by, Elizabeth Bast, Cofounder of SoulCentro
*Iboga-inspired art by Chor Boogie Nima Gnyangou
*This is for informational purposes only and not meant to be medical advice.
The Bwiti have a saying, “you have to be clean to enter the spirit world,” which is not an ordinary hallucination but rather an actual realm. Over hundreds of ceremonies, we have seen that the “cleaner” we come to the medicine, the safer, more fruitful, and more integrated the experience will be. The physical preparation for Iboga directly relates to the quality and duration of the outcome. Though this medicine is famous for drug detox and addiction disruption, that is just scratching the surface of the medicine’s gifts. Detox is just the medicine’s action of “cleaning the temple” in order to deliver its more important treasures: insights, clarity, inspiration, spiritual discovery, wisdom teachings, empowerments from nature, answers to questions, personal healing, connection to our ancestors, and creative activation.
Preliminary detox is a wonderful way to prepare for those coming for psycho-spiritual purposes as well as for detox and addiction recovery. We can liken Iboga to divine “rocket fuel.” You can choose to pour rocket fuel onto a pile of refuse and burn it up—OR you can put it into a rocket and explore the Universe. Essentially, when we come with that initial layer of toxicity already cleansed, then we have deeper and more meaningful journeys.
In some cases of acute, complex, or longterm addiction issues, we will refer out to expert holistic coaches for preliminary detox or reputable ibogaine clinics. While it is not necessary to come in some kind of perfectly pure state (that doesn’t exist), we can certainly do our best. It is important not to go to extremes or start radically new or different routines close to the time of the medicine.
*This list is not meant to be a protocol for a DIY treatment. Iboga should only be taken with a qualified therapeutic guide. As one indigenous Bwiti friend said: “Taking Iboga without a qualified guide is like driving while blindfolded.” Additionally, Iboga treatments require comprehensive medical screening and 24/7 medical support.
Here are essential ways to prepare the physical body for the Iboga journey:
HEALTHY, WHOLE FOOD DIET
There is no strict “dieta” for Iboga, yet we must consider the traditional, ancient diet of the Bwiti and Bobongo people. They ate healthy, simple, natural, unrefined, highly nutritious wild food—rather than the highly refined, genetically modified, artificially flavored, nutritionally empty, or fried foods of the contemporary Western and industrialized world. A diet similar to that of the ancient, indigenous people is best: nutritious complex carbohydrates, nutritious greens and vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, good fats, fish or seafood, and lean meats. Grains such as quinoa, teff, brown rice, or other ancient varieties are also good. It is very beneficial to come to Iboga with a healthy gut and digestion, to the best of our ability.
It’s also helpful to reduce inflammatory foods. This means eliminating cane sugar, bovine dairy, and gluten, or at least reducing these as much as possible.
For the particulars of your diet of whole and natural foods, we recommend listening deeply to your body (rather than blindly following the latest diet trends that you are told are good for you). Tune into your needs and primal desires in the moment. Connect to the true need under every craving. For example, if you crave potato chips, you might actually need a food with mineralized sea salt and crunchy texture, such as toasted seaweed snacks or carrots with a healthy dip rich in sea salt and good fats.
Probiotic foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, and goat or coconut yoghurts can be very supportive of gut health and regular bowel movements. Organic, “good fats” such as avocados, cold-pressed olive oil, cold-pressed coconut oil, or ghee (clarified butter, mostly lactose free) all support healthy brain function and optimal mental health. Good fats also reduce cravings for unhealthy fats or excessive food quantity and support sustainable energy. Natural electrolytes such as coconut water, dates, avocados, lime, and cucumbers are wonderful to help support healthy heart function, hydration, and healthy electrolyte balance. That said, artificial electrolytes such as Gatorade, powders, or supplements can easily create an excess of electrolytes which can be problematic.
In fact, eat like you’re preparing for an athletic event. You want to be well-nourished, strong, and balanced. Since the medicine reduces or eliminates your appetite for up to 24-36 hours, you want to have reserves to draw on. Eating in this generous way can also help to fortify and support your nervous system. Pack healthy snacks for your trip! Airports have terrible and often constipating foods. You want to have your digestion working well when you arrive.
CONTRAINDICATED FOODS & BEVERAGES
There are only a few contraindicated foods to Iboga; they are those containing quinine. These should not be consumed within 72 hours of the medicine:
• Bergamot (in earl grey tea)
• Bitter lemon flavoring
• Tonic water
IN ADDITION: Energy drinks, caffeine supplements, ephedra, and ANY other strong stimulants can affect cardiac rhythms and must be avoided in the 30 days prior to the medicine. We recommend to avoid or greatly limit ingestion of strong cacao/chocolate, coffee, or caffeine in the 2 weeks or more prior to the medicine for the smoothest possible experience on the nervous system.
