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The True Origins Of The Iboga Plant And Ibogaine

Origins Of The Iboga Plant And Ibogaine

Tabernanthe iboga refers to a shrub commonly found in Central West Africa traditionally used by the pygmies of Gabon and Cameroon in their rites of passage and healing ceremonies. Traditionally, Tabernanthe iboga is still used in the Bwiti religion for adolescent rites of passage or in healing ceremonies, separately for both men and women.

The Bwiti rituals surrounding iboga usually last for five days and the individual will undergo a process known as the process of death and rebirth, carefully guided through their iboga journey by the community through the performance of a series of rituals in which many people take part; through this process, a symbolic death of the adolescent or evil gives way to the birth of the adult or healthy person.

Iboga’s main alkaloid is ibogaine, which has been used since the 1960s for the treatment of various addictions. The root bark of the Tabernanthe iboga plant has played a fundamental role in the Bwiti religious rites of passage and healing ceremonies of many tropical African cultures. The iboga plant is found and used in central west African countries like Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Zaire, and especially in Gabon by the pygmy people, as well as the Fang and Mitsogo Bwiti cultures. Derivatively, “Bwiti” can roughly be translated as “ancestor” or “dead”, but may originate from the word “Mbouiti”, which is the accurate name for the pygmy people located between Gabon and Zaire.  

The use of Tabernanthe iboga in African spiritual ceremonies was first reported by the French and Belgian explorers back in the 19th century, which started with the work of the French naval physician and explorer of Gabon Marie-Theophile Griffon Du Bellay. By 1889, the first botanical description of the Tabernanthe iboga plant was made and Ibogaine was the first isolated compound from Tabernanthe iboga in 1901 by scientists Dybowski and Landrin and independently by Haller and Heckel in the same year using Tabernanthe iboga samples from Gabon. The complete synthesis of ibogaine was accomplished by G. Büchi in 1966. Since then, several other methods of synthesizing ibogaine have been developed. From the 1930s to 1960s, ibogaine was marketed in France in the form of Lambarène, which is an extract of the Tabernanthe manii plant, and promoted as a mental and physical stimulant.

This drug experienced some popularity among post-World War II athletes. Afterward, Lambarène was removed from the markets in 1966 when the sale of ibogaine-containing products became illegal in France. The traditional use of Tabernanthe iboga is primarily concentrated in a small country with a population of approximately 1.7 million people called Gabon, about 20% of which inhabit the capital city of Libreville. Today, by some estimates, there are more than 100 mostly rural communities throughout Gabon that continue to practice Bwiti in its various forms. Bwiti is regarded as an animistic ritual culture that incorporates iboga into healing and ritual practices, such as the passage from youth to adulthood and other important life transitions (e.g., assuming a leadership role or recovering from extreme grief).

The iboga spiritual discipline involves, among many other properties:

(1) complex oral traditions and cosmologies that vary among practitioners;

(2) A large pharmacopeia of plants that are used for their medicinal, aromatic, or metaphysical properties;

(3) A wide variety of cleansing and healing practices

(4) several unique instruments and distinct forms of music known for their complex overtones and polyrhythms.

Although Bwiti tradition is recognized as one of Gabon’s official religions, its traditional practitioners, however, have experienced political neglect largely due to the perception that Bwiti tradition is primitive, or regarded as a form of witchcraft. The exposure to the Bwiti religion, at least among the Fang people of West Africa, occurred around the turn of the 20th century, at the prime of early French colonization. The French occupation of the region was largely fuelled by rivalries with the British and an attempt to suppress the slavery that was widely practiced by other colonial powers in Africa.

The word Bwiti is often translated as “dead” or “ancestor,” but its origin may be rooted in the term Mbouiti, While the practice remains common to Gabonese culture, minor Bwiti temples have been established in the surrounding regions, including Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, DR Congo, and South Africa.

The word Bwiti is often translated as “dead” or “ancestor,” but its origin may be rooted in the term Mbouiti, While the practice remains common to Gabonese culture, minor Bwiti temples have been established in the surrounding regions, including Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, DR Congo, and South Africa.

Many Bwiti religion practitioners regard iboga to be the biblical tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It is said that it brings those who consume it in contact with their ancestors and teaches them about the nature of life and death. More than simply a medicinal plant, the iboga tree is believed to act as a kind of “truth serum” or “truth seeker.” As a result of this encounter, the transformations that are later observed in an individual’s personality and physical body are seen as the result of being brought into contact with universal truths. For this reason, it is commonly believed that the uninitiated are unable to fully understand the plant’s potential.


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