Ibogaine is an indole alkaloid discovered in the root bark of the Iboga shrub native to the forests of Gabon and the northern parts of Congo. The Bwiti and Mbiri tribes have utilized it in holy rites for centuries to reach spiritual wisdom.
It was first described in the late 1800s and has been subjected to an extensive investigation by botanists.
However, its apparent ability to suppress cravings for psychoactive substances such as alcohol, cocaine, methamphetamine, opioids, and nicotine has led to its usage in detoxification treatments since the early 1960s. Clients are frequently treated in non-medical settings, with little reliance on rigorous scientific clinical research.
Description and plant characteristics
Iboga (eboga or eboka) refers to a small number of African plant species in the Apocynaceae family, primarily Tabernanthe Iboga and T. manii.
Tabernanthe Iboga is a tiny perennial shrub that grows to about four meters in height but can reach ten meters in favorable conditions and produces inedible, rectangular orange fruits after the first year.
This bouquet includes white and pink flowers as well as orange fruits that might be oval or spherical in shape.
History of use
Iboga has been translated as “to care for” or “to heal” in many tribal dialects of the Congo Basin, where it plays a significant cultural role. For years, it has been utilized as a medicine and sacrament, most notably in the traditional spiritual discipline of Bwiti.
It has been extensively used as a convalescent treatment following an infection, to fight cachexia, and as a stimulant during overall fatigue.
The root bark can be consumed whole or crushed and ground into little balls. Moreover, it can also be combined with other ingredients or taken as a decoction of the crushed roots.
The root is primarily used as a hallucinogen, a catalyst for spiritual discovery, and a means of obtaining information from ancestors and the spirit realm, resulting in “coming to grips with death”. Iboga is typically consumed in considerable amounts during these ceremonies.
Ibogaine’s psychoactive (hallucinogenic) effects are said to be stronger than those of other psychedelics when one closes their eyes. Ibogaine hallucinations have been described as a “waking dream”, an oniric state in which participants communicate with “ancestral and archetypal beings” and experience glimpses of vivid vision.
Iboga is also used, albeit in much smaller doses, as a divination tool for diagnosing situations and for medicinal purposes. The roots are reputed to have aphrodisiac, febrifuge, and tonic properties.
The pounded roots are also used during the Zebola ceremony— a Congolese healing ceremony for treating psychosomatic afflictions.
Iboga’s pharmacology and mechanism of action
Five phenolic chemicals, including 3-O-caffeoylquinic acid and 30 alkaloids, were discovered in Iboga’s phytochemistry.
The root bark contains 6% indole alkaloids, including Ibogaine (80%), ibogaline (15%), ibogamine (5%), and tabernanthine.
Iboga alkaloids are a subclass of indolomonoterpenes that are frequently identified by their isoquinuclidine nucleus. Ibogaine is the most well-known member of this class of alkaloids, with well-documented psychedelic characteristics. It has been advocated as a drug cessation treatment and possesses a broad spectrum of anti-opioid, anti-cocaine, and anti-alcohol actions.
Ibogaine appears to have a new pharmacological mode of action, operating effectively on a range of distinct receptors in the brain as a result of intricate interactions across neurotransmitter systems.
Therefore, it has been shown that Ibogaine has pharmacological effects on a number of brain systems, including the dopaminergic, glutamatergic, serotonergic, nicotinic, and colinergic pathways and opioid, sigma and neurotransmitter receptors such as gamma amino butyric acid (GABA).
