Iboga Retreat Guest laying down near alter

Iboga Treatment

An Iboga Treatment works with what is known as the godfather of all plant medicines, Iboga. Iboga is the inner root bark of a rainforest shrub called Tabernanthe Iboga. It’s been used by West African tribes for thousands of years for its medicinal and spiritual properties as a part of the spiritual tradition Bwiti.

The roots of the herb contain several bioactive alkaloids with the most prominent one being Ibogaine. It was isolated from the plant by Édouard Landrin in 1900 and it’s considered as the main alkaloid possessing psychoactive and therapeutic qualities.

In 1962 it was found that Ibogaine had potent effects on attenuating withdrawal and cravings in individuals addicted to opiates such as heroin and morphine. Case studies also reported effectiveness against cocaine, amphetamine, and alcohol addictions (1).

Nowadays, both Iboga and Ibogaine therapy are used outside of the Bwiti rituals for their many healing properties, and particularly the treatment of addiction.

Other benefits currently investigated by scientists include its effects on neuroplasticity, depression, anxiety, neurological and autoimmune diseases.

Ibogaine Therapy and Iboga Treatments have already been employed for healing and as a treatment for addiction in several countries including Portugal, Thailand, Canada, New Zealand, and Mexico. 

While both therapies have high success rates, using Iboga Treatments which work with Iboga Root Bark and Iboga TA are more effective due to the combination of several alkaloids which potentiate the benefits of Ibogaine for addiction, mental health, and neurological conditions.

Ibogaine and Iboga Treatment

Ibogaine treatments tend to be very clinical, as they are performed in a hospital setting with little to no spiritual healing, counseling, or integration coaching like you would receive and Iboga Treatment. 

What is more, they use a pure single alkaloid extract which misses out on the potential of the whole plant since Ibogaine is not the only active alkaloid in the Tabernanthe Iboga shrub. 

In fact, the root and especially the root bark of the herb contains dozens of alkaloids. Apart from ibogaine, other prominent molecules include tabernanthine (13-methoxy ibogamine), ibogamine, coronaridine, ibogaline, and others.

Scientists have investigated the effectiveness of these alkaloids in attenuating drug-seeking behavior in animals, and they have found that tabernanthine, ibogamine, and coronaridine possess potent anti-addictive properties similar to ibogaine (2).

This means that the benefits of ibogaine will be potentiated when used in conjunction with the rest of the alkaloids. Thus, we recommend an Iboga Treatment as a more effective option in attenuating the symptoms of drug craving and withdrawal.

The available Iboga treatments can vary but practitioners usually use Iboga Root Bark, Iboga Total Alkaloid extract (TA), or a combination of the two.

Iboga may be more potent than Ibogaine for other conditions as well, such as alleviating symptoms of depression.

Both ibogaine and tabernanthine activate receptors in the brains called sigma-2 (3). According to the research, activating these receptors can have several benefits for brain function, including antidepressant effects.

There are many different approaches and therapeutic options when it comes to Iboga treatment. We believe the best option is by far the traditional Bwiti ceremonies and retreats that are facilitated by someone who has a proper training from a Bwiti Shaman. This is true because Iboga and Bwiti have been married (in a sense) for thousands of years. Iboga is the sacrament of the Bwiti and it’s spirit has communicated to them directly about how to work with it. The rituals and traditions of a Bwiti focused Iboga treatment were actually given to the Bwiti by the spirit of Iboga itself, enhancing its strength, efficacy, and healing results. 

Iboga and Ibogaine for Treating Addiction and Withdrawal

Ibogaine has been extensively studied when it comes to treating symptoms of addiction and withdrawal to opioids and opiates (natural opioids).

In one study, 33 people with addiction to heroin underwent Ibogaine therapy and were then observed for 72 hours (4). 

25 of the patients experienced complete relief of opioid withdrawal within the first 24 hours and the benefits persisted during the observation period.

In the rest of the participants, withdrawal but not drug-seeking behavior was eliminated or significantly reduced.

