The Seeker’s Guide to Iboga

The Seeker's Guide to Iboga

and ibogaine

Iboga is a core part of one of the most important Central African religions and it appears to have the potential to help those Westerners whose lives have been most devastated by the opioid crisis. 

Unlike most other natural psychedelics, iboga is not a relatively safe plant. Linked to a number of deaths, iboga can cause heart failure in susceptible people, and the psychedelic experience itself is also not a gentle one.

That’s why it’s especially important to be educated about the potential of iboga as a treatment for addiction, its risks, and its history and tradition as a religious sacrament.

This guide is intended for those who would like to experience iboga in a safe and legal framework.
It should be used for harm reduction and education purposes only, and contains no advice about obtaining prohibited substances.

Introduction

Who This Guide Is For

The Seeker's Guide to Iboga was created for everyone who wants to learn more about iboga. We aim to provide balanced, relevant and practical information; whether you’re looking to find a safe treatment center, or just interested in discovering iboga’s cultural roots, this guide should have what you need.

As iboga becomes more popular in the Global North, it’s important that there are good quality resources out there that can help keep people safe and informed.

To keep the surge of psychedelic healing going, we need to make sure that people are having safe, respectful, and effective iboga experiences.

How to Use this Guide

This guide is divided into two parts. 

  1. Iboga 101. This first section covers important background information about iboga and its history, so that you, the seeker, have some cultural and scientific context about iboga that is sometimes lacking in other guides.

  2. How to do Iboga. The second section covers practical information about what to expect from an iboga experience. You will find an overview of some of the safety concerns and risks related to iboga, as well as strategies to reduce the potential for harm. You will also learn about how to find an iboga treatment center. 


We believe that iboga can be taken safely, and with appropriate respect for traditional practices. This guide should be used to help you fully understand the risk of an iboga ceremony, and find the right place to be if you’re looking for a ceremony.

We believe that the unique healing that iboga can offer has the potential to reverse the opioid crisis that many countries in the Global North are suffering from. That’s why we think it’s so important to not throw away the opportunity to bring psychedelic healing to the most vulnerable people in society, and make this information available to everyone.

This guide was created as a labor of love, from the depths of our hearts to you.

With So Much Love,
Lorna Liana & the EntheoNation Team

Part 1:
Iboga 101

Iboga, or Tabernanthe iboga, is a plant that grows in western Central Africa, and is used by people of the Bwiti religion in the countries of Cameroon, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo.

Usually appearing as a small shrub with long green leaves, orange fruit, and white flowers, it can also grow to the size of a small tree. Its roots are rich in ibogaine, among a number of other compounds. When the root bark is eaten, it can induce anything from a mild stimulation (in low doses), to a full-blown visionary state (in high doses).

Traditionally, iboga is taken in small doses by hunters or foragers to keep them alert, in moderate doses during weekly celebrations, and in higher doses during initiation rites for adolescents.

Iboga has spread to the Global North as a potential treatment of addiction. Treatment centers have appeared throughout the world, offering “flood dose” iboga experiences that have been shown to combat withdrawal and addiction, especially to opioids.

The psychedelic properties of iboga are intense – in the visionary state, people often report encountering divine judgement, revisiting painful memories, or experiencing hell realms. Additionally, iboga is not a physiologically safe plant in the same way that other natural entheogens are; it affects the QT interval of the heart rhythm, potentially with deadly effects in people with prior heart conditions or on other medications.

Taking iboga outside of a traditional context should be considered a highly risky choice, compared to the relative safety of other natural psychedelics. However for people suffering from severe and potentially life-threatening addiction, having an iboga experience in a medically-supervised setting could be an effective treatment.

The History of Iboga

The first people to use iboga for spiritual and healing purposes were probably the pygmies of western Central Africa. The Bantu people who lived in the region came into contact with pygmy tribes in the 1800s, as they fled French Christian missionaries. The Bantu incorporated iboga into their spiritual practices, and christian influences ended up being impossible to resist. This created the Bwiti religion; a mixture of Christianity, animist spirituality, and iboga ceremonies. [1]

“Bwiti” roughly means “dead” or “ancestor,” and iboga is considered a gateway to encounters with the spirit world. Although different sects of Bwiti will have slightly different elements, many incorporate the Christian concept of the Garden of Eden, and ancestor worship is a common theme. [2] Animism, the idea that everything contains an element of divine spirituality, is an important part of Bwiti beliefs. Symbolisms of divine creation are seen throughout the tradition.

