Ibogaine is among our planet’s most powerful psychoactive substances. It can be found in high concentrations in the root bark of Tabernanthe iboga, Voacanga Africana, and Tabernaemontana undulata, which are endemic to only three countries in Central Africa: Gabon, Cameroon, and Republic of Congo.
This sacred plant is used in the Bwiti spiritual discipline which is observed by the Babongo, Mitsogo, and Fang – indigenous peoples of today’s Gabon and Cameroon. Their ritualistic ingestion of the root bark serves for spiritual initiation and healing. It has a centuries-long tradition of use in rite of passage ceremonies and magic.
Ibogaine has extremely powerful addiction-curing, dissociative, and visionary properties. Typically, an ibogaine trip will last far longer than that of any other substance, and go far deeper into the user’s mind, unearthing repressed and sealed-off memories, and dismantling habitualized patterns of thought and behavior.
Many refer to the iboga experience as an encounter with “The Truth.” It is touted as the most intense inward psychedelic journey one can take.
How to Try Iboga
Due to its long duration and extreme mind/body/soul effects, recreational use of iboga is virtually non-existent. It is used in traditional ceremonial contexts in Africa, and largely in rehabilitative purposes in other parts of the world where its clinical use is legal. Retreat centers and (mostly illegal) independently organized guided sessions that serve spiritual growth are also present, though not in great numbers.
Unless you suffer from a serious substance abuse disorder in a country where addiction clinics use iboga, in order to have this experience, you will have to travel to Central Africa, or to the countries where legal iboga retreat centers can be found.
Disclaimer: Do not procure iboga and consume it on your own. If taking this substance, you absolutely need to have a sitter or, ideally, an experienced guide present because:
- Mis-dosing can be extremely psychologically unforgiving and without professional help severe traumas and permanent mental scarring is possible
- There is real risk of physical danger; a solid number of fatalities have been reported (estimated death rate is one in 400), and the main causes for concern are the heart strain iboga causes, but also the combination of nausea and loss of coordination, which can potentially lead to choking on your own vomit.
The consumption of iboga is relatively straightforward. Unlike ayahuasca, it doesn’t require an elaborate preparation process, nor a multi-day adherence to a mind-and-body cleansing diet. The bitter root bark can simply be chewed for a few minutes, and then the mush can be swallowed, allowing the alkaloid content to be fully digested.
However, some retreat centers and guides make the ingestion process a bit more complex. They supply iboga root bark in a powdered form and/or pure ibogaine extract and/or Total Alkaloid (TA) – an extract that contains all the alkaloids (about 30 have been detected so far) from the plant minus the cellulose content. Guests are given the choice, and, ultimately, it’s up to the guide’s discretion what form or mixture they should receive.
The powder can be chewed in the same way as the solid bark. Pure ibogaine is usually given to those who want a more intense visionary experience. TA can be taken instead of the powder/solid bark or additionally with it, in order to increase the potency. It’s also more likely to cause vomiting, and normally causes less dizziness and difficulties moving around during the journey. Pure ibogaine extract can be taken instead of the bark or TA, or mixed together.
Small amounts of iboga may be taken throughout the day before the ceremony in order to initiate the resonance with the spirit of the plant and check for any unwanted reactions. The full – flood – dose is usually taken at night.
In the morning, plan to eat lightly. Fasting is recommended for around eight hours prior to the experience. It’s recommended that you stay hydrated throughout the day, but stop drinking water two hours before the flood.
Depending on the potency of the plant and your weight, 5-25g of root bark should suffice for a flood journey. This is another reason why having a guide is vital – you need someone who knows the particular plant and the adequate dosages to administer. Pure ibogaine content makes up about 1-5% of the bark volume.
The Ibogaine Trip
Once you take the iboga, it should take up to an hour, sometimes even longer, for the effects to come on. The first changes you’re likely to feel will be dizziness, a decline in muscle coordination, and increasing difficulty in moving. Nausea may come next, and purging often follows. Expect your heart rate to rise, your mind to race, and your brain to begin comprehending that something strange is taking over. Soon, it will become apparent that there will be no turning back for a long time.
The quality and intensity of your hallucinations (with eyes open and closed) will depend on how much iboga/ibogaine you consumed. Unlike entheogens such as ayahuasca and psilocybin mushrooms, which are known to show completely different realities, iboga/ibogaine visuals are mostly an expression of your subconscious, and resemble a lucid dream more than hyperdimensional alternate universes.
