine is a stimulant, it is only a stimulant in lower dosages, but in higher dosages it is also a psychedelic; these are the dosages which are recommended to treat drug addictions so now you know what you’re getting into if you have an addiction that you want to be free of, a powerful (sometimes scary) trip which is like a waking dream, a dream in which you are able to see you addiction in a different light (there are also more scientific explanations as well, which we will cover as well, but spiritual perspective has a big role to plan in the plant’s success).
Is it truly possible that an ancient African “drug” could hold the promise of freedom from drug addiction? That is what we will intend to discover here with a deep investigation into addiction, drugs, and the Tabernanthe Iboga plant. We will look at it’s history, it’s cultural context, some scientific facts about that plant, as well as how the plant is being used to treat drug addicts in this in depth piece.
Some scientists and people in positions of authority purport that certain drugs are mildly addictive, and others would be considered highly addictive with just one usage creating the addiction. However, any drug with addictive potential can ensnare a certain percentage of people, and each one of us is potentially a victim. In fact, science is discovering that some people may be predisposed for certain addictions, making them more at risk. It’s possible that certain people are more highly susceptible to all addictions, or even to certain addictive substances. At the time of this writing, it’s unclear but science is getting closer to unraveling these mysterious day by day and month by month, with huge strides being made in brain imaging and neuroscience.
In actuality most of us see addiction in our average, every day world, we might have an Uncle who could just never quit cigarettes, a college friend who became an alcoholic, or a co-worker who drinks 10 cups of coffee every day and tried to quit, but oh the headaches, it was just too hard and then they are back on the Joe. This is addiction at work, these addictions are destructive to be sure, however, they do not tend to create the worst sorts of havoc like other so called “hard drugs”.
Someone can be a coffee addict or nicotine addict and live a long, healthy and productive life. They may get cancer or burn out their adrenal glands but they tend to hold down jobs, pay taxes, and go to church on Sunday. Which is probably why these types of drugs, even though addictive and unhealthy, are legal.
Drugs such as heroin, and cocaine are highly refined, super potent drugs making them much more destructive, and more quick to addict the fool hardy. These are, of course, not the only addictive drugs; prescription medications are often highly addictive as well. Lots of people unwittingly get hooked on pain killers after surgery, because they think – well, it came from my doctor, it’s got to be alright to take them, as much as I want, I’ll just refill the prescription one more time, even though I’m feeling much better. Big mistake; the fact is that we are all in danger of addiction, if we are uneducated as to the realities of our world, or predisposed to addiction, or just wanting to fill a void.
We are all born with the capability for addiction, as addiction is actually a survival strategy built deep within our brains. Our brains want to spur us forward for natural rewards like food, water, sex, and social status – things that make us feel good. That is the key to all addictions, something makes us feel good, and our brain says – yes, this is the stuff. For some people it will be a stimulant, for others it may be a relaxant or a so called downer, we’re all different, but all have this in born natural mechanism inside of us. Because of this, hopefully some of us who are more judgmental in nature can take a different view. Addicts aren’t lazy, or unmotivated, they are addicts, and it is a brain disease.
Powerful drugs can get a hold of that natural innate survival mechanism deep within the limbic brain and turn it into something destructive, full blown addicts don’t care about themselves or others, all they care about is their next hit and they will do anything to get it, often committing acts of violence.
They can take hold of a person’s brain and utterly shred their will power to live a normal productive life. Life becomes a living nightmare for the addicted, their logical brain tells them to stop, but there is a part of the brain, which is much stronger that urges them to keep using at all costs.
Drugs can be medicine and they can be poison, almost all drugs that we use for medical purposes are dangerous…at a certain dosage.
They are a modern day scourge on our world, leaving death, destruction, and ruined lives in their wake. Many seriously addictive substances are so highly addictive that even a single exposure can change a dabbler’s brain and leave them hopelessly addicted.
And addictions, whether we want to accept it or not, last a lifetime inside the brain neuronal structures. We need only look to Phillip Hoffman’s relapse to heroin use and subsequent death to realize that messing with highly addictive chemicals is serious business.
When someone is so highly addicted to something that nothing is working, people tend to turn to radical means, especially if those means are getting results. People will try anything, or perhaps their families are the ones doing the trying. In any case, there are many reports of hopelessly addicted drug addicts getting clean by traveling to a clinic in an out of the way part of the world and taking Iboga.
Therefore there is high interest in learning more about this plant, what it is, how it works, and so on. Let’s look first at this plant from a purely biological point of view.
