Bwiti Missoko-gonde Initiation
The plantain banana full of holy-wood (Tabernanthe iboga), eaten during initiation.
© Laurent Sazy Mandilou / Fougamou Province February 2002
Eboga (aka iboga) has purportedly been known to the Pygmies of the Congo Basin for more than 20,000 years and in the past 300 years has played a central role in the Bwiti religion of West Central Africa (the fastest growing black African religion). Ibogaine is the principle and for many “the” alkaloid of the eboga plant.
Ibogaine in a Western context is primarily used for withdrawal from drugs of dependence such as heroin, methadone, cocaine and others; as well as for the exposing, understanding and sometimes healing of unresolved life events (see The Healing Journey – Chapt. 5 Fantasy & Reality by Claudio N Naranjo).
[See also: Psychotherapeutic Possibilities of New Fantasy-Enhancing Drugs.]
Ibogaine has little abuse potential and appears to return the brain to a preaddictive state. It’s effects may result from complex interactions between multiple neurotransmitter systems rather than predominant activity of a single neurotransmitter (Popik & Skolnick, 1999) (see Mechanisms). Its unique ability to erradicate cravings is attributed in part to the long lasting (3+ months) effects of Ibogaine sequestered in fatty tissue which is metabolised to noribogaine. To be safe and effective, correct dosage is important. Hence the use of Ibogaine (the principal alkaloid of the eboga plant) which can be easily calibrated; unlike the plant extract.
“The common wisdom in drug treatment is withdrawal is a long painful process followed by terrible cravings but a little known drug called Ibogaine derived from tree bark used in (West) Central Africa for certain tribal ceremonies and illegal in the U.S. is being tested by doctors abroad who claim it breaks an addicts cravings through a short but hallucinogenic withdrawal.” Radio Wbur.org, Feb 04, ’05 (18m).
Ibogaine has also been patented as an anti-neurotoxic medication (Dr. John Olney, U.S. Patent 5,629,307). When used correctly it is considered by many to be a relatively safe and highly effective medication. When used inappropriately (at sufficient dosage) it can lead to death (see Fatalities). [One such case purportedly involved the surepticious use of heroin during a session which led to a heroin overdose, as Ibogaine potentiates opioids.]
Ibogaine is also used as a tool for spiritual growth and personal development often allowing one to return to the content of ones past, offering new insight, hightened awareness and a change of consciousness or world view. It has been described by one source as:
“…an oneirophrenic (dream-inducing) drug that activates the users long-term memory, bringing to the surface information from the unconscious, causing vast insight into oneself. Therapists consider one Ibogaine experience to be equal to years of talk or group therapy. Some patients describe their experience as being in a dream and watching sketches of their life (see Technical Descriptions of an Ibogaine Session).”
In this regard iboga is best described as a teaching plant which first and foremost (within a session) seeks to rid the body of drugs of dependence, as a prerequisite to taking one on a guided journey of self discovery and spiritual growth (interruption occurring generally within an hour after ingestion).
An initial iboga/ibogaine session can be likened to the uncorking of a shampagne bottle. While some healing may be attained (and much insight) there is still a lot to be done in order to move to full healing.