Less than 100 years ago, master plants were a resource reserved only for the cultures in which they were originally used, or for those who had the means and gall to visit remote places where such plants were potentially accessible.
Iboga, botanically known as Tabernanthe Iboga, comes from the Bwiti culture in Gabon, Africa, where it has been used since time immemorial, in rituals where the whole community takes part.
This is very different from the rituals of western psychotherapy, where the job involves meetings in an office between two people who do not know each other, where specific roles are established for each one, and where a therapeutic relationship is created in exchange for money.
In our culture, where many people are more isolated and have less community structure than is typically found in traditional human societies, modern psychotherapy may have significant merits. However, it is a rarity in human history as something that began in the industrialized west and has been used for scarcely more than 100 years. Before Sigmund Freud developed the “talking cure” in the late 19th century, the basic dynamics of modern psychotherapy had no documented history of use whatsoever.
In Gabon’s culture of Iboga, by contrast, both mental and soul problems are understood as problems of group mismatch, and the solution is obtainable only through work with the whole community.
Beginning in the mid-20th century, plant medicines like Iboga and Ayahuasca began to spread outside of their origins and into modern settings. In the 1960’s, American doctor Howard Lotsof accidentally discovered -- after recreationally ingesting the plant during his days as a heroin addict -- that iboga had the astonishing effect of abating or even eliminating opiate withdrawals. Later, the Chilean-American psychiatrist Claudio Naranjo began using Ibogaine and Ayahuasca in psychotherapy sessions, relating his experiences with these plants in several books including, Ayahuasca: The Creeper Of The Celestial River, and The Healing Journey: New Approaches to Consciousness.
Ibogaine, the medically-used derivative of iboga, produces what is known as a oneirophrenic state, similar to that of a dream. Ibogaine is not a panacea, though it has the potential to significantly reduce the addictive cravings through physical changes and the deep journey of introspection it brings on.
To think that the effectiveness of treatment must be complete abstinence is a naive way of understanding addiction. Increasingly, the standard used today relates to the broader quality of life. Though abstinence or level of use may of course be a factor that is considered, a person’s psychopathology usually depends more fundamentally on psychosocial circumstances than on the use of or abstinence from a specific substance. Therefore, a great and important phase of recovery lies not only in the work with the master plant, but in the personal work that follows. And a big part of that work is not only addressing the inner conflicts that lead to substance abuse, but also growing and nurturing social connections.
To be supported, contained and reinforced in the journey of recovery is decisive. Ibogaine rescues your soul intact, but only you can do the work that remains.