Tabernanthe Iboga, mostly known as “Iboga” or Ibogaine, is a perennial rainforest shrub, noticeably used in traditional African medicine and rituals. The yellow-colored bark is chewed, and produces hallucinations that have been recognized to be so intense, the outcomes have often been described as near-death experiences. Iboga may just becoming popular in the west, however it has long been used by the Bwiti in ceremonial practices.
A History of Healing
According to the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance, Iboga has a history of healing and rights of passage that stretches back for millennia in the Central West African rainforest. Its use originated with the pygmies, or forest people, who later shared their knowledge with the Bantu population of Gabon.
This exchange led to the development of Bwiti around the late 19th century. While remaining central to Gabonese culture, more recently, Bwiti temples have spread to some of the surrounding regions such as Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, the Congo, and Zaire.
As a matter of fact, the Iboga tree is central to the Bwiti spiritural practices where the substances is consumed in massive doses by initiates and on a more regular basis eaten in smaller doses for rituals and tribal dances performed at night.
As a result of the former Gabonese president, Léon M’ba, in 1960, and his fight to defend the bwiti religion and the use of Iboga, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Gabon declared Iboga to be a national treasure.
This was undeniably an important moment in Gabonese history as the Bwitists had been subject to persecution by Catholic missionaries.
Unfortunately, the root or bark is extremely restricted in most western countries and illegal in the United States. Furthermore, exportation of Iboga from Gabon is illegal since the passage of a 1994 cultural protection law.
Iboga has received praised in recent years for its healing properties, and especially help recovering and struggling drug-addicts. According to WebMD, people even take Iboga for fever, influenza, high blood pressure, HIV/AIDS, and nerve disorders. They also take it for preventing fatigue and drowsiness, for increasing sex drive, as well as fighting substance abuse and addictions.
American Addiction Centers have stated that medical professionals who have used ibogaine to treat people recovering from methamphetamine addiction report 50-80 percent success rates.
The Experience Ibogaine program analyzed two studies in which one reported a 55% reduction of patients’ reduction in their withdrawal symptoms, 30 hours after treatment. And a second study showing that 12 months after treatment, 75% of patients surveyed had not used opiates in the last 30 days.
A National Treasure
Although Iboga has clearly proved itself to be a positive alternative to beat drug addiction, it is important to understand that the substance is considered like a national treasure. Bwitists still use Iboga to promote radical spiritual growth, to stabilize community and family structure, as well as to meet religious requirements, and to resolve pathological problems.
One of the reasons Iboga is a crucial part of Bwiti rituals, is because when Bwiti shamans consume Ibogaine, they believe that they gain the ability to heal the sick, communicate with the dead, and experience visions of the future.
“We consider the Bwiti tradition as the learning of natural laws that lead an individual to harmony with their environment, recognizing all levels of their existence. After observing the way that Western people view Bwiti and the use of iboga, we would like to say a few words about it.”
“Iboga is a sacred plant. It is sacred because it belongs to a particular environment and a spiritual tradition. It is sacred because it is considered as such within Bwiti. Thus, it belongs to Bwitist tradition.”