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Iboga, the Godfather of All Plant Medicines
African heart medicine that teaches the language of the human soul
“I’m starting to feel something”.
A buzzing sensation rapidly floods my body. The nurse rushes over to hand me headphones and eyeshades. Within seconds, I get antsy. The urgency is overwhelming. The journey is about to begin and I need my vehicle to embark. I need the music.
Iboga is here, less than 30 minutes after I’ve ingested a “flood dose” of ibogaine, the psychoactive compound extracted from the plant.
And when it comes, it hits like a lightning. With precise force, the medicine races through my cells, picking me up within seconds. Instantaneously and with unmatched intensity, iboga takes me to a place where little of my regular state of consciousness is left to be found.
Despite over 30 psychedelic journeys, this come-up is comparable to none. Countless thoughts begin to pull me apart while some part of me is left hanging in a dark, rumbly void. My body feels ripe for explosion, a sensation that’s eventually taken over by my heart pumping at an alarming, forceful pace, as if it were to try to escape my chest. It takes over every last bit of my body consciousness, a body that would barely move for the next few hours.
Throughout it all, I hold on to my only thread as instructed by the clinic’s medical director: the music. I listen to the music as if I play in it, grasping for every instrument and note in my fight for presence. My ego continues to bombard me with intrusive thoughts.
At one point, my heart quakes. I can feel its contents melting into the rest of my body like an erupting volcano, filling up every inch of my physical form.
Eventually, unaware of how much time has passed or what has happened to me, I find the thing I didn’t know I came here looking for: the voice of my heart.
The voice of truth.
Throughout the next few hours, I would float through space at the speed of light and observe countless galaxies. I would revisit memories from my childhood, precious and traumatic ones alike. A childhood that, until Ibogaine, I’ve barely been able to retrieve. I would have visions that make sense (for example, hundreds of indigenous tribesmen holding space for a younger version of myself), and visions that absolutely don’t (I’ll spare you the details on those).
Despite its rich ancient use, ibogaine has gained most of its prominence in Western society for the treatment of opioid addiction over the last few decades.
Ibogaine is root medicine that gets to the root of issues such as addiction. Ibogaine also metabolizes into noribogaine post-journey, which effectively interrupts opioid withdrawal symptoms. Noribogaine stays in your system for months after your journey, creating a unique chemical and spiritual support structure for integration. This is powerful not just for addiction, but any habit change.
Despite this specific use case, I have no doubts after my experience that ibogaine will spread its roots far beyond those struggling with addiction.
So today, I humbly offer you my experience with this divine plant, sharing some of its history and traditions, unique characteristics, and teachings.
Iboga’s History: From Indigenous Bwiti Use to French Colonizers and Modern Ibogaine Clinics
Ever since I first learned about iboga, a shrub native to the tropical forest of West Africa, I’ve been intimidated by this plant.
Iboga is known by many different names: root medicine, heart medicine, truth serum, the Mount Everest of psychedelics. The godfather of all sacred plant medicines.
It’s not only one of the strongest psychedelics we know of, if not the strongest, but it’s also the only one that can actually kill you due to its effect on your heart rate.
Ibogaine is contained most notably in the root of the iboga plant (Tabernanthe iboga), a national treasure in its West African motherland Gabon. It’s also contained in at least two more plants, Voacanga africana (also native to tropical areas throughout Africa), and Tabernaemontana undulata (from the Amazon rainforest), albeit to a lesser concentration. The sustainability of its harvest has become problematic only more recently as appetite from the West has increased. Extracting ibogaine from iboga’s root is the most effective way but kills a plant that takes eight years to grow. Voacanga africana on the other hand is a better option. It takes only a few months to grow and produces ibogaine both in its roots and fruits.
Ibogaine belongs to the class of tryptamines together with DMT (ayahuasca), 5-meO-DMT (bufo alvarius), and psilocybin (magic mushrooms). However, ibogaine’s chemical structure is a lot more complex than that of its classmates’. So much so that it cannot be synthesized in a lab, all ibogaine is extracted from plants.
The Bwiti have used iboga in its initiations for millennia: During multi-day rites of passage, members of the community of varying ages eat large amounts of iboga to journey into their souls. The Bwiti also use microdoses to improve their sharpness and focus for hunting. Iboga is a teacher plant, just like Ayahuasca, meaning that shamans also use it to learn about other plants.
In the Bwiti tradition, the ancient wisdom holders of this sacred plant, there are no beliefs. The Bwiti distinguish between believing and knowing, arguing that there is one absolute truth, whether you believe in it or not. Truth cannot be communicated, it can only be experienced. The Bwiti teachings are not written down anywhere, they cannot be found in books. They have to be lived. You have to find the truth for yourself.
Ibogaine made its way to Europe in the 19th century, passing through the hands of the colonizers. It was first isolated in 1901 and by the 1920s, it had made it into French pharmacies in the form of microdoses as a remedy for fatigue.
