Tabernanthe iboga

Tabernanthe iboga

Iboga (Tabernanthe iboga Baill., 1889) is a shrub species belonging to the Apocynaceae family.

Systematics –
From a systematic point of view it belongs to:
Eukaryota domain,
Kingdom Plantae,
Subkingdom Tracheobionta,
Spermatophyta superdivision,
Magnoliophyta division,
Class Magnoliopsida,
Subclass Asteridae,
Gentianales Order,
Apocynaceae family,
Subfamily Rauvolfoideae,
Tabernaemontaneae tribe,
Subtribe Tabernaemontaninae,
Genus Tabernanthe,
Species T. iboga.
The terms are synonyms:
– Iboga vateriana Braun-Blanq. & K.Schum.;
– Tabernanthe albiflora Stapf;
– Tabernanthe bocca Stapf;
– Tabernanthe mannii Stapf;
– Tabernanthe pubescens Pichon;
– Tabernanthe subsessilis Stapf;
– Tabernanthe tenuiflora Stapf.

Etymology –
The term Tabernanthe is composed of the Latin taberna, “tavern”/”hut”/”(market) stall” and the Greek: ἄνθος (anthos) “flower” – which gives a literal meaning of “flower of the tavern”. On the other hand, it may also have been understood (by means of a kind of botanical abbreviation) to mean “having a flower like that of plants belonging to the genus Tabernaemontana” (q.v.). If the first hypothesis is correct, the name could also want to suggest that the plant is grown near the huts, sold at market stalls or even that – like the drinks sold in taverns – the plant is intoxicating, which the alternatives would constitute descriptions appropriate of an often cultivated and popular psychoactive herb.
The specific name iboga is a vernacular name among a number of similar names given to the plant in its native Gabon.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Tabernanthe iboga is an evergreen rainforest shrub native to central Africa and in particular to Gabon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, the Republic of the Congo and Angola, and is also cultivated throughout central Africa for its medicines and others.
Its natural habitat is that of the forest understory, sometimes in riverine or swampy forests or relatively humid savannahs, at altitudes from sea level to 1,500 metres.
Furthermore, although little data is available on the exploitation and existing habitat of the iboga plant, the destructive effects of harvesting and slow growth may have already severely damaged the wild iboga population.

Description –
Iboga is a perennial shrub which normally grows up to 2 meters but which in optimal conditions can reach a height of 10 metres.
The leaves are small, narrow, dark green.
The flowers are white and pink, tubular in shape, in clusters borne on an erect and branched stem.
The fruits are orange which when ripe can be globular or fusiform resembling a chilli pepper.
Its yellow roots contain various alkaloids: in particular ibogaine, which is more concentrated in the outer layers. The bitter-tasting root causes an anesthetic sensation in the mouth and reduced skin sensitivity.

Cultivation –
Tabernanthe iboga is a shrub that grows wild or is cultivated.
Newly planted young shrubs can reach a height of around 60cm after 3 years and if produced from cuttings, can begin flowering in just 4 months.
The plants often flower and produce fruit all year round, plus they can be cut back into the old wood, regrowing well from the trunk.
Propagation can occur by seed; in this case it is advisable to sow as soon as it is ripe because after a few months the seed coat dries up, making it difficult for the seedling to emerge.
It is advisable to sow in a semi-shaded position in a nursery seedbed or in single containers.
Germination is slow and irregular, ranging from a few weeks to a few months. Scarification before sowing greatly increases the germination rate.
The young plants can be transplanted in the open field after 2 – 3 months, when the root has become twice as long as the stem.
It can also be reproduced asexually by means of about 25 cm long and 1 cm in diameter cuttings, taken from the stem; these root easily in moist soil.