Typically, within Bwiti practices, weekly spiritual ceremonies are held were small doses of iboga are taken. These ceremonies, called ngozé, involve dancing, music, and revelry. They are intended to foster community, rather than being intensely visionary pursuits. [1]

Higher doses of iboga are taken less regularly, during initiation rites called tobe si. These are most often for adolescents, but sometimes people who have suffered loss or illness request an initiation. Typically, the initiate will spend many days preparing for the ritual, sometimes gathering plant medicines themselves, or spending copious time in solitude. [3] During the ceremony, they are covered in white clay and given the iboga dose, surrounded by experienced community members who will protect and encourage the initiate, often with song and dance.

Small doses are used as a stimulant by hunters, and sometimes moderate doses are used to treat physical issues, including syphilis and toothache. [3][4] Despite pressure from Catholic traditions, Bwiti continues to practice with iboga at the center of their religion, and is one of the leading spiritual practices in Central Africa.

In Gabon, the iboga root is harvested in a way that leaves the plant alive, and capable of developing new roots. [4] The root is then dried and usually eaten raw or made into a brew.

Learn more about indigenous use of iboga in our article Iboga Medicine – Psychedelic Healing the Bwiti Way.

The Introduction of Iboga to the Global North

The first appearance of iboga in Western history comes from Griffon du Bellay, a French doctor, who reported its ritual use by people in Gabon and the Republic of the Congo in 1864; however its visionary properties were only discovered in 1903 by anthropologists, not long after the formation of the Bwiti religion. [5]

The first accounts of recreational use of iboga in the Global North come from the 1960s, when a young Howard Lotsof, along with five heroin-dependent friends, took an ibogaine extract. They found that their craving and withdrawal symptoms were reduced after the experience. [6]

This led to a number of research studies looking into the anti-addictive potential of the iboga plant (or specifically, ibogaine extract). Although it was determined to have relatively high effectiveness, it was also physiologically risky, with dozens of deaths being recorded over the roughly 50 years that it has been present in the Global North. [7]

Now, although ibogaine is illegal in many countries, it is being used in retreat centers that claim to use the extract of the iboga plant to treat severe addiction. Bwiti practitioners can also be found offering hybrid/traditional ceremonies to Westerners in some cities of the Global North. The potential benefits of this unique entheogen are not going to remain hidden for long.

The Pharmacology of Iboga

Iboga contains three main alkaloids (natural compounds that have an effect on the animal body) in different quantities. The main alkaloid is ibogaine, which accounts for around 80% of the total alkaloids in the iboga plant. The others are ibogaline and ibogamine, that make up the remaining 20%.

Although we don’t know much about ibogaline and ibogamine, we know a little about the pharmacology of ibogaine. Ibogaine activates many different receptors in the brain, but most notably it binds to the sigma-2 and sigma-1 receptors, [8] and the kappa-opioid receptor. [9] The sigma receptors are not well understood, but activation of them can cause convulsions, and they seem to have antidepressant effects in mice. [10] The kappa-opioid receptor is strongly related to the regulation of drug dependence, and can cause intense dysphoria (unease or discomfort) when activated. [11]

An active dose of ibogaine is around 2mg/kg, but most addiction treatment centers will give doses of over 10mg/kg. Toxicity starts to occur at doses over 25mg/kg in rats, and these doses are not recommended. [12]

The psychedelic state that it produces can last a long time, sometimes over a day. Effects begin around 15-20 minutes after ingestion, and the visionary, dream-like psychedelic experience usually ends between 8-12 hours after the dose. People often describe the ibogaine afterglow lasting for several days.

Iboga, unlike some other natural psychedelics, has a significant effect on physiology. As well as causing neurodegeneration at high doses, [12] it has profound effects on the heart. As well as increasing blood pressure and reducing heart rate, iboga elongates the QT interval of the heart rhythm, which can be fatal – especially in people with heart conditions or taking medications that affect the heart. [7] The effects of iboga on the heart can last several days, and some deaths have happened long after the actual iboga experience – highlighting the need for high-quality medical supervision during and after any iboga treatment.

Healing with Iboga

Although iboga has not been traditionally used to treat addiction, this is its main healing purpose in the Global North. Whereas followers of the Bwiti religion see iboga as a sacrament, used for divination, spiritual communion, and physical healing, its main attraction to many Westerners is its apparent ability to treat addiction to some of the most harmful and powerful substances in our culture.

