Coming to Iboga or Ibogaine is a big decision. These are both among the most powerful shamanic medicines on earth, and they deserve careful consideration. Both medicines can offer physical, neurological, psychological, and spiritual healing—if served within good frameworks with appropriate medical screening, qualified providers, and pure medicine.

There are some key differences between Iboga and Ibogaine to be aware of. Iboga and the Bwiti traditional approach may be more complimentary for other’s needs, for a variety of reasons. For others, Ibogaine may be the more appropriate first step for some people.

More people in the Western world are familiar with ibogaine from media centering on drug detox within a medical model. This is part of the reason why ibogaine has such an intense reputation, because the detox function of the medicine is just the first phase of the medicine’s work—and often the most challenging one.

Detox is just the initial “cleaning of the temple” so that the medicine can deliver its deeper treasures to humanity. It is unfortunate the most people stop at detox, and never learn about the blessings of a deepening relationship with the medicine. Explore more of the lesser known benefits and traditional purposes of the medicine in addition to detox: soul healing, long-arc addiction recovery, trauma healing, holistic wellness, and visionary creativity.

In deciding whether to choose Iboga or ibogaine, it is important to begin with asking one’s self some very important questions:

• Why am I drawn to this experience?
• What are my core intentions?
• What helps me to feel safe in a healing container?
• What is my tolerance for discomfort for the sake of healing?

Let’s look at the unique characteristics of Iboga and Ibogaine in terms of the medicinal benefits, journey experience, container, facilitation, personal intentions, and supplementary protocols…

 

THE MEDICINE

Iboga is the natural plant, with hundreds of original alkaloids present, 11 of which are being studied for additional healing properties. At SoulCentro, we see that all of the many alkaloids in the Iboga plant work in concert and contribute to the overall experience.

Iboga may be served in a variety of forms: fresh shavings, dried powder, tea, or total alkaloid extract. Dosing of Iboga is done through careful observation of physical, mental, and spiritual signs rather than by body weight, as each batch of the organic material can vary greatly with regards to chemical profile and alkaloid content.

Ibogaine is a pharmaceutical extract containing only one alkaloid from the Iboga plant. Some ibogaine may be produced semi-synthetically from from another more sustainable plant called Voacanga Africana rather than the Bwiti sacrament known as Tabernanthe iboga, which can be a milder medicine. Ibogaine is easier to dose for medical professionals, as it is a standardized extract and generally administered based on calculations relative to body weight.

One indigenous Bwiti friend who tried Ibogaine stated that “ibogaine was missing the plant spirit.” That said, ibogaine can still be a highly beneficial and sometimes a more appropriate medicine in some cases, and many people have meaningful experiences.

 

THE EXPERIENCE

The total alkaloid Iboga medicine is generally regarded as an significantly stronger experience than ibogaine in ceremonial or “flood” doses, according to many anecdotal reports from people who’ve experienced both forms of the medicine, including one journalist who visited SoulCentro some months after having had an ibogaine experience at a popular clinic.

Iboga is a deeper detox for mind, body, and soul in ceremonial doses. Iboga can be more challenging than ibogaine, and yet potentially more healing and liberating. The truth is that one must feel very ready for a journey that is confrontational and uncomfortable at times; it is not a good medicine for those who really want to stay in their comfort zone or avoid hard truths.

Iboga can be a longer experience and recovery time than ibogaine, lasting 12+ hours of strong shamanic experience followed by a full 24 – 48 hours of a deep therapeutic window with a slow grounding back to a normal functionality (on average).

Ibogaine is generally a slightly shorter experience and recovery time period for most people, lasting 8-12 hours of strong shamanic experience followed by grounding to a functional level on the following day, also due to the administration of sedative pharmaceutical medications that dull the full effect of the medicine.

An alternative to an ibogaine “flood dose” rapid detox is what is referred to as the “step down method,” which may be offered at select clinics. Ibogaine can be carefully administered in lighter doses over 2-3 weeks, while the addictive substance is slowly titrated. This is a highly specialized skillset and can easily become medically dangerous without the proper training and medical support.

For some people in hard addiction patterns or critical health conditions, it can be ideal to begin one’s journey with an ibogaine detox and then later “root deeper into wellness” with a traditional Bwiti Iboga ceremony after some integration time.

We’ve heard from many people that they become very interested in exploring the complete alkaloid medicine and the original traditional frameworks after experiencing ibogaine. In this way, ibogaine “refers” people to Iboga as a next step in their curriculum. Ibogaine can effectively “crack a shell” and begin an important journey for some people that would have otherwise never been drawn to Iboga or a traditional container.

 

THE CONTAINER

Iboga is generally experienced within the context of shamanic African traditional ceremonies, primarily Bwiti. Ibogaine is generally experienced in a secular medical and Western clinical setting.

Both Iboga and ibogaine containers should have comprehensive, qualified, experienced medical screening and 24/7 onsite medical support during the entire duration that the medicine is strongly active.