Like so many ancient psychedelic plants, Iboga is central to religious rites and ceremonies, in fact it has also been noted that these very strong religions based around powerful plants have been some of the only lesser religions to successfully avoid being co-opted by more dominant religions which are so overwhelmingly popular in most of the world, more specifically the Judeo-Christian religions.
In Africa, more specifically in Gabon, the Fang and Mitsogho tribes have very well withstood the encroachment of both Islam and Christianity after hundreds of years of exposure. This is significant because in anthropological observations, it is almost always the dominant, larger, and more aggressive culture who eventually erodes the smaller, less powerful culture (and/or religion).
Could it be that the ceremonial rites of passage, which include ingestion of Iboga are so strong psychologically that it keeps the religion in tact despite strong outside pressure? It would seem likely. Because the effects are so stabilizing for an entire culture, would that convince us that it is perhaps a powerful stabilizer of the brain system entirely? Also likely. There are clues everywhere within the history of Tabernanthe Iboga that this is a special plant with unique characteristics, ones healing and powerful enough to treat the most stubborn of addictions as well as mental instability.
Moving from childhood into adulthood was always marked by rites of passage in ancient societies, not so much in modern ones, unfortunately (the same is true in regions of Africa where the Iboga plant grows, rites of passage ceremonies are taken very seriously).
Could it be that how societies are organized has led to an explosion in addictions and wrong thinking about a great many things? Again, it’s certainly possible if we look at all the evidence with an opened mind. With religion in our western societies having become often disconnected from it’s disciplines in our modern times, in many communities, and a culture of strong materialism and scientific-ism replacing religion it is easy to see how more people in these cultures fall prey to addictive substances. They’re looking to fill a space that is spiritually and psychology not filled by their current culture. Historically this plant held together an entire society, filling the void of spiritual emptiness, such a powerful experience should certainly be looked at in a positive light in treating addictions, in which a human being has been severed from their own sovereignty of mind.
Indigenous cultures (including these African cultures) lack our technology, our science, and our material wealth, however, it has long been noticed that they tend to live in balance, and have a wisdom and tradition which often makes members of the society well adjusted and content. It is exactly these indigenous cultures who still embrace plant medicines as central to their religions and their society. It is only cultures which are extremely divorced from the land and from communal life who reject psychedelic plants in favor of stimulants in order to increase productivity. When stress gets too much from the stimulants, western societies prescribe taking a drink of alcohol.
As everyone knows, stimulants and alcohol are highly addictive; whereas it has not been shown that psychedelic plant medicines are addictive in any way shape or form. In fact, although euphoric at times or for some people, psychedelic plants such as Iboga can be painful rites of passages, these rituals are to be thought of as work and introspection, they are not party drugs (as addictive drugs are thought of). And historically this is how these cultures anchored in their traditions have used these drugs, as tools, as medicine, not as recreational “drugs” per se.
Traditional usages of the Iboga plant utilize both its stimulant properties as well as it’s psychedelic ones, and these traditions continue to today in Africa. As a stimulant the plant is used by men during a long hunt when they need to remain alert for long periods of time, probably somewhat similar to how native Peruvians will chew on coca leaves. It is also, however, also used as an aphrodisiac and as a right of passage ceremony in certain religions.
It may be that these religious overtones turn off many in the scientific community in the US, who tend to gravitate towards facts and figures, numbers and data. Surely this plays a part in the United State’s illegal status for the plant, also psychedelics have been scary to the establishment since the 1960’s when social chaos, in part fueled by youth rebellion and psychedelic use flourished. It is no coincidence that Nixon’s war on drugs, which was put into law in 1970, had a significant backlash on the flower power movement, something to consider when we think about why such a useful addiction treatment is illegal in many parts of the world.
Tabernanthe Iboga is a plant medicine, which, as we have seen directly relates back to the roots of an ancient African culture. This culture believes the plant to be a healing one, especially when it comes to the brain and neurological function, it is called the healing one, and the God plant, it imbues a life changing experience to those brave enough to experience it.
Iboga has been gaining in interest to westerners over the last three decades, especially with regard to treating addictions quickly, and also especially where all other measures have failed which unfortunately is also the case.
It is obvious from hordes of reports that Ibogaine works in the treatment of addiction is many people, however, big pharma, the FDA and the US government are unimpressed. It would seem that the powers that be will turn a blind eye to something that works when it doesn’t fit their paradigm or worldview. Such is often the case with powers that be all the way down throughout history.