Most iboga treatments use the plant to address opioid dependence, but they can also be used to treat alcohol or cocaine addiction. The treatment appears to have a two-pronged effect; by both helping withdrawal symptoms abate, and by providing a mystical experience that gives sufferers a fresh perspective on their condition.

Numerous animal studies have shown that ibogaine and ibogamine have anti-addictive properties in mice and rats. [13][14] These preliminary studies have been backed up by a large quantity of human research, ranging from surveys to clinical trials.

One survey of 88 opioid addicts who had travelled to Mexico for iboga treatment found that 80% of them reported significant decreases in their withdrawal symptoms. The iboga treatment also seemed to reduce opioid cravings; 50% reported less opioid cravings, and 41% had not used opioids in the six months following the treatment. [15]

An observational study of an iboga treatment center in Mexico found that out of 30 patients, 15 stopped using opioids in the month following the treatment, and on average there were significant reductions in withdrawal symptoms. [16] Another observational study of a center in New Zealand also found significant reductions in withdrawals, and showed that 12 out of 14 participants were not using opioids at long-term follow-ups. [17]

One clinical study of 27 people seeking treatment for opioid- and cocaine-addiction found that a single dose of iboga caused significant decreases in drug cravings and depression symptoms. [18]

Despite these promising results, 27 deaths have been reported from iboga use in the treatment of addiction. [7] Experts frequently highlight the need for strict medical screening procedures for each treatment center, and the importance of high-quality medical observation during and after each treatment session. Iboga has a death rate of about 1 in 300, which is more than most extreme sports; as such, it should be considered a risky treatment, and only taken as a last resort.

Iboga trip art by Android Jones

Artist credit: Android Jones

The Healing Power of the Mystical Experience

The effectiveness of iboga in treating addiction is at least in part due to the profound spiritual experience that it can induce. Research has shown that the magnitude of the spiritual experience that accompanies a psychedelic trip is directly related to a number of healing benefits. [19][20] In the case of iboga, people often describe the mystical experience as a reconnection with a sense of family or community. Many people revisit past memories of family life or decisions that have negatively impacted family members. This is in line with the traditional use of iboga in the Bwiti religion, where a sense of community or “one heartedness” is key to the iboga experience. [3]

Here are just some of the mystical experiences reported by iboga treatment users that show how important the visionary state is to the improvements in dependence:

“I saw my family from young to older and how everything has been and how I affected them. [...] When I closed my eyes most of the time I had visions from my past… A profound sense of love for my family and their love for me and an intense, almost piercing agony as I was overwhelmed with the remorse and the waste and loss, feeling empathy with my family over all their hopes for me dashed by my relentless pursuit of drugs… I kept seeing clips – real memories, of high-school girlfriends and playing music with friends – but then also clips of the present day in an alternate reality where I hadn’t squandered so much love or compassion that had been offered to me ”

- account from a patient at a Mexican iboga treatment center [16]

“My guide spent a large part of the time emphasizing my mother and hammering home the point that I have selfishly lost my appreciation of her and have been neglecting my relationship with her. He vividly showed me what a beautiful, loving person she has been to me my entire life. With intensely realist imagery cosmically tying together globe, womb, and mother, he showed me how my mother is my connection to mother-earth and that my path to happiness in this world must pass through that full recognition. [...] [I was] allowed to lay anchor for a while in childhood, I was immersed in the most beautiful dreamscape, my sister and I playing with my mother next to us, surrounded by soft, evanescent, diamond-shaped tufts of light, blue, red, and yellow..”

- account from Bjorn C on Erowid [21]

“I felt like I was there [in Africa]. I was hiding in a bush observing an African community, likely one that uses iboga. I could see the way their community worked together. The peace and communion they had was inspiring. I really understand our need for community now, as a species. I was dealing with many issues regarding women, my mother mainly, and at one point I was in the village with all the women. They were all hugging me one by one, and saying their goodbyes. It was powerful because I felt like they were trying to wake me up to their love, like comforting me to snap me out of the coldness I’ve been living in. Even since a few months have passed, I feel this was so real. I feel like I was there and that they knew and embraced me.”