At SoulCentro, we have deep reverence for the elements of traditional ceremony that have been honed throughout eons of devotional and reciprocal relationship with the plant spirit. We have wonder and awe for the simple fact that the indigenous people all over the world have learned the nuanced medical applications for thousands of plants in their environment—without any laboratory equipment or Western scientific methods. That is nothing short of magic.

Some people already have a deep respect for indigenous science, wisdom, and tradition, and they will feel more aligned with a traditional ceremony container. Others may be too unfamiliar to feel at ease in a traditional and shamanic setting or may have biases about the superiority of Western ways of knowing.

Some people may simply feel more comfortable and safer in a clinical or Western therapeutic setting, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is important to recognize and honor this truth before moving toward a traditional setting either out of convenience, novelty, or budgeting reasons.

One should ask one’s self:

• Will I feel comfortable within a traditional container?
• What are my feelings about indigenous science and cultures?
• Do I have a bias or preference for a medical or Western therapeutic framework?

An additional consideration is conflicting religious beliefs. Some people may be a part of religious or spiritual traditions that prohibit them from various practices within a Bwiti ceremony, such as being in relationship with nature spirits, travels through the spirit world, speaking to ancestors, tending an altar, or kneeling to receive medicine (in the Bwiti this is a sign of respect and openness, not a sign of submission). The medicine itself may also expose dogmas that are not completely rooted in truth, and this can cause a mental struggle if one is not willing to explore the truth of everything that the medicine is showing them.

We at SoulCentro respect all religious pathways. While we do our best to be inclusive of all people, we cannot appropriate or dilute the Bwiti tradition that we are entrusted with in order to accommodate the rules or ways of other traditions. If people are sensitive or averse to the presence of traditional Bwiti elements, it may be best for them to seek healing in the secular space of an ibogaine clinic.

 

FACILITATION

Within our Missoko Bwiti traditional facilitation, we offer a unique guided journey within the medicine space to support a deeper connection and healing of one’s soul, ancestors, and other relations who’ve passed on. In the guided journey, guests may also receive teachings and empowerments from spirit animals, benevolent spirits, various teachers from nature including plants, elements, and celestial bodies. It is a powerful place to explore, understand, and heal the roots of addiction and trauma. We understand this journey to be within an actual spiritual realm rather than just a “hallucination.”

This guided journey happens when the conditions are just right within medicine ceremony; some people need to detox for one or both ceremonies before they can receive the guided journey. Every guest arrives with unique kinds of toxicity, trauma, ancestors, karma, and previous healing work. Whether on not it is the right time for guests to have a guided journey during their retreat, we see that the medicine has a perfect plan for each guest in their long-arc healing process.

We also offer Bwiti counsel which comes from extensive training in the traditional ways of knowing. One key difference from Western therapy is that instead of “looking through a set of books” when we engage with people, we must completely empty our minds and channel directly from the medicine; this art only comes from many years of deep study and intimacy with the medicine and the tradition.

The medicine helps to support Bwiti facilitators with clear perception through the physical senses as well as through the 3rd eye, or “seeing beyond the physical eyes.” Clear and truthful reflections, shared with compassion, are one of the most powerful ways we can help “midwife” people through their rebirth process with the medicine.

As Bwiti facilitators, we see that each person is ultimately their own greatest teacher, when they are able to see more clearly without the filter of their past trauma. The Bwiti counsel is ultimately very collaborative and non-hierarchical. We are here to support each person to seek, see, and verify the truth for themselves through direct experience.

Serving as a traditional medicine provider is a much deeper path of study than simply having a Bwiti initiation. The meaning of initiation is exactly the meaning of the latin roots of the word: it is “initiating,” in essence, it is just a beginning. We at SoulCentro have deep reverence for the wisdom of our indigenous elder teachers, and it is important for us to serve with their full blessing and collaboration.

Our cofounder, Nganga Gnyangou, is a member of a Bwiti council of lineage holders, Magangha ma Nzambe, which exists to protect the integrity of the Bwiti traditions and the spirit of Iboga. They have requested that one must be a member of the council in order to represent Bwiti and serve Iboga outside of Gabon. We humbly share their message.

At SoulCentro, we see great value in serving with continuous supervision and consulting from our traditional mentors. We feel that all psychedelic medicine providers, or any provider of a healing modality, must always have a set of wiser and older eyes on them. We also see that peer support and aligned community is key. Rogue providers lacking in qualified supervision, peer support, and community are far more vulnerable to ethical abuses as well as psychological and spiritual pathologies over time.

Ibogaine centers generally offer a Western therapeutic container to support the medicine experience. A good ibogaine center should have therapists or other qualified mental health helping professionals available during initial screening and also onsite for preparation sessions, the entire treatment experience, and integration sessions. Generally within an ibogaine center, there are not “guides” during the medicine experience, though there may be support available as needed. Unfortunately, we’ve heard that some ibogaine centers administer the medicine and leave people to navigate completely alone for the duration of the experience. One may want to question about what support is available in the medical ibogaine container.

