Tabernanthe Iboga Tree

Iboga

What is it?

When people say “Iboga,” they are actually referring to the second layer of root bark of the Tabernanthe Iboga Tree found throughout western Africa. The second layer of root bark is used because it has the highest level of active alkaloids found in the entire plant. Alkaloids are found throughout the plant, but at much lower levels. There are over 30 active alkaloids in the plant. Sometimes, the Bwiti (will explain who they are later in the post) will also make a tea out of the innermost layer of the roots once the second layer is scraped off, but this is not something used outside of Gabon. The preparation of the medicine by the Bwiti (see below), is a very long process that involves a lot of beautiful singing and rituals before the finished product is ready to be used. 

Iboga is now known worldwide as a highly effective Plant Medicine. Plant Medicines are growing in popularity throughout the world as powerful physical and spiritual tools for healing. As the Godfather of all plants, it can be used for physical healing, spiritual healing and spiritual discovery. It is the only Plant Medicine that can help with all three of those things. Having both a masculine and feminine energy, it can also be flexible and adaptive to the experience each person needs. 

What it isn’t

Iboga is not Ibogaine. Ibogaine, a much more well-known term, is actually referring to Ibogaine HCL, which is the completely extracted alkaloid, basically a prescription drug. Ibogaine is famous for being a highly effective treatment for drug addiction, particularly Opiate addiction. Ibogaine has the ability to stop opiate withdrawal completely, physically detox the person, and begin healing the things that led the person to be an addict in the first place. While Ibogaine comes from Iboga, all the other alkaloids have been extracted from the medicine. In addition, the spirit of the medicine is no longer present in Ibogaine HCL. For this reason, Ibogaine is only an effective tool for physical healing and detox, but does not offer the spiritual healing that Iboga does. 

Iboga is not like other plant medicines, entheogens, or psychedelics. The experience of this medicine is completely different. It is often compared with Ayahuasca since it is the most popular plant medicine in our time, but they are only similar in that they are plants that offer healing.

Outside of the physical and emotional healing and detox, it does not do the work for you. During the ceremony, it may show you how your mind works, review memories, and reconnect you with your own soul and personal truths. While it is mostly known as a plant healer, it is also a plant teacher, which of course means you get homework. The homework is simple, “just be.” It wants you to be yourself and to do what you want. It is your choice how to create the life you after your experience with the medicine, but it will stay with you after the ceremony to help you to see the choices and remind you. 

What is does

Iboga is the most powerful and efficient healing tool on the planet right now (our biased opinion). As mentioned above, it is capable of physical healing, spiritual healing and spiritual discovery. The experience is different for every person, every time. One person who does it multiple times may have a completely different experience each time. Two different people in the same ceremony will also have very different experiences. While it is difficult to find a general way to explain this, we can share some of the most commonly reported effects. First off, it does cause ataxia, so your body will not move like it normally does. When you try to move or walk, it is a varying degree of glitchy depending on the person. It generally takes anywhere from 15 mins- 1.5 hours to start feeling the effects, and each person’s tolerance is different. Weight is not an effective way to determine tolerance. Someone who is 100 pounds may have a much higher tolerance than someone who weighs 300 pounds. As the effects begin to show, you may feel warm and fuzzy, have difficulty sitting still, be more easily distracted, feel a little disoriented, and you may want to lay down. When the effects are more pronounced, it may feel a bit like a dream. The visions people have can best be described in this way as well, like a clear vivid dream where memories are reviewed. Sometimes the effects may only be physical with no visions at all. Many people may say that their mind is continually racing, but this is actually one of the positive effects. What is actually happening is that Iboga is showing you how your mind works. 

The effects are much longer than any other plant medicine. Generally, people feel the effects for 15-24 hours. Many people also report that it “stays with them,” in a helpful way, for months after their ceremony.   

The Origin 

Iboga was first discovered by the Babongo people (also known as Pygmies, which is the name that was given to them by the French, but is considered a derogatory term today) thousands of years ago. The story of it’s discovery as a sacrament and plant teacher is best told around the fire as it has been for a very long time, but I will share a little bit about it now. Basically, it was first ingested by two different women. The first woman unknowingly ingested a porcupine that had eaten the roots of the Tabernanthe Iboga Tree found all over Gabon. The second woman was the wife of the Chief (who was too scared to eat it himself, but too curious to let it go) who had asked her to do it for him. This time she ingested the actual roots and during her experience, a Tabernanthe Iboga Tree appeared to her and told her that it had seen them running all around looking for answers and instead whenever they had questions, they should ask “the medicine.” It was from that point on that everything Bwiti began to come from the sacrament itself. 

The Bwiti

Iboga is the sacrament of the Bwiti or “the medicine,” as they often call it. Since their discovery of it, everything that is Bwiti has come from the spirit of the medicine. Bwiti music, rituals, temples, fashion, spiritual practices, etc. all come from Iboga. When the Bwiti, ingest “the medicine,” it is generally done in what is known as initiations, or as part of traditional coming-of-age ceremonies. 

The Bwiti have been the shepherds of this sacrament since they discovered it, keeping it safe from the potential abuses from the outside world. When the French and French missionaries came to Gabon, the Babongo and Bwiti people tried to keep it hidden from them. Some of the Bwiti did not and actually shared it with them, merging the Christian beliefs with their own. This group is known as “the Fang,” and are the most well-known because of their openness to the French and the missionaries. Of course, since most other sects of Bwiti were trying to keep it safe from the colonial aims of the western world, there is less known about these groups. Additionally, everything Bwiti is passed down from “breath-to-breath” or word of mouth, leaving very little literature for research, only that of those who have had direct access to them. The destiny of Iboga is married to the Bwiti, and both have been very elusive until this day. Some Bwiti Shamans, like the well-known Moughenda Mikala, have begun to share Iboga and the Bwiti practices with the western world. 

Retreats

Typically, Iboga is ingested within the retreat setting. Some retreats follow their own protocols, while others stick to the Bwiti tradition. Many people have been travelling to Gabon, to have the true “initiation” experience, as well. An Iboga retreat is generally very different from an Ibogaine clinic, which tends to be a more clinical/medical type setting. 

Summary

Iboga is a healing plant medicine that can offer physical healing, spiritual healing and spiritual discovery. It has both masculine and femine energy. It is not the same thing as Ibogaine, which is a treatment for Opiate addiction. It is not like other plant medicines, entheogens or psychedelics. It is very different from Ayahuasca. It was first discovered by the Babongo and has been shepherded, cared for and protected by the Bwiti for thousands of years. It is generally done in a retreat setting, but others may take it on their own (DO NOT DO THIS), or travel to Gabon for an initiation. If you have any questions or are interested in learning more about our retreats, please reach out at any time. 

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