Bowel obstruction or chronic constipation can be highly uncomfortable or even dangerous in combination with Iboga. Both bowel obstruction and chronic constipation are common with a sedentary lifestyle, a diet of fast food and refined foods, or regular use of opioids, kratom, or other sedatives. If you are experiencing serious bowel problems or chronic constipation, consult your healthcare provider or naturopath to treat these first. In general for every guest, it can be helpful to do some gentle bowel cleansing and stimulation at least 2 weeks or more in advance of the medicine. We have had good results using a table spoon of psyllium husk soaked in warm water and/or a shot of aloe vera juice in the morning or evenings, at least an hour away from meals. A gentle, safe stool softener is senna tea, such as Traditional Medicinal’s Smooth Move. Do not take chemical or harsh herbal laxatives. Colonics or enemas can be helpful if done properly, at least 2 weeks or more prior to the medicine.
CONTRAINDICATED HERBS & SUPPLEMENTS
Often people make the mistake of assuming: “If it’s natural, it’s ok.” This couldn’t be further from the truth. Herbs including but not limited to Kratom, St. John’s Wort, Passionflower, Ashwaghanda, Vitex, Foxglove, Mucuna Pruriens, and Ephedra are all highly contraindicated as they can affect serotonin, neurochemistry, or heart, kidney, and liver function.
Additionally, many amino acids are contraindicated to come within 72 hours of the medicine. While plain vitamins and minerals are ok leading up to 2-3 days prior to the medicine, there can often be extra ingredients in these. Take a close look at the label for herbs or other ingredients.
For physical safety as well as for “spiritual breathing room” with the master plant Iboga, avoid any herb or supplement affecting serotonin, neurochemistry, heart, liver, or kidneys for at least 2-3 weeks (and sometimes longer) prior to the medicine.
As a good rule of thumb, stop all other herbs and supplements (beyond plain vitamins & minerals) in the 2-3 weeks prior to the medicine. If you feel that an herb or supplement is absolutely essential, consult with a qualified medicine provider regarding particulars. All registered guests at SoulCentro will have a personal and comprehensive one-on-one medical consultation, where they can ask questions about particular herbs and supplements.
While Iboga can be a helpful medicine for detoxification and disrupting addictions in general, coming to Iboga while physically dependent on alcohol can cause fatal seizures. Even a habit of a couple glasses of wine per day can be problematic because the steady nature of the consumption can still create subtle dependence.
Alcohol-dependent guests must titrate from alcohol in advance, and it may be necessary to receive a supervised medical detox. Detoxing from alcohol can be dangerous even without Iboga. Always consult your healthcare provider for advice and support around appropriate alcohol titration.
After careful preliminary detox and preparation, Iboga can be a wonderful next step, exploring and healing the very roots of the addiction. At a very minimum, alcohol should be avoided for a minimum of 3 weeks prior, however 4+ weeks is ideal. The more time in advance that you can be free of alcohol, the better! This creates space for Iboga to shower more blessings on you, so you can make the most of your time. Iboga will respond to your efforts and intentionality.
While tobacco is not strictly contraindicated per se, we recommend weaning down smoking tobacco as much as possible. Heavy use of tobacco will create a significantly more challenging detox experience. Most people utilize tobacco in an abusive way. Tobacco is a profound, shamanic plant medicine that can be used ceremonially to ground and connect with the spirit world, and it is also used as a healing purgative and other medicinal applications. Many people have come to Iboga to quit smoking, and we have seen 25+ year habits stop after 2 or more ceremonies. A shamanic harm reduction approach: If you are currently addicted to smoking, you can begin by practicing reverence for the plant spirit and cultivate a prayer to be in right relationship with it. Offer some of your tobacco back to the earth. Begin to inhale less while smoking and slowly taper. Practice awareness and seek to understand what need the smoking is meeting.
CANNABIS: CBD & THC
Cannabis can be many things. It can be a great medicine of healing OR it can be a toxic addiction. There is a big difference between habitually smoking genetically modified high THC flower or extracts—and taking CBD oils medicinally with minimal THC to catalyze it. Taking CBD is not only safe, but highly beneficial. CBD and other cannabinoids can be supportive of healthy sleep, nervous system balance, brain function, and appetite. CBD can be taken up until the night before Iboga ceremony.
Smoking cannabis flower, on the other hand, is not advised in the 2 weeks prior to the medicine, with 4+ weeks of abstinence being more ideal. Again, Iboga is a big spirit that needs space to work.
CBD can be one profound source of support for people who are trying to titrate from smoking cannabis. People who are addicted to smoking cannabis may be suffering from dopamine or endocannabinoid deficiency. Smoking cannabis actually downregulates (starves) our endocannabinoid system, while ingesting CBD upregulates it. In simple terms, smoking cannabis will make someone feel worse when they don’t smoke, once they use it habitually. Taking CBD will only nourish our body, helping us to feel better than we would have without it, after stopping use.