It wasn’t until 1962, when Howard Lotsof, a psychonaut and heroin user discovered ibogaine and gave it to seven fellow heroin users, five of which stopped using, that its anti-addictive properties were discovered by the West. Prominent psychedelic therapists such as Leo Zeff worked with ibogaine throughout the 60s until prohibition put a halt on everything in 1970.
Fast forward to the last few decades. Ibogaine clinics have popped up across Mexico and Costa Rica, largely (but not exclusively) in response to the heart-wrenching opioid epidemic in the US. High-profile individuals such as Lamar Odom and Hunter Biden have openly shared their journey of recovering with ibogaine. The medicine is trickling into the mainstream as the psychedelic renaissance unfolds. As it turns out, soul dialogue is not only helpful for addicts, but for all humans.
The Ibogaine Experience: A Wild Ride of Visions, Memories, Soul Dialogue, and a Racing Heart
All plants have a purpose on this earth, and iboga’s purpose is to provide us with answers to questions that have plagued us since the dawn of humanity: Why are we here? Where do we come from? What is the purpose of life?
I’ve briefly touched on the difference between iboga and ibogaine and will use the two terms interchangeably for the sake of this article. The most relevant distinction, however, is in how the body metabolizes the two forms differently. Iboga, the plant, takes much longer to metabolize (2-5 days), while the average duration of an ibogaine journey is “only” 14-24 hours. Ibogaine is easier to dose. Iboga is also known to be more intense and violent. Because of that, modern clinics all use ibogaine.
There are three types of ibogaine doses:
Small dose (8mg): acts as a stimulant with anti-fatigue properties
Average dose (<=8mg/kg): produces visions and insights
High dose (“flood dose”, 15-25mg/kg): triggers three phases and afterglow (this is also the dose that increases sensitivity to opioids and other drugs)
The ibogaine journey has two distinct phases:
Phase 1: visionary, dream-like state (4-6 hours)
Phase 2: introspective state (6-8 hours+)
For many people, the day after the flood dose is a “grey day”. You’re still processing the medicine and are in a highly emotional state. It’s not uncommon for these emotions to be heavier ones. While I didn’t experience a typical grey day (I felt incredible straight away), it certainly took two full days for most of the effects of the medicine to wear off. Five days later I can still somewhat feel it in my system.
5 Unique Characteristics of Ibogaine
#1: Energetic signature
Iboga is said to be the master plant from which all other plant medicines come. It’s the only sacred plant that contains both feminine and masculine energies in one plant. Iboga can be fierce and stern and equally expresses feminine qualities by being gentle and nurturing. All other plant medicines anchor on one or the other. For example, ayahuasca has a distinct motherly energy, while the huachuma cactus is denoted more masculine.
#2: Heart medicine
Ibogaine is an incredibly physical medicine. The onset is rapid, once it’s there you’ll feel the medicine shooting up your body through tingling, heat, or numbness. You may also hear a clicking or buzzing sound. It’s a full-body experience that, while intense, isn’t necessarily uncomfortable. Most notably, ibogaine’s physicality manifests in your heart. It alters your heart rate, in some cases quite substantially. People have died from ibogaine-induced cardiac arrest. That’s why clinical supervision is absolutely critical with this medicine.
Iboga doesn’t only physically work on your heart, but also spiritually. The experience is often described as “meeting your own soul”. Whereas most other psychedelics connect you with the universe, nature, and the Divine, ibogaine takes you further into the depths of your own soul. Rather than taking you to different realms, the teachings are much more grounded in reality on planet earth and your role here.
#3: “Oneirogenic”, dream-like state
Ibogaine induces an oneirogenic (from Greek), “dream-like” state of consciousness. This state can induce long-term memory retrieval which is key to healing unresolved emotional conflicts. These hyper-individual visions appear in high definition, and the journeyer may have the ability to interact with them, as if in a lucid dream.
Unlike other hallucinogens, which may produce vivid visions to the open eye, ibogaine’s visions only appear to the closed eye and can thus be interrupted by opening your eyes. That introduces an element of control to your journey which most other psychedelics lack. If a vision gets too scary, opening your eyes will eliminate it, and blinking your eyes minimizes the chance that you’ll return to it. Nevertheless, it’s recommended to stay with the medicine as much as possible, because everything is shown for a reason.
#4: Life review
Among those visions, around 75% of those journeying with ibogaine experience a “life review”, during which they travel through all significant memories from early childhood to present-day age.
Iboga, like most other plant medicines, is inherently anchored on inner child work. The medicine shows you how your upbringing impacted you and shaped your sense of self. Bringing into awareness those memories that have most impacted your soul — honing in on those that have caused your soul to “separate” from your being. The function of the life review, as in all shamanic work, is soul retrieval.
