What is Ibogaine?

What is Ibogaine?

Ibogaine occurs naturally in plants of the Apocynaceae family, most notoriously in Tabernanthe Iboga and also in Voacanga Africana and Tabernaemontana undulata. It is a psychoactive, indole alkaloid which is often described as one of the most powerful psychedelics, although most describe its effects as oneioregenic rather than hallucinogenic.  Ibogaine is derived from these natural sources by a simple extraction process or semi-synthesis.   

For centuries, Tabernanthe Iboga (or simply “Iboga” or “Eboka”) has been at the center of a spiritual life-way called Bwiti, which started with the forest dwelling pygmies of Gabon, Cameroon, and the Congo where Iboga is native.  To this day, Bwiti continues to be widely practiced across this region of Africa.

It was Howard Lotsof that stumbled across the addiction interruption properties of Ibogaine in 1962 as a young heroin addict.  Until his death in 2010, Lotsof was passionately devoted to research and practice of Ibogaine, particularly in treating opiate addiction and other substance abuse disorders.  Much of his pioneering work resulted in standardized procedures and protocols which to this day are still the cornerstones for any reputable Ibogaine treatment, including ours here at Oka Center.

Ibogaine treatment for opiate detox and addiction interruption

Only within the last twenty years has Ibogaine started to gain legitimacy as an effective treatment for drug abuse, behavioral addictions, trauma, and more recently Alzheimer’s.  When used for opiate detoxification – which includes heroin, opium, hydrocodone, morphine, methadone, buprenorphine, or fentanyl among others- any seasoned practitioner or former participant can attest to the fact that 80-100% of opiate withdrawal symptoms are alleviated within 1-2 hours of ingesting Ibogaine.  Although research and clinical trials performed by Howard Lotsof, Ken Alper, Stanley Glick, and others has helped spotlight the benefits of Ibogaine, further data and proof remains in demand:  In contrast to any conventionally approved medications or modalities, Ibogaine simply does not have enough data from human trials for enough medical professionals to unanimously proclaim its efficacy.  For most people who decide to do Ibogaine for an opiate detox or other drug dependency, anecdotal testimonials are usually the main points of attraction, as over the past decade, thousands of people suffering from problematic drug abuse continue to report remarkable success using Ibogaine.

Traditional use of Iboga: BWITI!

The traditional use of Iboga is native to Gabon and Cameroon in west central Africa.  It is here – and only here – that Iboga grows naturally under the canopy of the humid, tropical rainforest.  In the spiritual life-way known as Bwiti, Iboga has many uses. The most notable being for coming of age rites known as initiation.

In a typical Bwiti initiation, the initiate is given a substantial amount of iboga root bark, sometimes over the course of a few days.  This large dose is meant to bring about an intense awakened state to facilitate communication with god, ancestors, the Great Spirit, etc.  This exchange of information with a higher entity provides vital insights for the initiate and also often for the village, helping to guide their lives and further the health of all. 

In smaller doses, Iboga acts as a stimulant to aid in hunting, manual labor, sexual enhancement, meditation, and mood enhancement.  For Bwitists, Iboga is a master plant that embodies an unrivaled intelligence.  It provides many spiritual benefits to the mind and body, and is often thought of as a way of living closest to god.

With this extensive use of Iboga comes the music of Bwiti, a phenomenon in and of itself.  Bwiti music utilizes a complex polyrhythmic foundation that supports a dynamic range of vocal arrangements. Chant-like rapping, multi-part harmonies, and looping melodies are just a few of the intricate textures used.  The two main instruments used in Bwiti music are the moungongo (a large jaw harp) and the ngombi (8 string harp carved from wood).  Click here for more information on Bwiti music. 

The original use and discovery of Iboga has always been credited to the forest dwelling pygmy peoples of west central Africa.  The pygmies are also credited with having the knowledge of the entire forest – every plant, every animal, the elements, and the delicate interplay between them.  Including Bwiti Iboga music, the pygmies have passed along an entirely beautiful, celebratory way of life that includes dance, song, group worship, holistic healing, and healthy doses of playful humor.         