- account from an anonymous psychonaut on Reddit [22]

There is more to iboga than just a pharmacological reduction of withdrawal symptoms. There is a crucial spiritual component; helping people gain a fresh perspective on their suffering, and potentially showing them a way out.

Preserving the Iboga Plant

The destruction of iboga’s natural habitat by deforestation, alongside its increasing use by the Global North, have led to a decline in the natural iboga population.

In order to prevent the potential destruction of iboga’s habitat, we should be aware of conservation efforts, and contribute to measures to grow greenhouse colonies in other countries. The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance leads some of these initiatives, and more resources can be found in this section.

We can also look to alternate sources of ibogaine rather than the iboga plant. Voacanga africana is a tree that grows in tropical Africa that also contains ibogaine, alongside a number of other alkaloids such as voacangine and voacamine. It is used in Ghana as a ceremonial psychedelic in similar ways to the iboga plant. V. africana could be used as a more responsible source of ibogaine, as its habitat is under less threat than T. iboga.

Part 2:
Practical

Whatever reason you’ve chosen to take iboga, it’s important to do so mindfully and with respect. Viewing iboga as a quick-fix for any issue, or a one-and-done doorway to spiritual enlightenment, could be a deadly mistake.

Additionally, as ibogaine is not the safest substance, you must ensure that the person who administers this powerful psychedelic is someone with sufficient knowledge and experience.

Here are our guidelines for preparing yourself for a meaningful and safe iboga journey.

Tabernanthe iboga bark pieces

Choosing the Ideal Iboga Treatment Center

Because of the unique physiological effects of iboga, we don’t recommend doing it outside of a qualified, experienced treatment center. While practitioners of the Bwiti religion have learned how to take iboga safely, they have had many generations of wisdom and experience. It is not reasonable to assume that you can replicate the same level of care and spiritual knowledge, and it might not even be wise to trust Bwiti practitioners who provide ceremonies in Western countries.

Good treatment centers will have medical professionals making sure you are safe, will have extensive preparation and integration plans, and will take your comfort and healing as a priority.

Having said that, for every good treatment center, there are two bad ones. The internet is full of reports of charlatans posing as medical professionals or experienced iboga practitioners, who end up simply administering a large dose of iboga then leaving their patients alone in a room for days. That’s why it’s important to do your research and follow these tips for finding a good treatment center.

You can find treatment centers through google, or by searching on one of the many plant medicine retreat review sites (see our Resources section). Here is a basic checklist (based on the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance’s Clinical Guidelines [23]) that you should go through to make sure the organization is legitimate:

  • Do they have clear information about the medical professionals on the team, and the qualifications they hold? Ideally a treatment center should have therapists and medical professionals trained in resuscitation and heart monitoring on the team. A qualification in Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS) is recommended.

  • Are they close to a hospital? In the unlikely event that there is a medical emergency, you should ideally be within a 15-minute reach of a first-responder, and within a 30-minute reach of a 24-hour hospital.

  • Do they have an established emergency protocol? Good treatment centers will have practiced their emergency response procedures, and it should be easy to find out if they have one.

  • Do they exaggerate the potential benefits? Some untrustworthy centers may try to overplay the benefits of iboga, trying to make a hard sell rather than inform you about the likely outcomes.

  • Do they inform you of the risks? A good treatment center should be upfront about the risks (especially heart risks) of the iboga treatment.

  • Are they signed up to the Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance’s guidelines? A clear sign of a good treatment center is that they are aware of these clinical guidelines, and understand the Ibogaine Patient’s Bill of Rights that is included within them.
  • Do they inform you about the legal status of iboga in the host country? This is important as it shows the treatment center cares about your understanding.

  • Do they have a medical screening process? Good treatment centers should check your medical history to make sure you don’t have heart issues, or are on any kind of conflicting medications. This usually involves a complete physical examination too.

  • What dose will they use? This may be something you discover at the center itself, as most centers will personalize the dose to your requirements. Make sure you know what you’ll be getting. Remember, a dose of over 25mg/kg of ibogaine is considered too risky by many healthcare professionals. [12][23]

  • Do they take your mental healthcare seriously? As well as having your physical safety as a priority, good treatment centers will care about your psychological healing. Ideally they will provide a number of therapy sessions, both before and after the treatment, with comfortable accommodation and access to all the amenities you might require.

  • Do they provide information about alternative options? Considering iboga is a relatively risky treatment, a center that cares about your wellbeing should make sure you are informed about safer options.

