Ibogaine Alkaloid Benefits
A Scientific Take Backed by Research
Ibogaine is a natural alkaloid extracted from the root of the Iboga plant (Tabernanthe iboga) which is native to Western Africa. It was first discovered by the Babonga and Bwiti living in that region who used it in rituals for its psychoactive properties. In small doses, Ibogaine is a mild stimulant, while in large amounts it has psychedelic effects.
Ibogaine research started in 1962, with multiple case studies reporting successful treatments of addictions to heroin, cocaine, morphine, amphetamine, and alcohol (1).
Currently, scientists have investigated its effects on attenuating addictions, improving mood, boosting neuroplasticity, as well as other health effects. One of the most unique Ibogaine benefits is that even a single dose can cause a long-lasting suppression of alcohol and drug-seeking behavior.
In this article, you will discover everything about Ibogaine’s benefits, applications, and risks. Furthermore, you can learn more about the research on Ibogaine and its mechanisms of action. Let’s dive right in!
Overview of Ibogaine Benefits
Ibogaine has a complex effect on the brain that is not yet fully understood. It affects multiple signaling pathways and neurotransmitters in the central nervous system. The most notable ones are:
- Dopamine transporters
- N-acetylcholine receptors
- Serotonin transporters
- NMDA receptors
The benefits of Ibogaine against addiction and symptoms of withdrawal are likely due to its effect on dopamine and acetylcholine. Dopamine is the mediator that controls movement, but also emotional response and desire. Its levels are altered in patients with addiction.
Ibogaine research suggests that it blocks the dopamine transporters, which leads to an increase in dopamine levels and thus restoring them to normal levels (2).
The inhibitory effect on the N-acetylcholine receptors also intercepts the neurological mechanisms of addiction and thus Ibogaine aids in maintaining normal acetylcholine levels (3).
Ibogaine benefits extend to anti-depressive and anxiolytic properties. These are likely due to the impact it has on serotonin transporters, which is similar to dopamine (4). By blocking them and increasing serotonin levels, Ibogaine improves symptoms of depression, anxiety, and PTSD.
Blocking the NMDA receptors leads to the psychedelic effects of the alkaloid (5).
Neuroplasticity and Neural Remodeling
The long-term effects on drug-seeking behavior can be explained by the effect of Ibogaine on neuroplasticity and neural remodeling. By rewiring the brain, Ibogaine can help patients overcome their addiction and manage withdrawal symptoms.
One animal study discovered that Ibogaine’s benefits on neural remodeling are likely due to its effect on some of the main growth factors in the brain (6).
Those factors are the Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), Nerve Growth Factor (NGF), and Glial Cell-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (GDNF). Their main role is to ensure neuron survival and stimulate the formation of new synapses between them. According to the experiment, Ibogaine increases the activity of BDNF, NGF, and GDNF in different areas of the brain that contain dopaminergic neurons.
Further research has confirmed that BDNF and GDNF can induce remodeling in the nerve tissue (7). The combined effect on the various nerve growth factors is likely the key to the long-term effect of Ibogaine on attenuating drug and alcohol addictions (8).
BDNF might also stimulate neurogenesis, which is the formation of new neurons in parts of the adult brain that still retain stem cells (9).
Attenuating Addiction and Withdrawal Symptoms
The main metabolite of Ibogaine is Noribogaine. Indeed, studies investigating the effectiveness of a single dose of Noribogaine up to 180mg, have found a trend toward decreased total opioid withdrawal and a favorable safety profile (10). The main adverse reactions were only mild such as changes in light perception, headache, and nausea.
However, other studies suggest that Ibogaine itself is extremely potent in attenuating addiction to various drugs and substances. It is reported to reduce cravings and symptoms of withdrawal in cases of opiate (oxycodone, morphine), heroin, amphetamine, cocaine, alcohol, and even nicotine addiction.
According to a small trial, a single dose of Ibogaine (200mg) was effective enough in suppressing symptoms of withdrawal completely in the long-term (11). In fact, it was sufficient to completely eliminate symptoms of addiction in some of the participants.
A larger trial on 30 individuals who had previously unsuccessful treatment for oxycodone and heroin addiction revealed that all participants had significantly reduced addiction scores that were sustained for 3-12 months after the therapy (12).
Another study collected data from 88 patients with addiction treated with Ibogaine, most of which were daily users. After the therapy, 54% of the cases were abstinent for at least a year and 30% never took drugs again (13).