Both Iboga and ibogaine experience are not suitable for a DIY (do it yourself) experience, even for “experienced psychonauts.” Both experiences can be very physically and mentally dangerous. People can find themselves “stuck in a loop of their trauma response” unless they have the support of a qualified guide that they are willing to be completely transparent with. Some people may even find themselves in the delusional state with inexperienced, excessive dosing, and this is a disconnect from the realm of physical reality, leading people to behave in dangerous ways. As one indigenous Bwiti friend said: “Taking Iboga without a qualified guide is like driving while blindfolded.”

Both Iboga and ibogaine are necessarily relational medicines. Iboga has been held in tribes since the dawn of humanity, and for good reason. Tribal relationships create built-in preparation, guidance, and integration. The tribe helps the journeyer to remember their sacred name and their sacred homework given by the medicine. We can’t do this alone. The relationship and community elements are unfortunately lacking in the contemporary psychedelic medicine “gold rush.” In lieu of a tribe, we can cultivate trust and rapport with facilitators and integration community.

Some ibogaine centers are more aware of the importance of cultivating relationship in expanded preparation and integration support. Anyone seeking ibogaine treatment should ask about these elements of a program and/or seek a qualified, ibogaine-informed therapist or coach to support their process.

 

INTENTION

People with intentions for psychological or spiritual healing as well as physical healing may benefit more from Iboga within a traditional Bwiti ceremonial container. It can be helpful, though not always necessary, for people from the industrialized or Western world to have had previous experience with other shamanic / psychedelic medicines or other kinds of transformational modalities such as breath work, meditation, ceremonial spaces, somatic therapy, or psychotherapy.

Those who are suffering from chemical dependency and desire an acute, rapid detox may be better served in an Ibogaine clinic where the team should be properly set up for medical emergencies along with continuous heart monitoring and IV ports. Any true medical emergency will require that multiple medical staff members are present 24/7 during the entire experience. Most traditional Iboga providers will not have emergency medical facilities or multiple medical staff members, because this is not generally needed for psycho-spiritual purposes.

If one is coming to a traditional Iboga provider for the purpose of acute substance detox, it is important to ask if they have extensive experience in detox, emergency medical equipment and facilities, and multiple medical team members onsite for at least 72 hours post-ingestion (statistically, any adverse events happen AFTER the 12 hours after ingestion). It is highly unlikely this kind of support can be found in a traditional space, and we do not recommend going to anyone for acute detox without those key elements.

Another option for acute detox is what we call “pre-tox” or preliminary detox plans that can prepare people for the traditional psycho-spiritual work with Iboga. At SoulCentro, we often connect guests to highly skilled and experience coaches to create a personalized plan. In this way, people can still come to Iboga for their initial healing with the proper preparation involving an array of holistic modalities to help people titrate or wean down from drugs and medications.

At SoulCentro, we see a deep value in “coming in clean,” for it is safer, more effective, more fruitful, more integrated, and offers better long-term results. The cleaner we come to the medicine—the more it can give us with regards to the deeper gifts that keep people well longterm. That said, we never offer medical advice or make medical recommendations, but rather encourage potential guests to discuss their intentions with their qualified healthcare provider.

People who have complex health issues or unique risk factors will also be better served in an Ibogaine clinic with adequate medical staff and equipment. All this said, all Ibogaine providers are not created equal and must be thoroughly vetted for their medical safety standards and safety record. There are only 2 centers that we generally refer people to, upon request.

 

SUPPLEMENTARY MEDICATION PROTOCOLS

At SoulCentro when serving Iboga, we avoid all pharmaceutical medications during the retreat, unless it is completely essential and has been approved by our medical team. If someone hasn’t slept by the night after ceremony, we will utilize completely natural, organic, safe supplements and herbs to help support sleep. We do not utilize anti-nausea medications as we see that purging can be very important to the most fruitful healing and detox.

Many ibogaine centers will utilize various pharmaceutical medications such as anti-nausea pills to quell purging or benzodiazepines to catalyze sleep. There is a focus on comfort at the expense of the potential healing benefits, since benzodiazepines and some other medications can “mute” the effects of the medicine to some degree. Some ibogaine centers will even offer generous prescriptions of other medications such as benzodiazepines on the way out, which unfortunately can trigger a new addiction to replace the old one. It is important to advocate for yourself if you do not want such medications.

If you intend to follow up an ibogaine treatment with an Iboga ceremony to deepen your healing, it is important to understand that there may be different contraindicated medications for Iboga, due to additional alkaloids, the differences in emergency medical support, and also due to spiritual reasons within the traditional container. Always check with the Iboga provider regarding contraindicated medications.

 

TIPS FOR MAKING YOUR DECISION

Be radically and brutally honest with yourself. Consider where you are at with substance dependency and/or any potential health issues. Do your due diligence on any center you are interested in. Ask questions related to medical screening, onsite support, and emergency plans. It is also important to ask if their medicine is sustainably sourced through reputable, known relationships. You can always ask to speak with past guests of a center. Take actual time to consult your intuition. After you’ve made a careful decision, be completely honest and open with your chosen provider. 

Most importantly, listen deeply to your soul.