These questions should also be asked during the treatment itself (especially if they haven’t been answered in your initial research). Remember, you will always have the right to pull out at any time if you feel your safety is not a priority, and you should never feel pressured into undertaking the treatment.

You should also consider your personal preferences and comfort, and think about these factors when choosing a treatment center:

  • Location. Is the retreat easy to get to? Is it a plane journey away, or just a train ride? These are all things to consider, and will mostly depend on personal preference.

  • Legality. Is iboga legal in the host country? A good treatment center will let you know this information anyway. Being in a location where iboga is legal might help you feel safer and allow you to have a more comfortable experience.

  • Mysticism. Some treatment centers may use mystical or spiritual concepts more than others. If you’d like a more pragmatic or minimalist approach, make sure you know what to expect from the setup.

  • The Treatment Space. Almost all treatment centers will administer iboga inside, so you can be monitored with medical equipment. However, some may allow you to spend time outside, if you’d prefer that.
  • Group Activities. Some centers may require group sessions, such as sharing circles. If you’d rather spend the whole time without group interactions, make sure to check what the policy is.

  • The Therapists. The Global Ibogaine Therapy Alliance recommend a male/female therapist dyad, but some may just offer one therapist per patient. This is mostly personal preference.

  • Amanities. Any good treatment center should be prepared to accommodate you for at least a few days. What are their lodgings like? Do they provide food? Are there luxuries such as gyms or massages on offer? Consider what level of comfort you will require.

  • Cost. This will very much be linked to the level of professionalism of the retreat. Consider what is within your means, but remember that medical experts and extensive therapy are not cheap!

Once you’ve found a treatment center you like the look of, and that appears to tick most of the boxes regarding safety, make sure to research any unsavory aspects by following these steps:

  • Google the name of the center, in combination with keywords like “fraud,” “scam,” or “scandal.” Make sure you look through a few pages, as savvy marketers know how to bury negative search results.

  • Join online forums or Facebook groups and search for mentions of the retreat, with the same negative keywords.
  • Find past participants and ask them what their experience was like. Make sure to ask if they had any concerns, or if there was anything that made them uncomfortable.

  • Check out review sites that rate iboga retreat centers – see our Resources section.

Remember to always take your safety seriously. Iboga is a potentially dangerous plant, and treatment centers are not yet fully regulated. When choosing a treatment center, have high standards and don’t take unnecessary risks. Even if you are in a desperate position and need treatment soon, there are options out there for good treatment, and you don’t need to settle for less.

Taking Iboga Outside a Treatment Center

Although we highly recommend against it, we acknowledge that some people will still want to take iboga outside of a professional treatment center.

If you do, you should try to follow these guidelines to minimize the risks:

  • Do not take it if you have a heart condition.

  • Wean yourself off any conflicting medication (see our Risks section).

  • Take it in a comfortable, secure, familiar environment.

  • Have a sober sitter, ideally one who has a basic first aid qualification and knows where the nearest hospital is.

  • Start with a low dose (less than 5mg/kg). Do not use a booster dose in your first session.

  • If you start experiencing any cardiac abnormalities – such as a big drop in your heart rate, or an irregular rhythm – go to the hospital.

Remember that the more deaths from ibogaine are reported in the media, the less likely it will be that sufferers of opioid dependence will be able to make use of iboga therapy in future.

Iboga art by Valérie Hugo

Artist credit: Valérie Hugo

Preparing for Iboga

Good iboga treatment centers will have a set plan for your preparation, including some form of therapy, possibly combined with exercise, dieting, and some form of spiritual practice.

If your retreat doesn’t have a preparation routine, we recommend familiarizing yourself with these common practices that could help maximize the effects of iboga healing.

Spiritual Practices to Use with Iboga

Healthy dieting and abstinence are often used in conjunction with spiritual practices in order to amplify the benefits you may receive from the experience. Avoiding TV, social media, unhealthy foods and sexual activity could help you get the most out of your experience, but are by no means necessary for everyone, and may not be a priority considering many patients will be experiencing opioid withdrawal or cravings at the time.

Activities like yoga, meditation, mindfulness practice, prayer, journaling, and solitary walks in the woods can help to focus the mind and lay the groundwork for the spiritual experience you are about to have.

Being in a mindful place can help you to heal with iboga. Even if you’re not comfortable with a spiritual approach to preparation, reflect on whatever is important to you in preparing for a ceremony.

