Tabernanthe iboga

Iboga, whose main active secondary compound is called Ibogaine, is a plant native to Africa in the family Tabernaemontana. The root of this plant contains the most active alkaloids, and when consumed can cause hallucinations. It is also known to successfully treat cravings for heroin, alcohol, and cocaine during withdrawal.[1]

Introduction to Iboga

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The most common source of Ibogaine is the West African shrub, Tabernanthe iboga. The primary psychoactive components of the shrub are Ibogaine (approx. 80%), ibogaline (15%), and ibogamine (less than 5%) [2]. The Iboga tree has served as a crucial component of the Bwiti religion in West-Central Africa - primarily in Gabon, Cameroon, and the Republic of the Congo – as orally ingested supplements accompanying a myriad of different ceremonies. Among such ceremonies is an initiation to the religion, whereupon initiates ingest an Iboga tea-extract in massive doses to experience a ‘vision’ of ‘death and rebirth’ [3]. However, the plant is also ingested at smaller doses in association with tribal dances, to combat fatigue, and other, more regularly occurring rituals. In Africa, Tabernanthe iboga is consumed as a stimulant by chewing the rootbark. In Bwiti religious ceremonies, the rootbark is pulverized and swallowed with water. The Bwiti use the hallucinogenic root-bark to induce what is described as a spiritual enlightenment, a perceived enhanced stability of community and family structure, and to serve as a medicinal remedy for a few maladies [4]. The religious group consider themselves to be ardent pure Christians, and as a result have attracted negative attention in the form of persecution from the Catholic Church. However, the religion is well accepted by a sector of the current governing class, of which officials and members of the police and army regularly leave the city to participate in the night ceremonies in neighboring jungle villages.

The effects of the massive total dose of iboga-extract, of which small increments are generally ingested over 7-12 hours, is purported to last three consecutive days – though recent studies suggest that the activity of ibogaine, and its psychoactive metabolite noribogaine, may persist for quite a bit longer [2][4]. The primary time subsequent to ingestion is generally characterized by the individual lying down, assisted by experienced observers, with intense hallucinogenic and psychedelic distortions of sensory processes. Consistently reported cognitive effects include markedly spiritual experiences, quite commonly characterized by extremely revelatory and sublime feelings. Upon awakening from a deep sleep, individuals generally report feelings of rejuvenation, and often intriguingly effective attenuations of cravings for abused drugs.

A study from the US and Netherlands included self-reported outcomes of 52 treatments involving 41 different individuals, some of whom were treated on multiple occasions, for the dependence upon opiates and/or stimulants [5]. 36% of the treatments were characterized by self-reported intervals of 6 months comprised of abstinence from the primary drugs of dependence for which the treatment was engaged. Interestingly, out of 33 individuals treated for opiate withdrawal with a single dose of ibogaine (average dose of 19.3 mg/kg), 25 had full resolution of opiate withdrawal without any drug seeking behavior sustained throughout a 72-hour period of post-treatment. A complimentary study from St. Kitts consisted of 32 patients treated with a fixed dose of 800mg of ibogaine HCL for heroin withdrawal. The physician-rated assessments of symptoms indicated resolution of withdrawal signs at 24 hours after the last use of opiates, which was sustained during subsequent observations for a full week following the initial administration.

Preparing Ibogaine

Iboga art honoring Howard Lotsof created by artist Dave Hunter.

Methods of extraction

Method 1: Home-friendly Tek[4]

Put the rootbark into a large clean jar and add approx half a 70cl bottle of vodka, two cups of red wine and the juice of a lemon. Some users like to also add a half-teaspoon of vinegar. Shake vigorously and then leave to stand for one week, shaking occasionally. After one week has passed, empty the contents into a bowl or pan and place gently over boiling water. DO NOT DO THIS CLOSE TO A NAKED FLAME AS ALCOHOL IS HIGHLY FLAMMABLE. ENSURE THE AREA IS WELL VENTILATED. Alcohol boils at around 80 degrees centigrade, (as opposed to water which boils at 100). When the alcohol has boiled gently away, remove the bowl and strain the contents through cloth. (The solid that remains should no longer have the bitter taste it did prior to beginning the extraction. If it does, mix everything back together and return it to the jar for another week. Then repeat the above.) Assuming that the solid is not now distinctly bitter, discard it and allow the liquid that remains after straining to stand for about 12 hours. Storage - It is recommended you consume the extract within a few days of making it. However, if necessary, it can be stored for about 2 - 3 weeks in a domestic refrigerator. After this period it will begin to brew, and the composition will be altered. Smelling the extract will tell you if it's started to deteriorate.

