The Story Behind the Medicinal Plant Iboga in Gabon


Ibogaine, a psychoactive alkaloid derived from the Tabernanthe iboga shrub, has gained attention for its potential therapeutic benefits in addiction treatment and mental health disorders. This medicinal plant can be found in Gabon and offers more than just health benefits. 

Once shrouded in controversy and relegated to the fringes of medical research, psychedelic substances are now emerging as beacons of hope in the fight against a global mental health crisis. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, early research into psychedelics showed remarkable promise, but their association with counterculture movements led to their illicit status under the ‘War on Drugs’. This stigma effectively stifled further research, leaving many promising therapeutic avenues unexplored.

With the rising mental health problems in our society, many are questioning the nature of their reality, especially now that our attention is going towards AI and consciousness.  Among the stars of this psychedelic renaissance are psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, and MDMA, better known as ecstasy. These compounds are being tested for the treatment of conditions such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Indeed, these compounds are recognized for their transformative potential of psychedelics. The results so far have been encouraging, with evidence suggesting that psychedelics can induce long-lasting positive changes in mood, behavior, and overall well-being.

Beyond depression and PTSD, psychedelics are also being explored as potential treatments for substance use disorders, a significant public health challenge. One such substance, ibogaine, derived from the roots of the Tabernanthe iboga plant, has shown promise in reducing cravings and alleviating withdrawal symptoms.

The resurgence of psychedelic research is not merely about finding new medicines; it’s about unlocking a deeper understanding of the human mind and its capacity for healing. Psychedelics offer a unique lens into the workings of consciousness, potentially shedding light on the mechanisms of mental illness and paving the way for more effective treatments.

Iboga in Gabon: A Sacred Plant with Profound Medicinal Potential

The story of the medicinal plant Iboga

Nestled deep within the verdant rainforests of Central Africa, the remarkable plant Iboga (Tabernanthe iboga) has held a revered position in the traditional practices and spiritual world of the indigenous Bwiti people for centuries. This sacred plant, revered for its ability to induce profound states of consciousness, has played a pivotal role in shaping the cultural and medicinal knowledge of Gabon.

The history of Gabon traces back to the pre-colonial era, with indigenous peoples like the Bantu inhabiting the region for millennia. Europeans, mainly the Portuguese, explored the Gabonese coast in the 15th century. Later, Gabon was colonized by France in the 19th century and was part of French Equatorial Africa. Gabon gained independence in 1960 and has since experienced various phases of political and economic development.

For the Bwiti community, Iboga is more than just a plant; it is a conduit to the spirit world, a key to unlocking hidden dimensions of consciousness, and a catalyst for profound personal transformation. Iboga ceremonies, often led by experienced Bwiti guides, are deeply immersive experiences, immersing participants in a realm of visions, insights, and spiritual connections.

These ceremonies serve as rites of passage, marking significant transitions in life, such as adolescence or adulthood. They are also believed to possess healing properties, offering solace and spiritual guidance to those seeking relief from physical and emotional ailments.

Beyond its spiritual significance, Iboga has also garnered attention for its potential medicinal properties. Traditional healers in Gabon have long utilized Iboga to treat a wide range of afflictions, including physical ailments, mental disorders, and even addiction.

Modern research has begun to unravel the pharmacological mechanisms underlying Iboga’s therapeutic effects. Studies have shown promise in its potential to alleviate opioid addiction, suggesting a glimmer of hope in addressing this global health crisis.

The psychoactive effects of ibogaine are attributed to its complex pharmacology, which involves interactions with multiple neurotransmitter systems and brain targets. Ibogaine blocks the uptake of dopamine and serotonin, neurotransmitters involved in mood, reward, and motivation. It also binds to the cocaine site of the serotonin transporter, potentially disrupting the reinforcing effects of cocaine addiction.

Iboga Preparation

Here are some things to keep in mind before undergoing ibogaine therapy:

  • Take some time to reflect on your inner thoughts and emotions. This will help you maximize the potential for a deeper transformative and healing experience.
  • Pay attention to your expectations. Ibogaine therapy is a tool to help you heal yourself, but it is not a quick fix. Be prepared to do the work necessary to integrate the insights you gain from your experience.
  • Seek out resources and support. The path of healing can be long and difficult. Having support from others can help you stay on track.
  • Be committed to following through over the long term. Ibogaine therapy can help you unlock your great potential, but it is up to you to take action and make changes in your life.

What to Do in the Week Before Ibogaine Therapy?

  • It is important to make sure you are not pregnant before undergoing ibogaine therapy, as the effects of the substance on a developing embryo or fetus are unknown.
  • Take a balanced multivitamin and mineral complex. This will help to ensure that your body is getting the nutrients it needs to support the ibogaine experience.
  • Eat nutritious, well-balanced meals. Avoid greasy, fatty, and processed foods, as these can make your liver sluggish. The liver is responsible for processing ibogaine, so it is important to keep it healthy.
  • Avoid junk food, sugar, salt, and caffeine. These substances can interfere with the ibogaine experience.
  • Drink plenty of water. Aim to drink at least eight glasses of water per day.
  • Replenish your electrolytes. Coconut water, Emergen-C, Gatorade, and other isotonic drinks can help to restore and balance electrolytes. This is especially important in the days leading up to your ibogaine therapy.

Additional Tips

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Practice relaxation techniques, such as yoga or meditation

The Ibogaine Experience

Iboga experience

The Initial Sting

The ibogaine experience begins with a tingling sensation, a feeling of warmth, and a bitter taste in the mouth. As the substance takes hold, a sense of numbness spreads throughout the body, accompanied by dizziness and nausea. This initial phase can be challenging, but it marks the gateway to the transformative journey ahead.

