Ibogaine is an alkaloid of the Tabernanthe iboga plant (also found in other plant sources), a shrub that grows in Africa and that has been used for centuries traditionally by the Bwiti religion in Gabon. Ibogaine is extracted from the root bark of the iboga plant. It is a psychoactive substance used to treat addiction, depression, anxiety and PTSD.

At lower doses ibogaine is a stimulant, increasing energy and decreasing fatigue it also increases sensitivity to sight and sound. At larger doses it produces oneirogenic effects, meaning that it stimulates a dream-like state while awake, as well as closed eye imagery and the retrieval of repressed memories. Some side effects are ataxia, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, heart irregularities, sensitivity to light and sound. The Bwiti use iboga in low doses for hunting and in larger doses for their ceremonies and initiations.

An ibogaine experience is characterized by having 3 stages, the first phase starts about an hour after taking the medicine when it is digested in the body. It can be the most uncomfortable stage physically, with ataxia (lack of movement coordination), heaviness of the body, nausea, vomiting and dizziness (movement related), sensitivity to light and sound, tachycardia and a sensation of dying, that lasts from 2 to 14 hours.

The second stage is more comfortable as the body has adapted to the effects, the person has more control over the body and can interact with the surroundings. The visions and dream-like state are usually stronger during this stage. The experience feels as if you are an observer of what the medicine is showing you, memories from the past, relationships and aspects about yourself are witnessed and analyzed. This is a strong introspective state with possibly lots of imagery when eyes are closed, including dream-like visions, visions of humanity, ancestors, universal relatedness, unity and interconnectedness. 

The third stage is when the medicine is gradually receding, ibogaine is still felt in the body. In this stage there are still some visions, there’s a feeling of exhaustion from the emotional, mental and physical detoxification. There can be insomnia even though the person feels very tired. One’s appetite starts to return and eating some fruit or a smoothie may feel like a totally new, amazing, nurturing experience.

The last stage is when the acute ibogaine experience has ended, while it is still in the body in the form of nor-ibogaine, stored in the fat and the liver. Fatty tisue slowly releases it throughout the next weeks and months. This long-lasting stage is called “the window of opportunity,” a time of increased brain plasticity that allows easier access to starting new habits, ending unhealthy habits and forming new behaviors and ways of thinking.

Ibogaine is an intense, strong and deep experience of healing and transformation. It is not a recreational substance and it is important to take the medicine with respect and following safety guidelines. Integrating an ibogaine experience takes months and possibly years, the unpacking of the visions, insights and teachings is a process of vulnerability, forgiveness and inner work.