The Eboga Experience

The Bwiti of West Central Africa use Tabernanthe iboga the plant source of ibogaine. It is integral to their culture and religion. There are approximately 2-3 million Bwiti members scattered in groups throughout the countries of Gabon, Zaire, and the Cameroon. It is believed that iboga use spread to these local tribes people over the last couple of centuries, having originated with the Pygmy groups of the Congo basin many thousands f years earlier.

In the West the iboga experience is undertaken using the principle and most active alkaloid, ibogaine. The main characteristic difference between iboga as ibogaine and iboga as a total alkaloid extract being, the session proceeds faster and is in some ways is more intense. For this reason some prefer to work with the Indra extract. However this is considered less safe due to the difficulty in calibrating exactly the correct dosage of ibogaine present (see Ibogaine).

Bwiti procession

© Photo by Laurent Sazy

I would describe ibogaine as an anti-addictive, non-recreational alkaloid of a naturally occurring plant, which initially can cause a massive release of emotionally repressed experiences (when taken in sufficient quantity) causing the emergence of suppressed pain into the body, which in time, subsequent to a session, will be integrated. The experience is characterised by a deep sensation around the area of the 3rd eye similar to a sudden realisation that one has done something that one should not have done i.e. the penny has dropped and you are taken (a) back. It is an off white grainy powder, with a tinge of orange.

Ibogaine is currently taken in two forms (see Ibogaine), apart from the manner
it is taken in West Central Africa. Ibogaine itself as described above and as an extract of the plant called the Indra extract purportedly containing all the alkaloids present. The science of ibogaine is well studied and quite exact, being used principally for its ability to interrupt chemical addiction. On the other hand the science of the Indra extract appears to be unreported. It contains a reported 15% total alkaloids by weight of which 8% is ibogaine. As the other alkaloids in the Indra product are active, this material is viewed as having a 15% potency. It is darker and deeper in colour to ibogaine and comes as a brittle lump.

A Simple Description of a Full Session:

On page 158 of the book Amazing Grace, I describe a full ibogaine session (normally 36 hours broken down into 3 phases) using ibogaine, the princple alkaloid of the iboga plant, as follows:

“It might be helpful to view a session using the analogy of a 36-hour plane journey. We arrive at the airport somewhat flustered, lugging our baggage behind us. With a little relief and a little trepidation we settle into our seat on the plane. We sit and wait; nothing much happens. Then the engines begin to fire up and we start to move slowly. Before we know it we are taking off,
a little perturbed, at the speed of sound. Once in the air, we encounter a number of air pockets leading to turbulence. Occasionally this is too much and we throw up. But after about five to seven hours the plane settles down and we sit back and watch a very fast, educational movie which we don’t seem to be able to avoid. After this we are worn out and simply want to be left to ourselves to ride out the rest of the journey. Towards the end of our 36-hour journey we fall asleep and wake up on the ground parked or we have a few hours’ sleep and encounter a very soft landing. We go to the luggage collection to discover half our bags are missing.
We don’t give a damn because we are so relieved to be alive and well and, anyway, most of what was lost was just a lot of rubbish we didn’t need. The next day we relax and simply enjoy our good fortune to be alive soaking up the sun in the five-star hotel we have been booked into by the airline right on the beachfront in lieu of our very demanding journey and loss of luggage.
The following days we may be wondering about our lost luggage. However, all in all we are doing pretty damn okay!”

Other formal descriptions:

“In the first phase, the greatest intensity of which lasts approximately 3 hours, the patient appears to experience dreaming with eyes closed
while awake. The form of the material experienced during this ibogaine visualization period is as varied as the scope and breadth of material seen in ordinary dreaming, in that it may be realistic or symbolic, in black and white or color, and diverse in subject matter. The visualization will be interrupted if patients open their eyes. It should also be noted that this dreamlike phase tends to end abruptly. A second phase consisting of cognitive evaluation lasts between 8 and 20 hours. The material reviewed and reported by patients during the cognitive evaluation phase may consist of material from the dreamlike experience, or of other memories, and often concerns traumatic or emotional experiences, personal relationships, and important decisions that the patient has made. The second phase transitions slowly into a third phase of residual stimulation. The third stage may last as long as 36 hours or longer in some patients. The first three phases will run their course in most patients within 48 hours. It is not uncommon for a subset of patients to recover within 24 hours.”

  • From “Experiences of an Ibogaine Treatment Provider – from the Underground to Clinics”
    [Powerpoint File] by Boaz Wachtel:

“The phases of the Ibogaine experience: The Ibogaine experience has been described as being characterized by three distinct phases (Lotsof, 1995). The onset of the effect progresses gradually. In the first phase after taking Ibogaine (0-1 hours) the visual and the physical perception of the body change. Some patients suffer from lowered coordination ability and feel the need to lie down. The second phase (1-7 hours) is often called ¡°the waking dream state¡±. The patients lie down and usually are overwhelmed by the effects of the experience: hallucinations, emotions, changes in perception of their own body, time and space. Patients feel heavy physically and experience difficulties when trying to move. The hallucinations include, among other things, the following scenes: hearing African drums; seeing TV screens, animals, deceased people (who often look alive and approach the person, tell him something and disappear again); flying above oceans, cities, woods; traveling through their own brain or DNA; seeing objects in intensive colors; scenes of violence etc. In spite of the strong hallucinogenic effects, the patients are able to exit them by opening the eyes. When the eyes are shut again, the hallucinations continue, as if they are shown on TV screens. The vast majority of the patients prefer not to communicate during this phase with the supervisors, but concentrate on the visions. Many patients also report about visions that can be characterized as complete stories, which mean something to the subject and help him to achieve certain insights. These visions are often memories or events from the early childhood. The insights reached are usually have to do with the subject’s past and the meaning of life, the creation and evolution of the humanity, the animal world or the universe. The visions usually end after three to five hours. The third phase is often called “the cognitive phase of deep introspection”±, which usually starts 8-36 hours after taking Ibogaine. It seems that the body is asleep while the spirit is fully awake. This phase is characterized by an intellectual evaluation of earlier experiences in life and the choices made. For instance, if a certain choice seemed as the only solution at that point, the subject discovers in the third phase that there were other alternatives. After the end of the third phase the subjects finally fall asleep for several hours. Often the need to sleep is temporarily reduced after an Ibogaine experience, a situation that can last for one month or even longer.”

The phenomenology of the subjective state produced by ibogaine has been attributed with the quality of a “waking dream” and distinguished from the state associated with classical hallucinogens (Goutarel et al., 1993; Lots of and Alexander, 2001). The visual phenomena associated with ibogaine tend to occur with greatest intensity with the eyes closed, and to be suppressed with the eyes open, and often involve a sense of location within an internally represented visual or dream landscape, in contrast to an alteration of the visual environment experienced with the eyes open while awake which is often reported with classical hallucinogens. The occurrence of an
atropine-sensitive electroencephalogram (EEG) rhythm in animals treated with ibogaine (Schneider and Sigg, 1957; Depoortere, 1987) suggests a waking neurophysiological state with an analogy to rapid eye movement sleep (Goutarel et al., 1993; Alper, 2001).

Acute Subjective Effects of Ibogaine / 20 Cases

Note: This study is based on 20 cases within a short time period of undergoing the experience. A follow up study would be welcome.

Note: For details of actual experiences please see: Ibogaine & Iboga Experiences.