Method 2

In this case it was for the root/root bark of tabernanthe iboga used as the plant material, which may contain up to 2.5 % or 6 % alkaloids respectively. The plant material was extracted with methanol four times, filtered and the methanol reduced to a small volume. An equal amount of water and acetic acid solution is added and shaken with petroleum naphtha, which is then separated and backwashed with acetic acid solution. All the aqueous phases are combined. The aqueous phases are reduced in volume, then basified with ammonia hydroxide. This is then extracted four times with ethylene dichloride (possibly chloroform too). The solvent is washed with water, dried and concentrated. An equal amount of ethanol is added and the whole reduced to the original volume, then about twice the amount of ethanol is added. After chilling in the fridge for two days or so, ibogaine crystallises out, and can be collected by filtration. The remaining liquid was again reduced in volume and re-chilled for a second crop of ibogaine. Evaporation to dryness of the liquid yielded other alkaloids and residual ibogaine, which can be separated by chromatography, though can be laborious. To purify the ibogaine 100 mg of the crude ibogaine, as obtained above, was dissolved in 1 l of acetone, then 53.1 ml of 1:1 HCl was added, with ibogaine HCl precipitating (108 mg in this case) out straight away, this compound being relatively insoluble in acetone, compared to the base. Isolated by filtration.

Melting Point: 151-153°C
Soluble: ethanol, ether, chloroform, acetone
Ibogaine HCl
Melting Point: 299-300°C

Method 3

Extraction of T. iboga root (TA). One kg (2.5 L) of powdered T. iboga root and 5 L of 0.5% acetic acid were placed in a 6 L plastic bucket, stirred occasionally for one hour, and filtered through a cloth sack. The sack was wrung to expel all possible liquid from the root powder and the filtrate (pH = 3-4) was basified using 60 mL of 30% ammonia. The resulting flocculent, medium greenish-brown precipitate of TA was patiently gravity filtered through 30 cm filter paper and thoroughly rinsed with distilled water. This procedure was repeated twice more on the same root powder. The filter papers bearing the TA were placed on paper towels on a wire rack and left in a warm draft until successive weighings detected no more than 0.3% loss per day. The hard, dark brown solid weighed 30.037 g (3.0%) and was ground in a mortar and sifted to give a fine brown powder.

Conversion of alkaloids to the hydrochlorides (PTA HCl). 28.00 g of powdered TA was placed on a filter paper in a funnel and 450 mL of acetone was added in portions with gentle stirring. The funnel was removed and 2 mL of concentrated HCl was slowly added dropwise to the flask with swirling, occasionally adding a trace of PTA HCl from a previous batch to initiate precipitation. After waiting a few minutes to allow precipitation to begin, dropwise HCl (2.8 mL) was added with swirling until the liquid became acidic according to pH paper. A final 0.4 mL of HCl was added dropwise and the flask was placed in the refrigerator overnight. The yellow powder was scraped from the sides of the flask, filtered, rinsed with 84 mL of acetone, and dried at room temperature to give 9.493 g (33.9%) of PTA HCl. The black, spent TA weighed 14.521 g (51.9%) after drying.

Ibogaine HCl. 9.712 g of PTA HCl was patiently dissolved in 150 mL of boiling 95% ethanol, set overnight at room temperature, refrigerated for two hours, and the mother liquor was decanted from the yellow crystals (4.412 g). Recrystallizing again from 80 mL of 95% ethanol gave 3.666 g of mostly pure ibogaine HCl.

Recovery of residual alkaloids (RA). Most of the acetone was distilled from the filtrate from the preparation of PTA HCl and the remainder was evaporated using a stream of air. The dark residue was dissolved in 400 mL of distilled water, filtered, and basified to pH 9 using 3 mL of 30% ammonia. The medium yellow suspension was filtered through a fresh coffee filter paper and left on a warm surface to dry. The chunks of light, chalky, off-white alkaloid residue weighed 4.750 g (17.0%).

Extraction of V. africana trunk bark (VTA). One kg of powdered trunk bark was extracted in the same manner as the T. iboga root above, resulting in 59.723 g (6.0%) of crumbly brown voacanga total alkaloids (VTA).

Conversion of alkaloids to the hydrochlorides (VPTA HCl). 75.00 g of VTA was treated in a manner similar to the PTA HCl above, resulting in 35.929 g (43.6%) of medium brown VPTA HCl. The spent VTA weighed 31.534 g (42.0%).