A smaller study with 8 patients addicted to opioids reported that a single dose of ibogaine was effective in inducing long-term abstinence (5).

The participants were tested at 3-, 6-, and 12-months after the dose. Only one subject each at three and six months and two participants at 12 months tested positive for opioids.

Furthermore, a much larger study with 88 opioid-dependent patients also reported long-term effects and up to 30% of the participants achieved complete cessation of drug use (6). 

The withdrawal symptoms were suppressed immediately after Ibogaine therapy in 80% of the individuals.

A single dose of Ibogaine appears effective in treating cocaine addiction as well. One study in 27 treatment-seeking cocaine-dependent individuals reported that 800 mg of ibogaine significantly decreased cravings immediately and the effect persisted one month after the dose (7).  

Other published scientific observations also confirm the benefits of Ibogaine on cocaine addiction and withdrawal (8).

Another report of 75 previous alcohol, cannabis, cocaine and crack users reveals that a single Ibogaine treatment led to several months of abstinence in 61% of the patients, while additional treatments prolonged the suppressing effects on drug-seeking behavior (9).

Iboga and Ibogaine Benefits for Treating Mental Health Conditions

Depression and anxiety disorders are relatively common amongst drug addicts. In fact, the addiction often occurs in an attempt to cope with psychological symptoms.

With that being said, most of the studies investigating the benefits of Ibogaine for addiction and withdrawal also report significant improvement in symptoms of depression after the treatment (5, 7, 10).

In fact, ibogaine was initially marketed in France in the 1930s as a product for depression and fatigue (11). 

The alkaloid blocks the transporters of serotonin and dopamine in the brain (12, 13). This decreases their reuptake and increases the bioavailability of these molecules in the brain.

Increasing serotonin levels is also one of the main targets of pharmacological therapy with antidepressants.

Furthermore, increasing dopamine may also improve symptoms of depression. If dopamine levels are insufficient, it may lead to mood problems including depressed mood, lack of motivation, and feelings of hopelessness. 

In fact, the neurotransmitter is considered to play a central role in the development of the most common type of depression – major depressive disorder (14).

Mood and symptoms of depression may even improve in cases of not-fully successful detoxification with Ibogaine. 

However, Ibogaine does not impact serotonin and dopamine levels if they are already normal, such as in healthy people without addictions or mental health problems (15).

Ibogaine also appears effective in certain forms of anxiety, such as PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). 

According to a study in 51 US veterans, a single oral dose (10 mg/kg) of ibogaine led to a significant reduction in symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD (16). The treatment also led to major reductions in suicidal tendencies and cognitive impairment.

Ibogaine and Iboga Treatment Benefits for Physical Conditions

According to in vitro and animal experiments, Ibogaine may also possess antimicrobial properties, including, antiretroviral, antimycobacterial, and antimycotic effects.

One in vitro study has reported that Ibogaine has activity against the bacteria that causes tuberculosis – Mycobacterium tuberculosis (17). 

Furthermore, another in vitro laboratory experiment with human immune cells has revealed that Ibogaine can also block the replication of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes AIDS and may stop the spreading of the virus (18).

Both in vitro and animal studies show that Ibogaine is highly effective against one of the most common fungal pathogens – Candida albicans. The fungi are a common cause of infections, especially amongst immunocompromised patients.

In the in vitro trial, the scientists discovered that Ibogaine can inhibit the enzymes that Candida albicans use to infect cells, and thus it can limit the infection(19).

Furthermore, Ibogaine was able to increase survival in animals with severe cases of candida infections (20).

Benefits of Iboga and Ibogaine for Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is the potential of the brain to learn, adapt and recover. It’s the result of the brain cells’ ability to form new connections with each other, reorganize (“cortical remapping” and even form new ones from dormant progenitor cells.

The growth factors in the brain that stimulate this process and ensure the survival of nerve cells are called neurotrophic factors. 

According to research, Ibogaine may increase the activity of several neurotrophic factors in the brain, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), nerve growth factor (NGF), and glial cell-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) (21).