A Descent into the Depths

The ibogaine experience is often described as a dream-like state, characterized by vivid visual and cinematic imagery. Individuals may experience a kaleidoscopic journey through their memories, revisiting past events, traumas, and deep-seated fears. This confrontation with one’s inner self can be emotionally intense and challenging.

The Purge

Ibogaine is known to induce intense purging, including projectile vomiting, diarrhea, and frequent urination. This physical discomfort is often seen as a release of toxins and negative emotions, a cleansing of the body and mind.

The Ataxia

Ataxia, a loss of coordination and balance, is a common side effect of ibogaine. This can make even simple tasks, like walking or standing, extremely difficult. However, this physical limitation can also serve as a metaphor for the surrender and vulnerability required for deep personal transformation.

The Transformative Power

Despite the physical and emotional challenges, many who have undergone the ibogaine experience report profound personal transformation. They gain a deeper understanding of themselves, their past, and their potential. They experience a release from limiting beliefs and patterns, and they develop a renewed sense of purpose and self-acceptance.

The Choice to Transcend

The ibogaine experience is not for everyone. It is a demanding journey that requires courage, resilience, and a willingness to confront one’s inner demons. However, for those who are ready to face their shadows and embrace transformation, ibogaine can be a powerful catalyst for personal growth and healing.

The Therapeutic Potential of Ibogaine

The therapeutic potential of ibogaine lies in its ability to facilitate a profound confrontation with one’s inner self. By facing these deeply held fears and traumas, individuals may experience a sense of catharsis, leading to personal growth, self-acceptance, and a renewed spiritual outlook.

In the treatment of addiction, ibogaine may provide rapid and long-lasting relief from withdrawal symptoms. It may also help individuals break the cycle of addiction by addressing the underlying psychological issues that drive addictive behavior.

The Integration of the Ibogaine Experience

The ibogaine experience, a profound and transformative journey into the depths of one’s psyche, demands more than just physical and emotional endurance to navigate its intensity. It also requires a dedicated commitment to integration, a process of assimilating the insights and experiences gained during the journey into one’s daily life.

Integration is the bridge between the transformative power of ibogaine and the tangible changes that individuals seek to manifest in their lives. It’s the process of grounding the ethereal insights and revelations into practical applications, allowing the ibogaine experience to become a catalyst for lasting personal growth and healing.

At the heart of integration lies the practice of journaling. Capturing the vivid imagery, emotional surges, and profound realizations that emerge during the ibogaine experience provides a tangible record, a touchstone for reflection and exploration. Journaling allows individuals to revisit their experiences, identify patterns, and uncover hidden meanings, deepening their understanding of themselves and their journey.

Talking therapy, guided by an experienced and empathetic therapist, offers a safe and supportive space to process the ibogaine experience. Through dialogue, individuals can unravel the complex tapestry of emotions, memories, and insights that emerged during the journey, gaining a deeper understanding of their personal narrative. Therapy provides a sounding board, a place to explore vulnerabilities, and a source of guidance as individuals navigate the path toward healing and transformation.

Beyond journaling and therapy, integration encompasses a holistic approach to personal growth. Engaging in supportive practices like mindfulness, meditation, and yoga can help individuals anchor the insights gained during the ibogaine experience into their daily lives. These practices cultivate present-moment awareness, foster emotional regulation, and promote a sense of inner peace, creating a fertile ground for personal transformation.

Integration is not a linear process; it is a continuous journey of reflection, exploration, and growth. It requires patience, dedication, and a willingness to embrace the ongoing transformation that ibogaine initiates. As individuals integrate the insights gained during their ibogaine experience, they cultivate a deeper understanding of themselves, their relationships, and their place in the world, paving the way for a more fulfilling and authentic existence.


While Iboga’s potential is undeniable, it is crucial to approach its use with utmost caution and respect for the traditional knowledge and practices surrounding it. Scientific research must proceed with sensitivity, ensuring that indigenous wisdom is honored and that the plant’s sacred nature is not compromised.

Iboga stands as a testament to the profound connection between humanity and the natural world, a bridge between ancient traditions and modern scientific exploration. Its story is a reminder of the untapped potential that lies within the rainforests, waiting to be discovered and harnessed for the betterment of human health and well-being.

Common Questions about Iboga in Gabon

Where does Iboga grow?

Iboga, scientifically known as Tabernanthe iboga, primarily grows in the forests of Central Africa. Its natural habitat spans several countries, including Gabon. The forested regions of Gabon host a significant portion of the iboga population, and it is traditionally harvested there for various uses, including ritual practices.

Where does Ibogaine come from?

Ibogaine is a naturally occurring alkaloid found in Iboga. It is one of the active compounds responsible for the psychotropic effects of the plant. Ibogaine has garnered attention due to its potential properties in treating addiction, particularly to opioids. It is extracted from the bark of Iboga roots and has been studied for its effects on neurotransmission, although its practical use as a treatment for addiction remains subject to research and debate.

How does Bwiti unfold in Gabon?

Bwiti is a traditional Gabonese religion that uses Iboga as a central sacrament. Bwiti ceremonies often involve the ritual consumption of Iboga to induce trance states and promote spiritual connection. These ceremonies may be associated with rites of passage, initiations, and spiritual healings. Bwiti participants believe that Iboga facilitates communication with ancestors, provides meaningful visions, and fosters spiritual growth. However, the practice of Bwiti can vary among communities and individuals.


Koenig, X., & Hilber, K. (2015). The Anti-Addiction Drug Ibogaine and the Heart: A Delicate Relation. Molecules, 20(2), 2208-2228. doi:10.3390/molecules20022208

Disclaimer: Please note that this article is for informational purposes only and should not replace professional medical or therapeutic advice.


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