Bwiti men preparing Iboga Root Bark

Iboga Root Bark: Sourcing and Prep Matter

When deciding to work with Iboga as a plant medicine, it is important to know what it is, where the medicine came from, whether it was sustainably grown/harvested and how it was prepared.

What is Iboga:

When people say Iboga, they are usually referring to the inner root bark of the Tabernanthe Iboga Tree in Western Africa. Ibogaine, while more well-known, is a different thing. Ibogaine is the extracted active alkaloid of Iboga, leaving out 30+ other alkaloids found in the bark. Iboga TA (total alkaloid) is an extract that maintains all of the alkaloids of the root bark but also removes much of the plant matter, allowing for easier consumption and digestion. At Root Healing we only work with Iboga in its natural root bark from or Iboga TA for some.

Where does the Iboga come from:

A lot of the Iboga being sold online is coming from sketchy sources that are difficult to vet.  There are a few websites that have a selection of Iboga Root Bark, Iboga TA, and Ibogaine HCL, but there is no mention of where it comes from. In addition, while the Iboga TA (a very meticulous process that will be further explained below) can be prepared in a way that maintains the spirit, Ibogaine HCL, will no longer have the spirit of Iboga in it.

We believe the only people equipped to handle the medicine are the Bwiti. The Bwiti have been the shepherds of the medicine for thousands of years in the way the Iboga itself told them to. Using medicine that comes from the Bwiti is a much more potent and spiritually oriented experience. All of our medicine comes from our Missoko Bwiti brothers and sisters that we have trained and partnered with.

Was the Iboga Sustainably Grown/Harvested:

As you can imagine, the demand for Iboga has gone up dramatically as its popularity grows. Even just a few years ago, not many people outside of plant medicine circles knew what Iboga was. A lot of the is due to the Opioid epidemic and the need for powerful treatments to save people’s lives and the effectiveness of Ibogaine in doing that. A lot of it is due to the rising popularity of plant medicines after they went more mainstream via books like Michael Pollan’s “How to Change Your Mind.” But, this was always going to be inevitable. Iboga is such a powerful tool and as our society. detached further from our natural roots, our need for healing only grew. It is a good thing that people want this healing, but we must be very careful about how we acquire it. 

Colonialism and Attempts to Regulate Iboga

Another thing to consider is the colonialist history of Africa and the world and who should actually be managing the protection of Iboga. There are some groups popping up run by people from the western world who are actually trying to tell the Bwiti how to regulate their own sacrament. Please be wary of these groups as well. Colonialism is deeply embedded in the western mindset and it is often difficult for us to see. The solution is simple, let these indigenous communities manage and care for the sacrament they have so generously shared with us and don’t assume that we know better. 

In the Bwiti tradition, the medicine is grown sustainably and ethically harvested. All of the trees are very old and immense care goes into maintaining them in a special way.. As they have for thousands of years.

How was the Iboga Prepared?:

The preparation of Iboga starts from the time it is harvested and can last days. As mentioned above, it is the inner root bark that is used because of the density of the alkaloids. Therefore, they must very carefully remove the first layer of bark first before shaving off the inner-bark that is used. This entire process is done to the tune of Bwiti songs and follows a certain method in order to promote the strength of the spirit of Iboga. You can see this process in the videos below that we filmed while in Gabon

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when you chose to work with Iboga. At Root Healing, we have included a dedication to only working with Iboga directly from our Missoko Bwiti Brothers and Sisters in our Mission Statement & Ethics Pledge. Our medicine will always come directly from them and we will continue to support them. If you have any questions about how we source our Iboga and Iboga TA, please feel free to ask. We’d love to connect.

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