According to most experts, the long-term benefits of Ibogaine on symptoms of addiction and drug-seeking behavior are likely due to the activation of some of these factors, especially GDNF (22).

In fact, the benefits of Ibogaine on GDNF persist even after the alkaloid has left your system (23). 

Restoring the normal activity of the neurotrophic factor also ensures the normal function and survival of dopaminergic brain cells.

In addition, by increasing the activity of NGF and BDNF, Ibogaine may be able to rejuvenate some of the damage that occurs to these factors after years of opioid and cocaine abuse (24, 25).

BDNF is also shown to help nerve cells create new connections, survive, repair, and even form anew in areas of the brain which still retain stem cells (26, 27).

Potential benefits of Iboga and Ibogaine

The effects of Iboga and its alkaloids such as ibogaine on various receptors and neurotrophic factors in the brain may hide a potential for treating certain neurological conditions.

For example, restoring the activity of BDNF in the brain may boost the recovery of patients with traumatic brain injury (TBI) (28).

TBI is a term describing damage to the brain (such as a concussion) that has occurred due to external force. Severe or repeated injuries can lead to irreparable brain damage and disabilities.

Since Ibogaine stimulates the activity of BDNF in certain areas of the brain, the alkaloid may be able to induce neural regeneration, reconnection, dendritic sprouting, and improved synaptic efficacy. 

This in turn may reverse cognitive and emotional deficits in TBI patients. Animal studies support the effectiveness of BDNF activation which was able to cause a complete brain repair after a TBI (29). 

Another neurodegenerative condition that may be ameliorated thanks to the effects of Iboga and Ibogaine on neuroplasticity is Parkinson’s. The condition is caused by the death of dopaminergic neurons.

GDNF has been extensively investigated as a possible agent that can prevent the death of brain cells and restore function in the dopaminergic brain cells that are affected by the condition (30).

Studies have shown up to 40% improvement in symptoms after direct GDNF infusion. However, the procedure is invasive, complicated, and inconvenient.

On the other hand, Ibogaine has been proven to upregulate GDNF expression in the same regions which are otherwise affected in Parkinson’s and thus may prove to be an effective and less invasive treatment option (21).

Furthermore, the activation of the sigma-1 receptor by ibogaine and other alkaloids in Iboga may also provide benefits against neurological diseases (31). For example, the activation of the receptor may help patients with Parkinson’s by reducing neuroinflammation (32).

Studies have also shown that the reduction of inflammation in the brain is especially effective in autoimmune neurological conditions such as multiple sclerosis (MS) and autoimmune encephalomyelitis (inflammation of the brain and the spinal cord).

In one experimental animal model of autoimmune encephalomyelitis, sigma-1 activation prevented the accumulation of immune cells and degeneration of neurons which slowed down the progression of the condition (33).

Helping people find clarity in who they are and what they want

An Iboga Treatment should focus on connecting you to who you are and what you want because this is one of the biggest spiritual benefits the treatment offers. In a traditional Bwiti Iboga ceremony, individuals are brought to meet and reconnect with their soul. This connection (and knowing) instills an unwavering sense of confidence, self-love, and clarity to those who truly embrace it. This will then have a profound impact on their perspective and their entire external world. When you leave an Iboga treatment knowing who you are and what you want, there is no stopping you. 

Conclusion

Treatment with ibogaine has shown great success in attenuating symptoms of addiction and withdrawal, as well as great promise in the therapy of depression, PTSD, and other health conditions.

While Ibogaine therapy has been studied much more extensively than Iboga, an Iboga Treatment using the isolated alkaloid extract is much more optimal and efficient.

A traditional Bwiti-focused Iboga treatment, using Iboga or Iboga TA is not only medically effective but also spiritually and mentally healing.

We believe Iboga treatments at our Root Healing retreats offer the best of both worlds, having a medical team and Bwiti trained team on staff, offering comprehensive holistic treatments that work.

References:

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