Setting Intention with Iboga

Good treatment centers will make sure your therapist addresses your intention. Setting intention is a crucial part of any psychedelic journey, and spiritual practices can help you to do this. Developing a clear goal for what kind of healing you are looking for during your experience will increase the likelihood of taking something positive from it.

Be sure not to confuse “intentions” with “expectations.” You may spend days or weeks setting a very clear intention, only for iboga to decide they won’t be helping you in that way. Consider your intentions like a foundation – some firm ground to come back to if you get lost. But don’t expect for those intentions to be a guide that iboga will take for granted. Be prepared to lose control and be taken in unexpected directions.

The Risks of Iboga

As discussed in depth previously, iboga has significant heart risks, and should not be taken by people who have heart conditions; especially heart conditions with an altered QT interval.

Many medications that affect heart rate or blood pressure should not be used in conjunction with iboga. Here are just a few of the most commonly used medications that could cause fatal cardiac complications when mixed with iboga:

  • Benzodiazepines. This includes medications like xanax (alprazolam), klonopin (clonazepam), and valium (diazepam).

  • Any blood pressure medication. This includes medications like diuril (chlorothiazide), vasotec (enalapril), and zestril (lisinopril).

  • Hypnotic drugs used to treat sleep problems. This includes medications like zolpidem, zopiclone, and zaleplon.

  • Serotonergic medications. This includes many antidepressants, such as SSRIs, SNRIs, NRIs, and MAOIs, but also pain medications (such as tramadol), and cough medications (such as dextromethorphan).

  • Calcium channel- or beta-blockers. This includes medications like propranolol and amlodipine.

  • Corticosteroids. This includes medications like cortisone, hydrocortisone, and prednisone.


Some other medications can be dangerous to combine with iboga, because they affect the “Cytochrome P450 2D6” enzyme, which is responsible for metabolizing ibogaine. Don’t take these medications with iboga (this is not a complete list):

  • Any TCA. This includes imipramine and amitriptyline.

  • Most SSRIs. This includes fluoxetine and paroxetine.

  • Antipsychotics. This includes haloperidol and risperidone.

  • Some foods, such as grapefruit and turmeric.

  • Bupropion, Quinidine, Quinine, Cinacalcet, or Ritonavir.

A full list of medications to avoid with iboga can be found in our Resources section.

If you are going through alcohol withdrawal, do not take ibogaine until withdrawal symptoms have abated. It is unsafe to take ibogaine with alcohol.

As well as the physical risks, it’s important to acknowledge that there are psychological risks for any psychedelic experience. Having your perceptions and thoughts radically altered by an external force can be extremely intense. It is common for people to experience acute fear and distress during an iboga experience. However, in the presence of a knowledgeable therapist and with a secure support system, you are unlikely to experience long-term psychological difficulties.

If you’ve had a distressing experience, practicing good integration techniques with trained facilitators will help you to avoid enduring long-term psychological harm from the trip, and will likely help you see the journey in a positive light. Read more about integration in this section.

The Iboga Experience

Iboga can be chewed as the fresh bark, eaten as dried powder mixed with water or foods, or given as ibogaine hydrochloride in tablets or a solution. This latter form is what you are most likely to encounter in a Western treatment center.

You will begin to feel the effects of iboga after about an hour. You will enter the “acute phase” of the iboga experience within the first few hours, and this phase will last between 4-8 hours. It will involve visiting past memories, travelling through visionary landscapes in a dream-like state, and often encounters with spiritual guides or deities who will give advice or lessons.

The second phase, known as the “evaluation phase,” can last between 8-20 hours, after the acute phase. The intense visionary state of the acute phase has passed, and instead the tripper is left reflecting on their initial experience, while still in an altered state of consciousness. They may feel agitated by noise and distractions, and might prefer a quiet place.

The final phase, the “residual phase,” takes place in the days following the session. The participant may still feel the stimulatory effects of iboga during this time period, mostly due to one of ibogaine’s metabolites (noribogaine) that stays in the body for longer periods of time. This phase involves the gradual return to normal consciousness, and can be associated with euphoria or a fresh sense of purpose if the experience has been particularly healing.

Letting Go with Iboga

Super Trip by Phil Lewis

Artist credit: Phil Lewis

It’s likely that you will encounter shocking, unpleasant, or disturbing sensations and thoughts during an iboga experience. That is natural: most of us are not accustomed to coming into such close contact with profound spirit medicines, and it is unusual for people to have a purely comfortable experience with absolutely no challenges.