The primary mode of action is via its active metabolites of noribogaine, which can maintain the blood concentration of Ibogaine and prolong its effects. Additionally, it was shown that Ibogaine could decrease the extracellular level of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens. Its interaction with serotonin receptors primarily governs its effects on dopaminergic function.[Mohamed Nazar 2014]
Clinical and Research studies
Nevertheless, Iboga’s mechanism of action shows that Ibogaine has an inhibitory effect on opioid withdrawal symptoms, implying that morphine withdrawal is caused by an ibogaine-sensitive functional and temporary change of the NMDA receptor (non-competitive NMDA antagonist).[Mohamed Nazar 2014]
A clinical trial conducted throughout twelve months in New Zealand by Noller et al. examined the long-term effects of ibogaine therapy on patients undergoing legal ibogaine treatment for opioid addiction.[Noller GE, 2018]
The Addiction Severity Index-Lite (ASI-Lite) was used to assess addiction severity in 14 participants (50 percent female) who received a single ibogaine therapy from one of two treatment providers 12 months later (post-treatment). Secondary effects on depression were investigated using the Beck Depression Inventory-II (BDI-II). The Subjective Opioid Withdrawal Scale (SOWS) was used to quantify opioid withdrawal symptoms before and after therapy.[Noller GE, 2018]
The study demonstrated that a single treatment of Ibogaine alleviated opioid withdrawal symptoms and resulted in opioid cessation or maintained reduced use in dependent individuals over a 12-month period. In New Zealand, where legislation encourages treatment providers to collaborate closely with other health experts, the legal availability of Ibogaine may lead to higher success.[Noller GE, 2018]
Ibogaine shows Pre-clinical evidence for treating alcohol abuse. in alcohol-preferring rats, Ibogaine lowers alcohol consumption.
The anti-addictive effect is thought to be mediated in part by increased glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor (GDNF) expression in the ventral tegmental region (VTA).
Glial cell line-derived neurotrophic factor is a protein required for the survival and maintenance of dopamine neurons and can prevent microglial activation.
The VTA is a significant region in the neurocircuitry of drug reward. Chronic alcohol consumption reduces the excitability of VTA neurons as well as the firing rates of dopamine cells in this area.[Joseph P.2018]
Alcohol’s rewarding addictive characteristics are linked to dopaminergic and serotonergic system stimulation in general.
The long-acting effects of Ibogaine on the DAT (dopamine transporter) and SERT (serotonin transporter) have been connected to its influence on psychological dependence (craving) with a variety of substance abuse.[Joseph P.2018]
When compared to controls, people with alcoholism have lower baseline availability of SERT in the midbrain, and Ibogaine is a noncompetitive inhibitor of SERT that has been demonstrated to boost serotonin in the striatum through this route.[Joseph P.2018]
Therefore, in rat models, ibogaine medication increases serotonin and dopamine release in mesolimbic pathways, including the nucleus accumbens, striatum, and prefrontal cortex, all of which are critical therapeutic targets in the treatment of alcoholism.[Joseph P.2018]
Additionally, Ibogaine is an NMDA antagonist, and medicines that work in a similar manner, such as ketamine, memantine, or NMDA regulators such as acamprosate, have demonstrated potential in lowering alcoholic symptoms and cravings. [Joseph P.2018]
Ibogaine induces intense dissociative and waking dream-like (oneiric) states that lead to transformative psychological insights, in addition to its direct anti-addictive neurobiological effects. [Joseph P.2018]
Ibogaine enhances memory retrieval related to drug abuse, the perception of one’s own future with or without drug use, and visions that reveal profound insights into the psychological factors that contribute to addiction in people with substance use disorders, such as emotionally unresolved personal traumas. [Joseph P.2018]
Ibogaine is indeed an option treatment against addictions. Researchers and control groups who have undergone Ibogaine treatment remain optimistic about its potential to mitigate substance abuse withdrawal.
Today few treatments work sufficiently against opioid and alcohol addiction.
Ibogaine is one of the available treatments without causing the comeback of craving, as reported by some investigations.
Ibogaine is not free of toxicity levels, but its impact on the body and mind is mild compared to synthetic drugs that have been on the market for a while, like buprenorphine or methadone.
Therefore clinical research is the expected confirmation to determine the risks and benefits of Ibogaine and may constitute of massive leap in this medical field.