Recovery of residual alkaloids. The filtrate from the preparation of VPTA HCl was treated in a manner similar to the PTA HCl filtrate above, resulting in 12.119 g (16.2%) of chalky, off-white solid.

Different Uses for Ibogaine

The root bark of Iboga has been used traditionally as an initiatory and healing medicine by Pygmy tribes and other indigenous tribes of equatorial west Africa, including the Fang and Bwiti. It's use includes coming of age rituals as well as other healing ceremonies. The root bark is also chewed and ingested in small amounts for endurance during hunting and other activities.

In western culture, Ibogaine has been used for addiction/dependence therapy for opiates, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, and methamphetamine. Historically, it has been used as a mild stimulant and social enhancer at lower doses due to the fact that hallucinations are not experienced at such levels.

Ibogaine was used in low doses for endurance by French Olympic Athletes in the 1950's.

Animals indigenous to equatorial west Africa such as primates, boars and elephants have been observed uprooting and ingesting the root bark of Iboga Tabernanthe and going into trance states.

History of Iboga

Iboga Root Beginings

There is a Pygmy legend that goes something like this:

In the beginning the prime spirit created the world and all that inhabited it. The prime spirit saw that all was good and crossed the barrier back to the void, referred to by the Pygmy's as the Kungala. Back in the void, the prime spirit realized it was lonely and returned to view it's creation. The prime spirit looked down and saw a Pygmy climbing a fruit tree to collect food. The prime spirit shook the tree until the Pygmy fell to ground, dying on impact. The prime spirit latched onto the Pygmy's spirit and took it back across the Kungala into the void and was no longer lonely.

Meanwhile, back on earth, a few Pygmy's came across the body of the Pygmy, and never having seen a dead Pygmy body, they decided to bury it on the spot. They dug a hole, wrapped it in a cat skin and filled the grave.

Some time passed and the Pygmy's partner came to the grave and noticed a couple plants growing from the grave that she had never seen before. As she sat there, one of the plants spoke to her: If you eat from my roots you may visit your dead partner. After chewing the bitter roots, she left her body and crossed the Kungala into the void and met up with her partner and The prime spirit. She spent some time there, learning what had happened and eventually returned to her body with knowledge never before possessed by a Pygmy.

Being a female, eating of a sacred plant was taboo to the Pygmy's and she was cast out of the tribe. But curiosity was at hand and as time passed and the Iboga plant propagated, the Pygmy's began to ingest the root bark to cross the Kungala and visit their ancestors.

As the story goes, the other plant that grew from the grave differs from different Pygmy sources, some lore says it was ganja, some say it was a psychoactive mushroom.


19th Century:
: It is uncertain exactly how long iboga has been used in African spiritual practice, but its activity was first observed by French and Belgian explorers in equatorial west Africa in the 19th century. The first botanical description of the Tabernanthe iboga plant was made in 1889.

20th Century:
Ibogaine was first isolated from T. iboga in 1901 by Dybowski and Landrin and independently by Haller and Heckel in the same year using T. iboga samples from Gabon. In the 1930s, ibogaine was sold in France in 8 mg tablets under the name “Lambarene”. French Olympic Athletes used Ibogaine in low doses for endurance.

In the 1950's the CIA conducted experiments to what the effects of ibogaine were on the user in relationship to addictions with methadone, opiates, cocaine and alcohol. These experiments were done at Lexington Federal Penitentary on African American inmates and were held in secret and hidden from the public until a document request regarding Ibogaine through the Freedom of Information Act years later in the 1980s was obtained by Howard Lotsof. The document was a letter by a CIA Doctor requesting more supplies of Ibogaine because that he was having success with his patients. LSD and likely other psychoactive were also administered to inmates at Lexington during this period.

The use of ibogaine in treating substance use disorders in human subjects was first publicly observed by Howard Lotsof in 1962, for which he was later awarded U.S. Patent 4,499,096 in 1985.

The total synthesis of ibogaine was accomplished by G. Büchi in 1966. Since then, several further totally synthetic routes have been developed. In 1969, Claudio Naranjo was granted a French patent for the use of ibogaine in psychotherapy.

Ibogaine was placed in US Schedule 1 in 1967 as part of the US government’s strong response to the upswing in popularity of psychedelic substances, though iboga itself was scarcely known at the time.

In 1972, journalist Hunter S. Thompson accused democratic candidate Edmund Muskie of being addicted to ibogaine in a satirical piece. Many readers, and even other journalists, did not realize that Thompson was being facetious. The claim, of course, was completely unfounded, and Thompson himself is documented in the movie Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson discussing the self-fabricated joke of Muskie’s alleged ibogaine use and his surprise that anyone actually believed the claim.