Customs and Traditions –
Tabernanthe iboga is a perennial shrub, with psychedelic properties, native to central-western Africa.
The parts of this plant, taken in small doses, stimulate the central nervous system; in larger doses, they cause visions. In the areas of Africa where the plant grows, its bark is chewed for therapeutic and ritual purposes. The roots contain at least 12 alkaloids. Among them, ibogaine is also used for the treatment of drug abuse.
It is believed that the Pygmies have been using iboga root for thousands of years.
In traditional African medicine and rituals, the yellowish root or bark is used to produce hallucinations and near-death outcomes, with some fatalities. In high doses, ibogaine is considered toxic and has caused serious comorbidities when used with opioids or prescription drugs.
The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists ibogaine as a controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act.
In 1864, the French naval surgeon Griffon du Bellay brought two specimens of the plant, collected in Gabon, to Europe. During his exploration, he learned of the use of the root as a stimulant and aphrodisiac. He wrote of the plant: “The root of this plant is the part that the Gabonese eat. They say it is intoxicating, an aphrodisiac, and that, with it, they feel no need to sleep.”
In 1889, Professor Henri Baillon of the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris provided the first botanical description of the plant, which he called Tabernanthe iboga.
In 1901, J. Dybowski and E. Landrin isolated and crystallized, for the first time, an alkaloid contained in the plant, calling it ibogaine.
The use of the plant was recommended for the treatment of neurasthenia and during convalescence by Pouchet and Chevallier (1905). Kuborn recommended its use in the treatment of sleep disorders.
In 1939, an extract of Tabernanthe manii – the only other species of the genus Tabernanthe to have psychoactive properties – was marketed in France by the Houdé laboratory, in the form of tablets of 8 mg of active ingredient, under the name of Lambarene: a neuromuscular stimulant for the treatment of fatigue, depression and for hospitalization from infectious diseases. Around 1966, it was withdrawn from the market due to the excessive cardiac stimulation it caused in some patients.
The Iboga tree is very important in the Bwiti religion practiced in West-Central Africa: mainly in Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo. Butists believe that the shrub is the Tree of Knowledge referred to in the Bible. The roots of the plant are used in various ceremonies. Iboga is taken in large doses by initiates upon entering the religion. It is eaten in smaller quantities during tribal rituals and dances, usually held at night. The Bwiti have been subjected to persecution by Catholic missionaries, who still today strongly oppose the spread of their religious movement. Léon M’ba, before becoming Gabon’s first president in 1960, defended the Bwiti religion and the use of iboga at a time when France controlled its colonies in Gabon. On June 6, 2000, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Gabon declared Tabernanthe iboga a national treasure.
The Iboga root has hallucinogenic properties and is very important not only in the initiation rituals of some African tribes, but also for a series of other traditional medicinal uses and has come to the attention of the West because it is believed to be effective in helping addicts to overcome their addictions. Usually harvested from the wild, the plant is also cultivated in home gardens and in several African countries outside its native range.
We emphasize that toxic doses of the plant can produce convulsions, paralysis and death by respiratory arrest.
In the 1980s, Iboga became popular in the US and Europe as a non-addictive drug breaker, but soon after was classified as a hallucinogenic and dangerous substance in the US, where it is therefore illegal to buy, sell, or possess. unlicensed. Its possession is also prohibited in Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and Australia. There has been a renewed interest in Iboga since the late 1990s.
The active compounds, present in the root, root bark, stem bark, leaves and seeds of the plant, are indole alkaloids. About 20 have been identified so far.
The highest concentrations of alkaloids are found in the root bark (5 – 6%), followed by the roots (1 – 2.5%), the stem bark (2%), the seed (1%) and the leaves ( 0.4 – 0.8%).
As mentioned, ibogaine is the most important alkaloid present in all parts of the plant except the seeds. The main activities of ibogaine are on the central nervous system and on the cardiovascular system. In low doses, it mainly exerts a stimulating effect, increasing alertness and reducing fatigue, hunger and thirst. At higher doses, the primary effects are hallucinations, with possible unpleasant side effects such as anxiety and depression with fear or anger.
The peak effect is reached 1 – 3 hours after drug ingestion; gradually subsides, ending in complete insomnia and lethargy. These effects can last from 2 to 5 days. Aside from the psychological effects, the physical effects include tremor, sensitivity to light, nausea and vomiting, loss of muscle coordination, and prolonged and often painful muscle spasms, all in a dose-dependent manner.
Toxic doses can produce convulsions, paralysis and death by respiratory arrest.
Most activities have been tested with purified ibogaine, but powdered root bark is usually taken during initiation ceremonies, which is more potent as it contains a range of related alkaloids.
Ibogaine is a potent cholinesterase inhibitor and the root extract is even 100 times stronger in its inhibitory effect due to the additive effects of the alkaloids tabernantine, ibogamine and the more distantly related ibolutein. This property contributes to the anti-fatigue properties of ibogaine and results from an increased sensitivity to adrenaline, resulting in a transient state of excitation of the sympathetic nervous system.
Despite iboga’s reputation as an aphrodisiac, ibogaine has not produced stimulation of sexual function in various trials.
Tests have not shown that ibogaine has a significant analgesic effect.
Recent research indicates that ibogaine has a novel pharmacological mode of action, acting strongly on a variety of different receptors in the brain, resulting from complex interactions between neurotransmitter systems. There is still no consensus on exactly how ibogaine works, but it is known to inhibit the reuptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can cause hallucinations.
However, the suggestion by the layman that ibogaine has considerable potential in the field of psychotherapy is premature. Research has shown that ibogaine is converted in the liver to noribogaine, which fills opiate receptors, thereby eliminating withdrawal symptoms. Ibogaine also stimulates nicotinic receptors in the cerebellum, which help modulate the dopamine reward circuitry. In high doses, however, ibogaine is toxic as it destroys neurons in the cerebellum.
There is evidence to suggest that ibogaine has considerable potential in the treatment of addictions to heroin, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, amphetamines, deoxyephedrine or methadone, or combinations thereof. Several methods of stopping the physiological and psychological aspects of drug addiction using ibogaine have been patented in the United States. Treatments are claimed to be effective in 70-100% of cases. However, ibogaine’s serious side effects make its use potentially harmful, and more clinical trials are needed to determine if and how it can be used safely.
As mentioned, from a chemical point of view, indole alkaloids make up about 6% of the chemical composition of the iboga root.
The alkaloids present in more than 1% in the root bark are, in descending order:
– Ibogaine;
– Iboxygaine;
– Ibogaline;
– Alloibogaine;
– Cataranthine;
– Ibogamine;
– Noribogaine;
– Vocangine;
– Yohimbine;
– Hydroxybogamine.
18-methoxycoronaridine, a synthetic derivative of ibogaine, also occurs naturally in this plant.
Worldwide, the use of Iboga extracts is regulated differently.
It is recognized by the Costa Rican Ministry of Health as a treatment for drug addiction; outside of Africa, iboga extracts and purified ibogaine are used in the treatment of addiction to opiates, heroin, cocaine, ethanol, tobacco. Therapy can last for several days and the subject is generally no longer physically dependent on the substance they used to abuse. A patient who had previously taken methadone-based treatment claimed – in the Dutch broadcast Twee Vandaag – that he had achieved, with ibogaine, a condition that he would normally have achieved in three months, but without the agony caused by withdrawal crisis. It has been observed that ibogaine can also help break alcohol and nicotine addiction. There are hundreds of peer-reviewed articles supporting the therapeutic qualities of ibogaine, but no formal clinical studies have been completed.
Iboga is prohibited or restricted in some countries such as: Belgium, Poland, Denmark, Croatia, France, Sweden and Switzerland. In the United States, ibogaine is classified by the Controlled Substances Act on the list of Class I drugs, although the plant itself remains unscheduled.
The non-profit organization Föreningen för hollistisk missbruksvård is trying to get the Swedish government to initiate clinical investigations into its anti-addiction properties, relax the prohibition law against ibogaine and allow the establishment of treatment facilities in Sweden.
The export of iboga from Gabon has been illegal since the passage of a 1994 cultural protection law.