Open-eyed hallucinations usually come on early and last throughout the journey. They can distort the space around you, ingrain shape-shifting patterns and faces on the walls, morph objects and breathe motion into them, create floating shapes that fill the space, manifest apparitions of seemingly real or imaginary beings, or come in any of the myriad variations that your mind can invent.
Closed-eyed visuals can be either life-like, abstract, in the form of cartoons or animations, or a confusing mix of all styles. They can be fast-paced, absurd, bizarre, demonic, entertaining, pleasing, or present you with a slow, stable, and cohesive instructional narrative for your learning needs.
Visuals are accompanied by consistent nausea, a buzzing sound, and, often, the stern and resounding presence of “The Truth.” Fast-paced and sometimes repetitive Bwiti harp music can be played throughout the journey, or at peak points, and, surprisingly, it can feel quite soothing and defragmenting for a mind in an overclocked state.
Encountering ‘The Truth’
Prior to the experience itself, you are advised to write down a list of questions you want answered. These should be read to you by your guide during the ceremony. You may be blindfolded at this time, in which case the answers should spell themselves out for you in the darkness, download themselves directly into your consciousness, or be conveyed by the voice of The Truth.
Many people experience the latter as a conversation with an infinitely wiser form of themselves, which can be relentless in its intention to invoke positive change. It accomplishes this by means of pinpointing and mercilessly criticizing all aspects of thought and deed that are holding the person back from growth.
This conversation can take on demonstrative forms, as the soul is guided through the psycho-base of past experiences. The Truth’s criticisms are then vividly displayed through situations when erring thought and action took place.
Going further, the soul can often witness the entire succession of events in which these destructive mechanisms were manifested. Seeing how they were formed, took root, developed, fortified, and adapted often provides enough insight for the individual to understand how to dismantle them. This is why iboga is so effective at curing addictions.
Our thought patterns and habits can be destructive both toward ourselves and others. If we are hurting others, iboga will show us this as mercilessly as it demonstrates our self-destruction. It’s common to experience visions of one’s friends, partners, relatives, ancestors, and other relevant people, and vividly feel the pain we inflict on them. Iboga deconditions these kinds of behaviors by associating the empathized suffering of others with our thoughts and actions directed at them.
It also works the other way. People who have hurt us can appear in our visions, and their behavior can be explained just like ours. This way, iboga can teach us to understand and forgive others, as they are also imperfect humans acting with incomplete insight into how their actions affect others. Emotional releases are common for these shifts in perception.
Unlike with other psychedelics, iboga’s teachings usually come in a very straightforward form. It bluntly explains what you’ve been doing wrong, makes you accept it, insists you not make a big deal out of it, and gives you ways to do better. This direct confrontation with one’s mistakes can be highly effective, but quite grueling for those who have been running away from, and suppressing their flaws their whole lives.
With iboga, you don’t get a choice. You must surrender and accept its lessons, or you’ll be in for one hell of a trip.
After the Fact
Iboga floods can last up to 36 hours, and the afterglow can persist up to one week. As it’s a lipophilic compound, ibogaine stays in your tissues for a long time after the main effects wear off. It gradually releases grasp over the course of days, and is converted to noribogaine as it passes through the liver. If you’ve taken pure ibogaine, the afterglow should wear off a bit more quickly than if you ingested the root bark or TA extract, which contain a host of other alkaloids.
Unlike after most psychedelics, after an ibogaine trip, it’s virtually impossible to sleep – some people stay awake for dozens of hours. Not having restful sleep after the ordeal also prevents the mind from blending the journey with dreams, and keeps it firmly anchored in your real-life experience.
After the body of the trip comes a long period of consolidation. The after-effects are quite noticeable and can be uncomfortable: any movement in your visual field will leave behind dark traces; you will be exhausted, but unable to sleep; you may feel intensely sad and agitated. This state should be treated with restful and mindful activities such as meditation and reading.
Aside from these symptoms, dizziness and nausea should also persist until you are able to sleep. The combination of all these factors makes the iboga aftermath the most strenuous and memorable out of all the psychedelic comedowns.
When you are finally able to fall asleep, though, all of this should disperse. You should have a long rest full of vivid dreams, and wake up refreshed, content, and grateful for what you experienced. A healthy diet, exercise, and spending time self-reflecting in sunlight and nature in the coming days will make for successful integration of this most challenging psychedelic experience.