The name “Indra extract”, in strict terms, refers to 44 kg of an iboga extract manufactured by an unnamed European industrial manufacturer in 1981. This stock was later purchased by Carl Waltenburg, who distributed it under the name “Indra extract”. Waltenburg used this extract to treat heroin addicts in Christiania, Denmark, a squatter village where heroin addiction was widespread in 1982. Indra extract was offered for sale over the Internet until 2006, when the Indra web presence disappeared. It is unclear whether the extracts currently sold as “Indra extract” are actually from Waltenburg’s original stock, or whether any of that stock is even viable or in existence. Ibogaine and related indole compounds are susceptible to oxidation when exposed to oxygen as opposed to their salt form, which is stable. The exact methods and quality of the original Indra extraction was never documented, so the real composition of the product remains uncertain.

Ibogaine’s ability to attenuate opioid withdrawal confirmed in the rat was first published by Dzoljic et al. (1988).

Through the International Coalition for Addict Self-Help a couple was treated with Ibogaine in the Netherlands, who went on to form INTASH (International Addict Self-Help) and treatments began underground in Amsterdam and Rotterdam (1989)

Ibogaine’s use in diminishing morphine self-administration in preclinical studies was shown by Glick et al. (1991) and ibogaine’s capacity to reduce cocaine self-administration in the rat was shown by Cappendijk et al. (1993)
Animal model support for ibogaine claims to treat alcohol dependence were established by Rezvani (1995).

Data demonstrating History of Ibogaine ibogaine’s efficacy in attenuating opioid withdrawal in drug-dependent human subjects was published by Alper et al. (1999) and Mash et al. (2000).

The worlds first International Ibogaine Conference was held In New York at NYU in 1999 with a full day of panel discussion covering the science/pharmacology, history and current status of Ibogaine as a viable option in addiction treatment. Members of NIDA & the FDA were present, who are unfortunately highly influenced by big Pharma Lobbyists who have no interest in non-maintenance pharmaceuticals, especially a natural occurring plant based alkaloid, and are largely the reason why clinical trials and rescheduling of Ibogaine in the USA has not happened.

Treatment began to be available in European and Western countries where Ibogaine was not scheduled, as well as underground in certain locations around the globe.


Howard Lotsof (March 1, 1943 – January 31, 2010) was an American scientific researcher and patent holder.

When he was 19 years old and addicted to heroin, he accidentally discovered the anti-addictive effects of ibogaine in 1962. He later attended Fairleigh Dickinson University and then New York University, graduating with a degree in film in 1976. But he was most active in promoting the use of ibogaine, authoring or co-authoring numerous research papers.

He was awarded a number of patents for the treatment of various chemical dependencies with ibogaine. The first of Lotsof's patents, issued in 1985, was US Patent 4,499,096, Rapid Method for Interrupting the Narcotic Addiction Syndrome. The last patent in the series for the use of ibogaine to treat chemical dependence was US Patent 5,152,994, Rapid Method for Interrupting or Attenuating Poly-Drug Dependency Syndromes, awarded October 6, 1992.

Lotsof was active in promoting medical usage and further research of ibogaine and had an interest in chemical dependence patient advocacy including authoring the Ibogaine Patients' Bill of Rights.

Lotsof was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Alliance of Methadone Advocates and President of the Dora Weiner Foundation. In March 2009, Lotsof was honored for his discovery of ibogaine's antiaddictive effects during the Sayulita, Mexico ibogaine Provider and Facilitator conference. Some fifty experts from around the world joined to present on ibogaine and associated subjects.

He died on January 31, 2010, aged 66, from liver cancer.

Popularity of Iboga over time

tabernanthe iboga


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b Maçiulaitis, R., Kontrimaviçiute, V., Bressolle, F., & Briedis, V. (2008). Ibogaine, an anti-addictive drug: pharmacology and time to go further in development. A narrative review. Human & Experimental Toxicology, 27, 181-194.
  3. ^ History Including Research from 1995 & 1996. (1999). Ibogaine: A Brief History [Review Article]. Retrieved May 2, 2009, from The Ibogaine Dossier Web site:
  4. ^ a b c Traditional Use/History. (2008, November). In Iboga/Ibogaine (pp. 10-23). N/A. (Original work published 2008) Retrieved from
  5. ^ Alper, K. R., Lotsof, H. S., & Kaplan, C. D. (25, 2007, August). The Ibogaine Medical Subculture. Elsevier, 115, 9-24.

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