As modern society has moved away from the natural world, moved into cities, and generally not focused on their natural surroundings, it has been postulated that we have moved further away from living in harmony with the natural world. Some espouse the doctrine that the major religions of the world, the so-called monotheistic religions are also inherently, somewhat anti-nature. Looking at the evidence, there is some strong proof that this is true, and that indigenous religions, which harmonized with nature were over run by the more state oriented monotheistic religions in Europe and the Middle East, however, that is beyond the scope of this article.
What is evident is that legalizing Ibogaine treatment as a force in the US looks unlikely in the near term, and also that our deep cultural mores are the source of rejection for this mysterious yet pragmatic plant that obviously is a powerful tool in the fight against addiction. One need only look at the plants usage in the many documentary videos and in countless testimonials across the interest to know that it’s doing amazing things for so many addicts, it is changing lives.
It’s hard to scientifically explain why the plant medicine works so well, and of course, there is a sense of mystery and magic to the plant, that scientific folks tend to reject. However, there is the neurogenesis model and theory, which has been tested with other psychedelic drugs, such as magic mushrooms. Some studies have been done which have shown that neurogenesis is increased with tryptamine usage and that it can spur people to unlearn negative behaviors, in fact it has been suggested as a treatment for PTDS, which as we have discussed it also treated by the Tabernanthe Iboga plant in some instances. Magic mushrooms are also tryptamine-containing material, so there is a strong correlation between the two, however Iboga in particular seems to have an affinity for treating addictions, especially heroin addictions.
Many readers may not know this, however, there is a well documented study which went on for years in which a psychologist successfully treated alcoholics with LSD, which is of course another psychedelic substance derived from ergot. This particular psychologist experiments with LSD and alcoholics during the 1960’s when LSD was not a controlled substance under the law. His purported success rate in successfully treating his patients was off the charts high, many times higher than any other method of treating alcoholism, such as AA or rehab. Unfortunately, such experimentation is now illegal, despite the overwhelming evidence that certain substances like Ibogaine, psilocybin (magic mushrooms), and LSD are extremely effective in treating addicts, neurological conditions, and PTSD.
Because of the illegality of Ibogaine and related substances people in the US are often forced to travel outside it’s orders in order to receive medically supervised administration of this powerful drug. Close proximity to the US has made destinations like Mexico, St Kitts (Caribbean), and Panama popular for treatment. It’s not cheap to get on a plane and receive treatment, but when you realize that heroin addiction is not only completely debilitating but, of course, extremely dangerous in terms of mortality, it is a small price to pay for a shot at getting clean.
So Ibogaine is effective in treating some of the worst addictions on earth, but will it work for everyone? The answer to that question is likely resounding no; there is no magic pill out there that cures everyone. But, if there is a desire to get clean, and a will to live then this is a real chance at breaking the vicious cycle. Even when all else has failed. However, it’s not going to be a picnic or a walk in the park. Being addicted to hard drugs is just like anything else, tough to knock out and often times the cure is bitter. It’s much easier to continue shooting up with the H than trek down the Caribbean and trip on Ibogaine for 24 hours puking your guts out.
That’s correct, Ibogaine is a bitter medicine to swallow, the medicine or cure in life is so often difficult to swallow and unpalatable, such is life. Yes, profuse vomiting is one of the side effects of a strong Iboga trip; this is probably especially true for serious addicts. It’s not a fun experience that is for certain. But, for people with the guts and the realization that beating their addiction truly is a life or death fight, it is worth it.
There are similarities here to the Ayahuasca plant from South America, which is also a visionary plant, during ceremonies in the Peruvian jungle addicts and depressives and seekers have also sought out the plant medicines to heal them. And there are significant success rates here too, in which the shamans say that the vomiting is purification of the body and of the soul. Again, this is probably why western medicine rejects these plants as having any value; any talk of soul and a certain percentage of scientific minded folks will simply turn off. However, that is changing, and with change perhaps we will see a day when people will be free to explore their own bodies and consciousness’s without restriction. It would be a better world if that was the case, sure these are powerful plants and dangerous, but so is Tylenol. People don’t down 24 Tylenol just because they can, just as people would not abuse tryptamine alkaloid plants such as Iboga and Ayahuasca.
But for now, those highly addicted to things like heroin will have to take matters into their own hands, because such regulated medical services in the US and Europe aren’t available. Certainly this important plant needs further investigation from the medical establishment, we hope that one day Tabernanthe Iboga will be a very normal treatment for addictions that is accepted worldwide