The key to not letting the intense or negative parts of the experience overwhelm you is letting go. Being able to release control and trust that you will be looked after.

This isn’t to say that you should be able to conquer your fear of the situation. Fear is a natural response to intense experiences and, in the words of Terence McKenna: 

“[The fear] marks the experience as existentially authentic. [...] A touch of terror gives the stamp of validity to the experience because it means, ‘This is real.’ We are in the balance. We read the literature, we know the maximum doses, and so on. But nevertheless, so great is one’s faith in the mind that when one is out in it one comes to feel that the rules of pharmacology do not really apply and that control of existence on that plane is really a matter of focus of will and good luck.”

So it is expected for you to feel fear when you are thrown out of your normal framework of understanding, because suddenly all that solid ground under your feet becomes a vast drop to somewhere completely unknown.

Being able to accept this new and scary situation is important. Rather than flailing around and scrambling for some essence of solidity in the void beneath you, remember that this is a natural part of the psychedelic experience, and what will help you is to let go. Accept the fear, accept this scary new reality, and let it happen to you.

Remember that you are being looked after, you are safe; and embrace the pains and joys of the experience. Many people recommend giving up your sense of self to iboga, offering it as a sort of sacrifice, and remembering that iboga knows best. Take every lesson it gives you with humility and openness.

Integration with Iboga

Regular supervision after an iboga treatment is absolutely essential, for safety reasons. Some people can have a cardiac response to the treatment several days afterwards. You should be closely observed in the first day after the treatment, and then have regular check-ins over the next few days. No treatment center should discharge you for at least 72 hours after your treatment session.

You should also be given the opportunity for daily therapy sessions, to help you integrate your experience, and fully take advantage of the healing power of iboga. The best treatment centers will also offer long-term integration, which may be phone calls with your therapist in the weeks or months following the treatment.

In the days and weeks following the experience, it’s recommended to continue any spiritual practices you had been cultivating beforehand, and observe how they may feel different. Revisit the experience through these practices, and think about which parts of your iboga journey can help with your personal healing.

Try your hand at expressing yourself through art or music, if words don’t seem to be enough. If you are particularly struggling with some aspects of the experience, and your treatment center does not offer ongoing support, consider seeing a specialized integration therapist; they are an emerging class of counselors specializing in helping people process psychedelic experiences and they can be found all over the world. Have a look at our Resources section for more details.

Legality

The landscape of iboga legality is convoluted and full of grey areas. Officially, the use of iboga is legally allowed in just a few countries, and usually only in a clinical context for use against substance addiction, with highly trained staff to administer it.

These countries where iboga use is legal include: Brazil, New Zealand, South Africa, Gabon, and likely Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the plant also grows natively. Bwiti temples have also spread to some of the surrounding regions in Western Africa such as Equatorial Guinea and Zaire, [2] meaning that its use is likely also allowed there. Additionally, iboga possession seems to be legal in Uruguay, if only for clinical research, and in Portugal, which has all drugs decriminalized.

Since recently, in the US, two cities have decriminalized possession and use of natural psychedelics, including iboga. These cities are Oakland, CA and Santa Cruz, CA.

Countries in which iboga is in a legal vacuum include: Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Netherlands, which all host numerous iboga addiction treatment clinics.

In the rest of the world, iboga is either scheduled or the local law has not had encounters with this plant or its active alkaloid ibogaine.

Finally, the seeds of T. iboga do not appear to contain ibogaine and should therefore not be illegal to obtain even in countries in which iboga or ibogaine are scheduled. However, this is not a rule and is likely up to the local jurisdiction's interpretation.

What Next?

For many people, the time just after their first iboga experience feels like a new beginning. The world may feel refreshed, or you may feel as if some of your demons or troubles have been exposed and cleansed. You may have been given a new purpose in life; or perhaps just reminded of the one you’ve always had.

In many ways, iboga can put you at the start of a long road. People describe the experience as showing them clearly what they need to do to bring positive changes into their lives; but the work is still up to them.

FAQ


What to expect from an iboga experience?

Powerful visions resembling a lucid dream, a heavy body load, and the presence of a powerful deity replaying your memories, deconstructing your destructive patterns of thought, showing you yourself in real light, and forcing you to comprehend and embrace the Truth. All this over many hours of journeying.