It is important to have authentic, organic, and high quality CBD. It should look green in color, rather than being clear. Look for highly concentrated, CO2 extracted, and organic products.
We only recommend the NuLeaf Naturals brand, which we call the “Rolls Royce of CBD.” Our guests rave about the palpable effects, helping them to feel and sleep better. *See our sleep & nervous system support section below for a special substantial discount code on this brand of CBD.
Consumption of THC within should only be taken:
• Orally rather than smoked
• Within a balanced chemical profile of other cannabinoids / CBD
• Limited to the minimal amount to catalyze the CBD
OTHER SACRED SHAMANIC OR PSYCHEDELIC MEDICINES & TRANSFORMATIONAL CEREMONIES
*Iboga-inspired art by Chor Boogie Nima Gnyangou
At SoulCentro, we request that our guests do not partake in other shamanic or psychedelic medicines for a minimum of two months before and 2 months afterward. Shamanic ceremonies require time to integrate. This is how we respect the medicines and experience. Likewise, it is best to avoid a strong transformational experiences such as a vision quest, extended fasting, traditional ceremonies, or immersive breath work sessions for at least 2 months before and after Iboga.
Even beyond the minimum 2 month distance to Iboga, we encourage all guests to be highly intentional and discerning about partaking in any shamanic / psychedelic medicines; they have the potential to do as much harm as good, mentally, physically, or spiritually. A damaging ceremony may interfere with one’s plan to experience Iboga.
For microdosing protocols: Stop microdosing any shamanic medicines for at least 2-3 weeks prior to ceremony, with 4+ weeks being more ideal.
CONTRAINDICATED MEDICATIONS & DRUGS
This is a very short list for general information, and it is not meant to be exhaustive. Psychiatric medications including SSRIs, SNRIs, anti-psychotics, anti-anxiety meds, and sleep meds are all contraindicated. Seroquel, benzodiazepines, and Gabapentin are common medications that are all contraindicated. Drugs including certain anticonvulsants, anti-histamines, anti-emetics, sleep medications, stimulants and ADHD medications such as Adderall, and many others are also contraindicated for Iboga and our container.
The time needed to abstain from medications before Iboga will vary depending on the current regular dose, purpose, total duration of use, and the individual’s health considerations. It is essential to have a comprehensive medical screening with our qualified medical team member in order to properly support each individual with regards to titration timelines.
At SoulCentro, we request that all contraindicated medications, drugs, and substances are stopped with extra time beyond the very minimum required for physical safety. Psychological, emotional, and spiritual titration from other substances is also essential for a safe, healthy, and fruitful process.
We can refer guests to skilled titration and preliminary detox coaches to further support.
All medications, drugs, and other substances must be either cleared by our medical team or stopped in advance, according to their guidelines for the individual.
> THERE ARE NO “INNOCENT” MEDICATIONS: All guests must be 100% transparent and immediately truthful with all members of our team about taking any and all medications, drugs, herbs, supplements, or other substances.
*Please note that this should not be considered medical advice to stop any medication or other substance. This is stating the contraindications to the Iboga medicine and the spiritual and physical safety requirements for approaching this medicine. Titration of certain substances such as alcohol, benzodiazepines, opiates, or psychiatric medications can come with serious or even life-threatening adverse side effects. Decisions to stop or titrate any medication or substance are the personal responsibility of each individual, and we encourage conducting due diligence and consulting with your qualified healthcare provider regarding these decisions and safe titration.
Should you need temporary pain relief, PLAIN Tylenol (acetaminophen) or PLAIN Aspirin are ok. You can also try the natural herbal form of Aspirin, White Willow. Turmeric extract, also called Curcumin, can also be extremely helpful for some people. It’s still best to avoid these medication within the 36 hours before treatment if possible, to give the medicine more breathing room.
CBD and topical CBD are also helpful options for pain relief.
*See our sleep & nervous system support section below for a special substantial discount code on our recommended brand of CBD. DO NOT TAKE Ibuprofen, Motrin, or Advil within 72 hours of Iboga. These can interfere with EKG accuracy and the Iboga medicine.
Additional modalities may be helpful for pain relief, depending on the specifics; many of these are noted in our ‘“SELF CARE” section below in this article.