Mood, Depression, and Anxiety
Historically, Ibogaine has also been used as an antidepressant as well. Activity towards the transporter of serotonin is likely the cause of the antidepressant effects of Ibogaine therapy (14). This leads to an increase in serotonin levels which is similar to the effect of certain anti-depressants.
Studies that investigated the effect of Ibogaine on patients with addiction report that symptoms of depression are also significantly reduced (15, 16).
Mood and symptoms of depression were improved even in the cases of non-successful detoxification. In fact, 2 out of the 3 addiction patients who were also on therapy with anti-depressant could discontinue their treatment after Ibogaine administration.
Depression and anxiety are rather common amongst addiction patients. Often drugs and alcohol are a way of coping with their symptoms. By targeting these symptoms, Ibogaine provides a complex approach towards the management of drug-seeking behavior.
These benefits are likely limited to people with depression, anxiety, or other related psychiatric problems. Small studies in healthy individuals report that Ibogaine has only minor effects on mood and cognition (17).
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is estimated to affect about 8% of all Americans (18). It is a debilitating psychiatric disorder that is usually treated with antidepressants, such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).
Ibogaine might offer a novel approach towards treating PTSD, thanks to its effects on the transporter of serotonin and the following increase in serotonin levels.
Only one study has investigated the effect of Ibogaine on the condition. It involved 65 US Special Operations Forces veterans, 51 of whom completed the final survey. The trial revealed that Ibogaine treatment led to major reductions in suicidal tendencies, cognitive impairment, depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms (19). Besides, the participants reported the psychedelic experience of Ibogaine as something extremely significant and spiritually insightful.
Anti-Microbial and Anti-Viral Properties of Ibogaine
Ibogaine’s benefits are not limited to the central nervous system and the brain. The alkaloid may provide benefits against some of the most common pathogens, including fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
In vitro studies have reported that Ibogaine has anti-bacterial activity against Tuberculosis (20). Laboratory experiments with human immune cells revealed that Ibogaine can also block the replication of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in these cells (21).
Furthermore, scientists have investigated the antifungal activity of various alkaloids in vitro. They discovered that Ibogaine can inhibit the enzymes that Candida albicans use to infect cells (22).
When tested in mice infected with Candida albicans, Ibogaine significantly reduced mortality in the tested animals compared to the controls (23).
Unfortunately, the evidence for anti-microbial effects is mostly coming from in-vitro studies. More clinical trials are required in order to confirm the benefits of Ibogaine and investigate its effect on humans in regards to treating infections.
In Conclusion, What’s the Future of Ibogaine?
Overall, Ibogaine is a promising drug in the treatment of addictions, due to its potential long-term effects even after a single dose. There is some risk of cardiac toxicity in high doses Ibogaine. It slows the heart rate by blocking the potassium ion channels and thus slowing down the electrical impulses of the heart (24). For this reason, it should be taken with the proper supervision and an experienced team that includes medical professionals.
There are also some exclusions for who can take it. High doses of Ibogaine can lead to abnormal heart rhythm, arrhythmia, and cardiac arrest. Ibogaine is not suitable for patients with preexisting cardiovascular conditions.
Currently, Ibogaine is classified as a Schedule I substance and banned in the USA, Australia, and some countries in Europe. However, it is legal in many countries such as Canada and Mexico, where it is successfully employed for the treatment of addiction.
For those that have a heart condition, the future of Ibogaine in the treatment of addiction might stand with its analogs which carry some of its benefits but lack the psychedelic effects as well as the risk for toxicity in higher doses. The candidates are 18-Methoxycoronaridine (18-MC) and Tabernanthalog (TBG) (25, 26). One real benefit they attribute to these analogs is the lack of a negative effect on the potassium ion channels in the heart muscle, which reduces the risk for cardiovascular problems. The only problem with that is the spirit of the medicine is not there and the experience lacks the spiritual healing aspect which is extremely important for addicts. Additionally, Ibogaine is actually quite safe when taken with a proper experienced team so this is really only necessary for those with heart conditions. For everyone else who also wants spiritual healing, they are left with two choices: the first being a Detox with Ibogaine or analogs followed by a Bwiti Iboga retreat, or with our Iboga Assisted Detox we can offer the same benefits of both combined into one retreat. For those interested in learning more, please feel free to reach out.
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