Updated: Dec 1, 2022
What is iboga and ibogaine?
Iboga, which has been translated as “to care for” or “to heal,” is the common name of a group of perennial shrubs that belong to the Apocynaceae family, which are typically found in the understory of tropical forests in the Congo Basin. The name usually refers to Tabernanthe iboga, but can also include Tabernanthe manii, or other varieties There are reported to be a total of seven common identified varieties of iboga found throughout Gabon.
In the Central West African rainforest, iboga has a history of traditional use in rituals of healing and rights of passage that stretches back for millennia. Its use originated with the pygmies, or forest people, who later shared their knowledge with the Bantu population of Gabon.
Iboga is the best known and most concentrated plant source for ibogaine, as well as 11 other alkaloids. Lower doses are traditionally used to combat fatigue, and as an aphrodisiac. Larger doses are used ritually in initiation. In occidental society, ibogaine therapy has several applications, including as an aid to psychotherapy and in the treatment of substance use disorders, especially for opiate use disorders. Some of the other iboga alkaloids have independently been shown to interrupt substance use disorders.
The entheogen iboga has unique healing properties related to neuroplasticity,
a time when the mind is easily able to ingrain new choices and behaviors. It can also induce oneiric states, a waking dream effect. Ibogaine is a naturally occurring alkaloid obtained by extraction from the Tabernanthe iboga plant, it is used in West Africa (Gabon and bordering countries) for medicinal and ritual purposes of initiation and rites of passage.
Ibogaine is a naturally occurring psychoactive substance that has been demonstrated to interrupt substance use disorders, as well as possess other neurological and psychological benefits.
Ibogaine is highly effective in helping the mind and body to make deep, lasting shifts in thinking and behavior. It has also been found to exert long lasting actions on GDNF expression and signaling, helping the brain to strengthen and create new neuron connections.
Ibogaine produces oneirogenic effects, meaning that it stimulates a dream-like state while awake, as well as closed eye imagery and the retrieval of repressed memories. Ibogaine works in the mind and psychological self, allowing a person to release stories and patterns clearing the path to start developing new ways of being and behaving. It releases the blocks so that we may experience ourselves more fully and experience life deeply grounded in our humanness.
After experiencing an ibogaine journey in 2013, I decided to research about its benefits, effects and how ibogaine clinics and providers worked in Mexico using this medicine to help heal addiction, trauma, depression and other mental health issues.
The journey of discovering our true self or our inner sense of being is not a given process, is not something we follow from other people’s journey, it is unique to each person. The exploration of what reveals our heart, our wisdom and our guidance depends on the intention and effort we cultivate. We do learn from others, from different practices and approaches. We can immerse ourselves in nature, in communities that support different aspects of these discoveries, in activities that impulse our curiosity.
I propose that integral approaching the movement to discover our true self is about opening our minds and hearts, to stretching the boundaries of our limitations, to allowing ourselves to make mistakes and to have huge success that make sense to us, and hopefully to others. This means that if we use an entheogen, we use it with integrity and reverence for the plant, and our planet and for the dimensions that we might visit; that we use it within an integral life practice; we use it for our development and to benefit our relationships with others and to the world; we use it consciously and cultivating mindfully the healing effects it has in us, in our everyday life.
For me this discovery has included experiencing altered states of consciousness, some induced (through substances or practices) and some that arise naturally. My search moved me into medicinal plants, into the sacred and delicate arising of greater awareness of the self while in an alternative state…finally into a letting go of the continuous attachment to the need to grasp the moment or the experience, letting go of the need to define myself to find my true self. It may be that the arising of this need to discover our inner self is a natural force and that the actual attitude or relationship towards it, is what has more fluidity and flexibility now in how I experience life.
During my integral research about ‘Ibogaine: a therapeutic tool for transformative practice’, and as part of the autobiographical method I decided to do a video about my experience of an ibogaine treatment. The video includes data from my journaling before, during and after the treatment. It also includes memories and sensations that live in me. It includes information from my ibogaine provider’s notes from the lay-down session. Lastly it includes a video editor who is passionate about entheogens.