Ibogaine ( 12-Methoxyibogamine ) research has been hindered for various reasons, so the small amount of data on humans is considered incomplete.  Previous research and the consistent flow of anecdotal reports begs for additional inquiry to help us understand the exact mechanism of action.  Nonetheless we still know a few things about its pharmacology and effects:

In the brain, Ibogaine effects multiple neurotransmitter systems simultaneously.  In comparison to other substances, this is uniquely complex.  Ibogaine has a high affinity for Sigma-2 receptors, and also binds to opioid receptors and to a lesser extent with serotonin receptors.  It is a weak NDMA receptor antagonist, which is probably responsible for its mild dissociative properties.  Many of you have probably heard that Ibogaine “resets” opiate receptor sites to a pre-addicted state, or that is rewires your brain, or maybe something similar.  While this seems to be true, we have no idea how are why this is happening to us when we take Iboga or Ibogaine.      

Ibogaine is converted into Noribogaine ( 12-hydroxyibogamine ) by our liver shortly after ingestion.  It has been reported that noribogaine mimics the action of a potent serotonin re-uptake inhibitor, which could be responsible for the “afterglow” phenomenon in the days and months following your Ibogaine treatment.  Noribogaine stays in our system for up to 4 months.  It is during this time that aftercare and integration is crucial for long term success, whether you have come to Ibogaine for substance abuse or for spiritual evolution.

Is Ibogaine Safe?

For those seeking Ibogaine treatment, safety is often the main concern.  Ibogaine has received a lot of bad press due to its track record as a ‘haphazard’ medical subculture spawned by ex-junkies.  However, the truth is that complications are easily avoided by a simple prescreening process.  

An important thing to remember is that almost all Ibogaine fatalities occurred at a point in time where almost nothing was known about Ibogaine treatment, its side effects, its contraindications with other drugs, or the risks involved with preexisting heart conditions.  Although fatalities in the early days of treatment had mostly to do with drug interactions, some of them were also found to be caused by preexisting heart conditions.  In our experience providing Ibogaine to hundreds of people, we have rarely had to intervene due to our strict (but simple) medical prescreening requirements:

  1. An electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG)
  2. Blood labs:  Liver Panel and a CMP (Comprehensive Metabolic Panel)
  3. Complete our form with the utmost honesty

Iboga vs. Ibogaine

The following forms of Iboga and Ibogaine are used in clinics and treatment centers:   

  • Iboga (the scrapings of the second layer of the iboga root bark) is comprised of 12 or more alkaloids.  Iboga root bark is rarely found in western treatment centers.  Here at Oka Center we have a steady supply from our friends in Gabon. 6-8% Ibogaine.
  • TA:  The most basic form of ‘ibogaine’ is called TA, or “total alkaloid.”  This is really just a condensed version of root bark, with every alkaloid present. 15-35% ibogaine.
  • PTA:  Pure Total Alkaloid extract.  PTA is the result of one more refinement after TA and is comprised primarily of 3 alkaloids – ibogaine, ibogamine and ibogaline. Usually 40-85% ibogaine.
  • Ibogaine HCL is commonly used in Ibogaine treatment and Ibogaine detox procedures.  This hydrochloride method of extraction isolates only ibogaine molecules which is usually 90-99% ibogaine.  Voacanga Africana also yields Ibogaine HCL through a semi-synthesis.

Our protocol for any and all detoxes uses 99% pure Ibogaine HCL to insure the safest and most effective treatment.  We use Voacanga derived Ibogaine so as not to contribute to the growing risk of Iboga endangerment.     

Ibogaine Treatment and Aftercare

Ibogaine treatment is an accelerated process for detox, addiction, and deep emotional therapy. The whole process takes only days, although the afterglow and benefits gained can be lifelong in many ways.  

Although Iboga can be the start of something beautiful in your life, you must be aware of the effort it will take to continue on your path afterward.  We cannot expect the medicine to all the work for us.  It must be understood – Ibogaine treatment/detox is the easiest part of your recovery.  It is an important first step in a new direction.  For an individual to continue on a path totally free of substance abuse all on their own after one treatment is extremely rare.  We cannot stress enough how important it is to follow up your treatment with beneficial therapies and attitudes, especially in the 1-4 months directly following.  Please click here to find out about our recommendations and connections.