Tabernanthe iboga: The Plant that Heals the Spirit
by A. Kweku Andoh, Ph. D.
The North Scale Institute
In the Creation, God made some very unique and mysterious plants that have recently been introduced to western society because these plants are revered by the people of indigenous cultures throughout the world. Very powerful in their effect on the mind and central nervous system, these plants are employed in religious ceremonies, serving as a link between God and mankind.
Tabernanthe iboga, a plant native to the forests of Gabon, in West Central Africa, is one such plant. It holds great mystery and promise for western medicine. Commonly called iboga, this plant is a member of the family Apocynaceae. This is a very important family of plants of the tropics and sub-tropics. It is comprised of approximately 180 genera with about 1,400 species. Only a few genera penetrate into the temperate zones of the world. Most members of the family are poisonous, as the common name for the entire family, Dogbane, indicates.
The chemical alkaloid contained in the roots and stems of various family members, such as the Rauwolfia species, have in recent years come into prominence chiefly because of their effectiveness in reducing blood pressure and their us as tranquilizers.
The Madagascar periwinkle has proven effective in treating a particular childhood leukemia. Species of Strophanthus are known mostly as deadly arrow poisons. Acokanthera abyssinia and related species yield the dreaded “Yaboyo” poison of Somalia. Another interesting member of this family of plants is called Aspidosperma quebracho-blanco, an enormous tree from Argentina, Chile and Bolivia. It yields the “quebracho bark”, which contains a mixture of alkaloids and is used for treating emphysema, bronchitis and asthma. All family members exude a milky latex. The flowers are hermaphrodite and regular, that is, the male and female flowers are borne on the same plant.
Tabernanthe iboga is a shrub to small tree attaining up to two meters in height. It is widely cultivated in Gabon by the Bwiti and Mbiri people for its root bark. This bark is ingested in a ceremonial ritual whereby the participants travel on the astral plane to meet with their ancestors. There is singing, dancing and drumming until a high state of excitement is reached under the influence of the plant. The believers then sit quietly in front of a mirror, gazing at their image until they see visions of their ancestors.
The Bwiti people explain that when they use the plant, it allows them to return to infancy, to experience re-birth and life in the womb. They say that the ceremony helps them to return to what they call Mang Ayat, the land of the dead beyond the sea. They believe that this place is where the Spirits reside before birth and where they return after death.
The roots of iboga contain several indole alkaloids; the most important is ibogaine, a stimulant, and in large does, a hallucinogen. It has anti-depressant and euphoric properties. In the 1960’s in the underground cultures, this plant was used as a psychedelic in the United States. It was discovered quite by accident that it had the effect of removing the desire for addictive substances as well as eliminating the withdrawal symptoms that accompany addiction.
The plant has been patented for the purpose of treating drug addiction under the trade name End-Abuse. It is used to treat addiction to heroin, cocaine, methadone and nicotine. Patients who have undergone treatment have said that they forget the sins of their lives and are restored to their original integrity – the pristine condition before birth. They claim that they experience their whole lives before them, as if watching a television screen. They are able to confront their entire life, facing situations and conditions which they have not been able to confront, situations that have caused them psychological problems throughout their lives. It is like having instant release in psycho-therapy simply by taking one dose of ibogaine.
Another patient who was treated successfully said that he felt like the “reset” button in his brain was pushed. The experience cleared all the neuro-transmitters in the brain so that they operated efficiently again. Everything became crystal clear!
The effect of the treatment of one dose of ibogaine usually lasts for up to six months. There appears to be no side effects from the use of the substance. It has demonstrated substantial reductions in withdrawal symptoms from addicts; i.e., chills and fevers, delirium tremors, severe stomach pains, and has a remarkable effect in removing the desire for the addictive drug. The synthetic ibogaine, however, is still inferior to the authentic natural plant root product, Tabernanthe iboga.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved the use of ibogaine in the treatment of drug addiction. However, clinical trials have been conducted in the USA, Europe and Africa. This could be one of the most important developments in modern medicine, to treat the continuing social disease of drug addiction in the United States and Europe. No other product has shown so much promise.
In its native habitat Tabernanthe iboga has been over-exploited and is now threatened with extinction in several districts of Gabon. For this reason, it should be cultivated in all areas of Africa where it can adapt to the environment, the tropical forests and especially the rain forests. It holds promise as an important cash crop for the African people.
The North Scale Institute of College Park, Georgia, has initiated an ongoing research into all aspects of cultural practices related to the successful propagation and cultivation of the plant. The pilot program has been initiated in the botanical gardens of the North Scale Institute in Ghana, where many of these plants are under cultivation. Normal methods of propagation of Tabernanthe iboga is by seed or vegetative means, using semi-mature wood cuttings. Air-layering methods of propagation have also been successful. Studies are underway to determine the chemical potency of the indole alkaloids in the plants cultivated outside of its natural habitat.
Tabernanthe iboga Sacrament in the form of the sacred leaf with Spiritual Baths for Purification, Edible Rainforest Illuminator and a Meditation CD, along with instructions for making an Ancestral Altar is available from Dr. Andoh at the A A Healing Arts Society, P. O. Box EL 131, Elmina, Ghana WEST AFRICA. Those interested in further on-site study of this and other African Rainforest plants can contact Dr. A. Kweku Andoh: email address: email@example.com.