SLEEP & NERVOUS SYSTEM SUPPORT
Getting good quality sleep is one of the best ways to prepare the mind, body, and soul for the Iboga experience. Many people struggle with getting good quality sleep, and may be transitioning away from some contraindicated sleep medications, drugs, substances, or herbs. Here we offer a list of our favorite supplements, herbs, and modalities that are safe to come up to 24s hours prior to the medicine:
• NuLeaf Naturals CBD: This is simply the best CBD we’ve ever found. Select their plain CBD and for additional support select their multi-cannabinoid blend. Generous doses of this particular CBD can be extremely supportive for rest for people who typically depend on higher amounts of THC. Please note that their products containing 9-THC are psychoactive and can be used very minimally as a catalyzer for the CBD, starting low & slow at 2-4 drops and increasing as needed for personal tolerance. Enter the code “SUNRIVER” for a 25% discount on all purchases.
• Doctor’s Best brand Magnesium Glycinate *highly bioavailable form
• Superior Source Melatonin
• Superior Source Slumber Helper with Melatonin *extra strength
• Tulsi tea
• Chamomile tea
• Valerian root or tincture
• Theanine *stop 72 hours prior to the medicine
• Your favorite calming essential oils
• Yin yoga / Restorative yoga
• Guided meditation recordings
Sometimes people ask: Why are medical tests required when they don’t do all these tests in Africa? Here in this side of the world, we see radically different health issues and drug or medication situations than they see in Gabon. Additionally, sometimes there are still medical adverse events or even deaths in Gabon related to risk factors that could have been prevented with medical tests. We always advocate for comprehensive medical screening prior to coming to the medicine, even for micro-dosing.
Our required medical tests for all guests (taken within 6 months prior to the retreat) include:
• 12 lead EKG confirmed by a cardiologist
• CBC (complete blood count)
• Hepatic (liver / metabolic panel)
• Renal (kidney panel)
Kambo is an ancient, indigenous healing modality from the Amazon, called the “vaccine of the forest.” It is a deep and rapid purge of the the digestive system and the bile of the liver. Kambo medicine has been a powerful way to cleanse and prepare the physical body for many of our guests, clearing the way for a deeper, more effective, and meaningful Iboga experience. Kambo has also helped many guests find greater balance and clarity through difficult medication, drug, and substance titrations (weaning). For those unfamiliar with Kambo: It is it the dried skin secretions of a particular Amazonian frog which is then applied to very superficial burns in the top layer of skin made with a hot stick; small amounts of kambo are applied to the open wounds. While indigenous people have known the benefits of Kambo through earth-based research for countless generations, Western science is starting to catch up and there is now a growing body of research on this medicine.
Please note that Kambo treatments should be no closer than 2 weeks prior to your visit here. We advise to consult with our medical team if you are considering this as a part of your preparation to discuss if it is appropriate for your individual needs. As with all medicines and modalities, do your due diligence to ensure these are right for your individual needs and thoroughly screen your potential providers. As always, ask many questions, inquire about provider references, and be completely honest about any and all medications, herbs, supplements, drugs, alcohol, and substances you may be taking.
Here is a website where you can learn more about the medicine, the science behind it, and a directory of trained providers: https://www.kambointernational.com
Here we offer recommended general practices to prepare, relax, and rejuvenate the body. It is not necessary to do all of these; this is just meant as inspiration to find what will support you, within your schedule and budget:
• Therapeutic massage
• Infrared sauna
• Infrared mats
• Float tanks
• Yoga and hot yoga
• Craniosacral therapy
• Chiropractic sessions
Hydration is key to all body functions and mental health. The quality of water matters tremendously. We recommend filtered and mineralized water. Ionized water and water that has been through structuring can be especially medicinal. We recommend expert water consultant, Isabel Friend, for more support in this area.
EXERCISE & LIFESTYLE
Exercise moderately or as you have been. Even taking a walk each day is helpful or stretching mindfully on a floor mat is wonderful. Don’t suddenly take on any radically different or extreme forms of exercise within the 2 weeks prior to Iboga. In general, slow transitions are more sustainable and physically safe.
REST & RELAXATION
Stress is (literally) a killer. Stress hormones can affect our entire being and the leading cause of disease. Intentional rest and relaxation are marvelous ways to prepare for the medicine physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. Naps, early bedtimes, minimized screen time, eye pillows, gemstone therapy, spa treatments, and hot baths are a few ideas for quality rest.
MOON TIME (MENSTRUAL CYCLE) CONSIDERATIONS
There is no traditional taboo against participating with the medicine while menstruating. Yet, if one tends to have particularly heavy or painful periods, it is recommended to plan the retreat dates outside of the expected cycle window—if possible. There is no particular risk if it happens to fall on the retreat, with normal cycles. Nurturing healthy iron levels is always wise. For any abnormal menstrual issues, our guests should consult with our medical team.
>>> DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU READ ON FORUMS!
There are many concerning tales of Iboga journeys online, many of which were held by unqualified providers or in DIY containers with questionably sourced medicine. People who engage with contraindicated substances close to their journey are lucky to be alive. Be discerning about your informational sources. If our guests have questions or concerns about the medicine, we request that they speak to our team rather than relying on random online information.