The final (and potentially most intriguing) feature of ibogaine is that it stays in your system as a metabolite called noriobogaine for several weeks up to 3 months. Noribogaine continues to reorganize and stabilize your brain which can make integration incredibly profound if leveraged intentionally. This is another reason why it’s so effective for beating addiction (but again, the same holds true for any habit change). Like all psychedelics, ibogaine is not a cure. Rather, it provides a reset that presents you with the unique opportunity to replace habit and thought patterns.
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My Ibogaine Experience at Beond Mexico
I traveled to Cancun for my experience at the generous invitation of a clinic called Beond. They found my work online and asked if I wanted to come experience ibogaine and document my journey to help raise awareness and educate about this plant.
(Note: Beond invited me at no cost in exchange for the creation of videos for TikTok. This article is not part of that arrangement and is a genuine, unsponsored account of my experience.)
Beond only opened its doors within the last year but is staffed with a team that has worked with ibogaine for over 15 years. It’s not only geared towards those looking to recover from opioid abuse and other substances but also the full range of behavioral addictions, as well as PTSD, depression, anxiety, and states such as grief. Increasingly, they also welcome those coming for spiritual growth and self-optimization. The 10-day stay is an investment but what you get in return is a top-notch support system that far exceeds what I’ve seen in the space.
Prior to my arrival, I was matched with an integration coach who helped me prepare for my journey. Over the course of two sessions, we worked on both intentions and questions for the medicine.
These were my main intentions:
To be with all parts of myself and expand my capacity to be with my inner ocean and navigate the waves, tides, and currents of my emotions
To feel at home in my body
To strengthen my capacity for true self-love
In addition, I was hoping the medicine would help me retrieve memories from my childhood (beyond those that had already returned from my work with the subconscious), and answer some other health-related questions.
A journey into the depths of my own heart
The gift I received from ibogaine far exceeds anything I could’ve imagined.
About 24 hours after ingesting my ibogaine capsules, I was left with a number of insights of unprecedented breadth and depth.
Ibogaine did not give me answers to my questions.
Instead, it showed me how to find them within myself — within my own heart.
My visions lasted shorter than expected, fading after only three hours or so. Initially, they left me astonished and confused. A few hours into the second, introspective phase, something shifted. It was trigged by a magical, non-coincidental interaction with my therapist who came to check in on me as I was lying outside staring at the moon. I felt as if I wasn’t feeling the medicine anymore, and I began to wonder if I was “doing ibogaine wrong”. I was also stuck in a seemingly irrelevant thought loop. She did a quick exercise with me to turn inwards and attune to my heart. From one second to another, I moved into a space of clarity I’ve never experienced before.
With every single thought that appeared in my consciousness, I was able to immediately identify if it was coming from the ego or from the heart.
Ibogaine proceeded to keep me up all night, teaching me the difference between the voice of the ego and the voice of the heart. As the downloads were rolling in, I jotted down insight after insight, filling my journal with over 30 revelations that I know will change how I live the rest of my life. The introspection lasted well into the next day.
In the process, the medicine not only gave me answers to all of my intentions but also wove together all the work I’ve been doing for the past 5+ years in an awe-inspiring fashion. Teachings that I had absorbed years ago but hadn’t been ready to fully grasp suddenly landed. They landed in my heart rather than my mind, giving me a felt sense rather than an intellectual experience. The lived experience of truth the Bwiti speak of.
The medicine went on to give me crystal clear instructions on my integration, handing me a blueprint on how to study the language of my own heart. I’m excited to share more of those teachings in the future.
The ibogaine experience, like all psychedelic experiences, is incredibly subjective. I have no doubts that my journey was so profound because of all the work I’ve done before coming to this plant. Regardless, it’s not necessary to be on the spiritual path to benefit from this experience. Most of those arriving at the clinic were, in fact, not on the spiritual path. Most of them had learned about ibogaine through their efforts to recover from opioid addiction.
Connecting with the other guests, all of whom had endured heart-wrenching trauma in their lives, was another highlight of my stay at Beond. Many were addicts and I got to witness their incredible transformations. Lost souls walking in with life sucked out of them by year-long, painful addictions (which started with injury-related prescriptions for all of them), walking out reconnected to their spirits and hearts.
That’s what ibogaine does, it gives people their lives back.
Out of all the psychedelics, ibogaine is probably the one that people are most likely to journey with only once in their life, and I can clearly see why.
Ibogaine is heart medicine.
Once you’re truly and deeply reconnected to your heart, you’re able to move past the ailments of the ego. Because the heart doesn’t suffer, it simply feels. It doesn’t discriminate among emotions. It doesn’t ruminate, it’s clear. It doesn’t need to control, it trusts. It doesn’t fear, it loves.
It’s in reconnecting with your heart that you’ll find the medicine that will heal you.
Medicine that you do not psychedelics for.
Medicine that is already your nature.
Let me know if you have any questions about ibogaine, my journey, or my experience at Beond. Feel free to comment or reply directly to this e-mail.