Where to buy iboga?

We strongly advise against procuring iboga and taking it by yourself, as misdosing or doing iboga with underlying heart conditions can lead to death. That said, numerous online vendors sell the root bark, and they usually ship from countries where the plant is legal or unscheduled. Receiving an iboga shipment in a country where the plant is scheduled is illegal. If the plant itself is scheduled, iboga seeds are likely not scheduled as they appear to not contain ibogaine. However, this is uncertain and likely depends on the specific location of the receiver.


How long does an iboga trip last?

A typical iboga flood lasts between 8 and 12h, but the trip can stretch considerably longer than that—up to 36h.


Why is iboga illegal?

Despite its incredibly powerful anti-addictive effects, iboga is illegal in many countries due to the cardiovascular health risks it poses, as well as due to its psychoactivity.


Where does iboga grow?

Iboga grows natively in Gabon, Cameroon, and Republic of Congo.


Is iboga safe?

Yes... 99.75% of the time.


Can iboga make you high?

Iboga is one of the most potent psychedelics we know of.


Can you use iboga for addiction?

Yes. Many addiction treatment clinics use iboga or ibogaine around the world with great success.


Can you microdose iboga?

It's possible, using a premade iboga TA (total alkaloid) tincture or the HCl (hydrochloride) powder. Microdosing before an iboga ceremony is recommended for connecting with the spirit of the plant, and microdosing after can be good for diminishing any residual cravings. Otherwise, people microdose iboga to control addiction, increase mental clarity, and boost mood.


How do iboga and ayahuasca compare?

It could be said that they are similar entheogens. Both are incredibly intense, both visually and on the body, both carry risks, but also can yield profound insight into the nature of life. The differences are that the iboga trip normally lasts significantly longer than an ayahuasca journey, and that ayahuasca can be more wildly visual while iboga's visuals are drawn more from the subconscious. Also, many users understand ayahuasca as a feminine spiritual entity (however, some strains of the vine are said to have a masculine presence), while iboga is generally considered masculine. Due to their huge overlap in effects, however, it can be said that iboga is the African ayahuasca or ayahuasca South American iboga.


Are iboga seeds legal in the US?

The law is unclear on this issue, but it appears as though the seeds of T. iboga themselves don't contain ibogaine and therefore aren't regulated on the federal level. You can buy iboga seeds from many online vendors and Erowid users report that there are no problems with having them shipped domestically. However, we encourage you to research your state law for more specific information.


How much iboga to take?

Most addiction treatment centers administer doses of upwards of 10mg of ibogaine per 1kg of body weight. We strongly urge you not to administer iboga to yourself but to find an experienced facilitator or guide.


Where is iboga legal?

Although the laws governing iboga are dynamic, as of now it is legal in: Brazil, New Zealand, and South Africa, and likely at least the African countries in which it natively grows, if not some others, too. Iboga is also not scheduled or regulated, or in a grey area in a few other countries, such as Mexico, Costa Rica, Guatemala, and the Netherlands.


Can iboga kill you?

Yes. It's estimated that 1 in every 400 people who take iboga die from it.


What can iboga heal?

Iboga is primarily used to heal substance addiction.


Can you smoke iboga?

DMT Nexus users say yes. It's highly advised to go with extremely low doses if attempting this.


Can iboga be detected on a drug test?

No standard or extended drug tests are known to screen for ibogaine.

References

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  8. Mach RH, Smith CR & Childers SR (1995). Ibogaine possesses a selective affinity for sigma-2 receptors. Pharmacology Letters 57(4), p.57-62.

  9. Deecher DC, Teitler M, Soderlund DM, Bornmann WG, Kuehne ME & Glick SD (1992). Mechanisms of action of ibogaine and harmaline congeners based on radioligand binding studies. Brain Research 571, p.242-247.

  10. Wang J, Mack AL, Coop A & Matsumoto RR (2007). Novel sigma receptor agonists produce antidepressant-like effects in mice. Eur Neuropsychopharmacol 17(11), p.708-716.

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Additional Artist Credits

  • Title background image: Nuwan Shilpa Hennayake
  • Part 1 background image: Chor Boogie
  • Part 2 background image: Chrisantem Macháček
  • Part 2 featured image: Kim Gjerstad / Wikimedia Commons
  • Part 3 background image: Amanda Sage