Method of Preparation –
In some African tribes the latex is mixed with Periploca nigrescens and/or Strophanthus spp., and then used as arrow poison.
The iboga root is very important in the initiation ceremonies of some African tribes. The root bark can be eaten whole; or it can be crushed and ground and then rolled into balls; sometimes it is mixed with other ingredients; sometimes it is taken as a decoction of the crushed roots. The root is primarily employed as a hallucinogen, a catalyst for spiritual discovery and for seeking information from ancestors and the spirit world, thus “coming to terms with death”. Iboga is usually taken in large quantities in these ceremonies.
Iboga is also taken, usually in fairly small quantities, as a means of divination to diagnose situations and also for therapeutic purposes.
The roots are considered an aphrodisiac, febrifuge and tonic.
A decoction is often taken as a means to combat fatigue, hunger and thirst in situations such as hunting when physical stress may need to be overcome.
A maceration of the root in palm wine is taken to soothe coughs, while the root decoction is drunk to treat urinary infections.
The pounded roots are also used in the healing ceremony (called ‘zebola’) for the treatment of psychosomatic ailments.
A decoction of the root is used for eye drops to treat conjunctivitis.
The leaves are considered anesthetic and aphrodisiac.
The heated leaves are rubbed on the gums to soothe toothaches.
The latex obtained from the plant is used as an anthelmintic.

Guido Bissanti

– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– GBIF, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (ed.), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

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Attention: The pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not in any way represent a medical prescription; we therefore decline all responsibility for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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