The Difference between Ibogaine & Iboga Extracts
In 1962 Howard Lotsoff, then just an experimental young heroin addict living in New York, took Ibogaine for the first time with an intention to get high. The unexpected event that occurred as a result was the alleviation of his dependency on heroin. Meaning: 36 hours after his initial consumption of the Ibogaine, Howard was not experiencing any withdrawal effects (typically very apparent at 36 hours of cessation). Howard then took his findings to 7 other addicts: 5 of which also dropped their habit as a result of the Ibogaine. And these were the events that directed the miraculous beginning & introduction of Ibogaine, and it’s therapeutic value for chemical dependency, to the Western world.
Iboga has been used in Gabon and Cameroon for centuries. The various uses include general rites of passage, exorcism & the relief of bad spirits like depression & grief (in certain sects), the initiation of teens into adulthood, and for spiritual therapy (in the mystic tradition). Iboga is very difficult to consume, as highest content of active alkaloids (or active properties) is found in the extremely bitter root bark of the Iboga plant. Westerners, for example, strip down the plant to it’s organic active properties and separate these properties in order to strengthen their effect. Ibogaine has about 1/3 ‘total alkaloid extract’ or ‘TA’ content (which is made up of a 12 active alkaloids), with the other 2/3rds being considered ‘other’ alkaloid (some of which do aid in opiate detox/diminishing withdrawal). The Dream House was the first to request this TA combination from the lab. At the time, the Dream House was receiving Ibogaine from in Italy – and they couldn’t understand why we wanted this product. To us, it seemed only natural: it was one step closer to the whole plant (which we did not have access to).
TA alone is not strong enough to treat opiate dependency unless it’s done in a series of medium doses over a period of time. This, in itself, became a benefit: i.e. that given time and supervision, you could gradually taper down (and eventually off) opiates rather than an overnight. In addition, it also held various other properties for healing that we wanted to include and offer in our treatment protocol. For example, after doing the main detox, a TA boost seemed to ‘complete’ the treatment. TA also revealed benefits for suboxone dependency, as it seemed to hit some of the deeper residual ‘stickiness’ suboxone is known for.
As we moved into psycho-spiritual therapy, non-addiction therapy, and initiation training it became clear that most Westerners just could not consume dry root bark in the amounts necessary to create a break-through experience. Hence, the combination of root bark and TA became our new standard for initiatory work. Because TA is basically Iboga without any wood material in it (and contained in capsules), it’s much easier to ingest.
Ibogaine, on the other hand, is like pure voltage. It’s very strong and very hard on the system – and not what some people require in order to achieve a healing experience. To extract TA, we do a vinegar wash, strain out the wood particles, and then neutralize with ammonia. This is the very basic process of extraction. If you then expose this TA to hydrochloric acid, you derive what’s called ‘PTA’- or ‘purified total alkaloid’. This product is strong enough to do reset therapy for alcohol, cocaine, and methamphetamine, and can also help to strengthen TA for initiatory and psycho-spiritual work.
The Process from Plant to PTA
The Iboga plant is dug up, the roots are dried, and then the root bark is scraped off. To make one kilo of root bark, it requires 1-2 plants with at least 7 years of maturity each. This is a low yield – or 25 grams of Ibogaine HCL per kilo of root bark. As such, sustainability alone has become a threat to the species, as there are only two small countries which grow Iboga (Gabon & Cameroon). In Gabon, where Iboga is considered a national treasure, it is NOT distributed for commercial use. So, for the past 30 years it has come from Cameroon and unfortunately, as soon the value & demand had been established globally, the plant was poached, disrespected, and essentially pushed to the edge of extinction (in that country). Thankfully, other (small) farms have begun to establish themselves over the past decade in Guana, Hawaii, and other equatorial regions (including Mexico). Nonethless, none of these farms is ready to take on the burden of Western consumption.
The Awakening in the Dream Group has grown two plants to maturity – both of which produced fruit and gave seed, thus establishing the first ever Mexican-strain Iboga plants. As far as sustainability is concerned, by using the alkaloid extracts discussed above, we were essentially saving valuable alkaloids that could be used for other treatments.
There are 6 remaining active alkaloids in PTA. Our experience is that these 6 are not strong enough for direct opiate detox, but almost all other treatments can use this level of extraction for therapy. In order to yield 98% Ibogaine HCL, a 2nd wash with hydrochloric acid is required. With each wash, the volume decreases 15-20%.
Depending on the quality, age, and type of growth – one kilo of root bark will yield of about 180 grams of TA. If you do one hydrocloric wash you loose about 50% (and that is the PTA). If you do a second wash, it decreases to 25 grams pure Ibogaine HCL to one kilo. This is the break down. For any Ibogaine therapy other than opiate detox, the Awakening in the Dream Group extracts our own TA using Ibogaine HCL 98% in one-third Ibogaine HCL, to two-thirds TA extract ratio. This combination has been the best we have found for all forms of therapy (opiate aside). Plus, it helps with the sustainability issue AND it is closer to the traditional method of use in its native African cultures.
There is a additional plant which can produce Ibogaine at as high as 99% pure. This plant is called Voconga Africana, and it’s grown for it’s seeds in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Yet, Voconga Africana has far less of a yield – in fact, one kilo yields only 3 grams. Nonethless, Voconga Africana is abundant and may help Iboga from reaching critical consumption points, as pounds of the raw material are available. For future detox, this plenty will certainly help, but it is a much more complicated extraction process which requires a lab & pharmacologists. Though Iboga is a more simple extraction process, it also requires a lab to produce 98% pure ibogaine HCL.
At Awakening in the Dream Group, we are sort of puritists. We are fortunate enough to have developed a relationship with one organization in Gabon who is able to provide us with raw material for our TA extractions. Yet, all of this has taken 20 years to put together.
The Spirit Inside
This human friendly plant has a very strong diety who came to the West. We have experienced it as a male spirit. In most traditional Iboga it is considered a female, so we believe that the Ibogaine had a grand father spirit.
I met the grandfather spirit for the first time when I detoxed in 2003. This Spirit has stayed with our family and our staff. We feel like we have received our own special guide for working specifically with Ibogaine. ‘He’ has been our closest ally in learning and thus far, safely treating 800-900 people. Not everyone experiences this male figure, but about 25% do. Normally, he appears as a well dressed, tall, dark African man who typically wears some sort of a hat or a mask. This spirit is who I have made decisions with. He guided me to Mexico, gave me specific instructions on required resources, and advised me on how to create a true healing center. This is close to what they do in Africa. Considering that in the jungle there are no EKG machines, hospitals, or any other modern medical support – your best guidance comes from the spirit itself. This took some time for me to understand. I also trained with Moghenda Mikala (a Bwiti native and Iboga shaman) to be able to better understand and trust how I felt, understood, and heard the spirit.