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Tabernanthe iboga or simply iboga is a perennial rainforest shrub and psychedelic, native to western Central Africa. Iboga stimulates the central nervous system when taken in small doses and induces visions in larger doses. In parts of Africa where the plant grows the bark of the root is chewed for various pharmacological or ritualistic purposes. Ibogaine, the active alkaloid, is also used to treat substance abuse disorders and depression. A small amount of ibogaine, along with precursors of ibogaine are found in Voacanga africana.
Normally growing to a height of 2 m, T. iboga may eventually grow into a small tree up to 10 m tall, given the right conditions. It has small green leaves. Its flowers are white and pink, while the fruit can be either an elongated oval shape, or a round spherical shape, both having an orange colour. Its yellow-coloured roots contain a number of indole alkaloids, most notably ibogaine, which is found in the highest concentration in the root-bark. The root material, bitter in taste, causes an anaesthetic sensation in the mouth as well as systemic numbness to the skin.
The Iboga tree is the central pillar of the Bwiti spiritual practice in West-Central Africa, mainly Gabon, Cameroon and the Republic of the Congo, which uses the alkaloid-containing roots of the plant in a number of ceremonies. Iboga is taken in massive doses by initiates of this spiritual practice, and on a more regular basis is eaten in smaller doses in connection with rituals and tribal dances, which is usually performed at night time. Bwitists have been subject to persecution by Catholic missionaries, who to this day are thoroughly opposed to the growing spiritual practice of Bwiti. Léon M'ba, before becoming the first President of Gabon in 1960, defended the Bwiti religion and the use of iboga in French colonial courts. On June 6, 2000, the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Gabon declared Tabernanthe iboga to be a national treasure.
Outside Africa, iboga extracts as well as the purified alkaloid ibogaine are used in treating opiate addiction. The therapy may last several days and upon completion the subject is generally no longer physically dependent. One methadone patient said in the Dutch behind-the-news show NOVA that in just four days he reached a state that normally would have taken him three months, but without the agony. Evidence suggests that ibogaine may also help to interrupt addiction to alcohol and nicotine. The pharmacological effects are rather undisputed with hundreds of peer reviewed papers in support but formal clinical studies have not been completed.
In the United States, these clinics are illegal but exist nonetheless, providing treatment for a wide variety of addictions.
Iboga is outlawed or restricted in Belgium, Poland, Denmark, Croatia, France, Sweden, and Switzerland. In the United States Iboga is classified by the Controlled Substances Act on the list of schedule I drugs.
Non-profit organization Föreningen för hollistisk missbruksvård (ibogain.se) is trying to convince the Swedish government to start up clinical investigations of its anti-addictive properties, loosen up the prohibition law against ibogaine, and allow the creation of treatment facilities in Sweden.
Exportation of iboga from Gabon is illegal since the passage of a 1994 cultural protection law.
While little data is available on the exploitation and existing habitat of the iboga plant, the destructive effects of harvesting and slow growth could have already severely damaged the wild iboga population.
Here is a selection of iboga patents and patent applications filed in the last decade
|US Patent or Application Number||Title||Owner/ Inventor||Comment|
|Application 20050288375,published 29 December 2005||Method and composition for treating neurodegenerative disorders||Myriad Genetics,Salt Lake City, UT US||Claims ibogaine (and other compounds) used with an NSAID “for treating and preventing neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer's disease, dementia, mild cognitive impairment.|
|Application 20050222270 published 6 October 2005 and patent 5,958,919, issued 28 September 1999, and others||Prolonged administration of NMDA antagonist drug and safener drug to create improved stable neural homeostasis||Washington University, St.Louis, MO US||Use of ibogaine to enhance safety in a technique to “ease problems such as addictions to illegal or pain-killing drugs, nicotine, or alcohol, compulsive or criminal behavioral problems, severe depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders,phobias, etc.|
|Patent 6,416,793,issued 9 July 2002||Formulations and use of controlled-release indolealkaloids||BioResponse,LLC, Boulder, CO, US||Ibogaine (and yohimbe) formulations with enhanced absorption by the body|
|Patent 6,348,456,issued 19 February 2002, and Application 20030153552,published 14 August 2003||Method of treating chemical dependency in mammals and a composition therefor||Mash; Deborah C. (University of Miami professor)and co-inventors||Claims noribogaine, a variant of ibogaine suitable for pharmaceuticals, and its use to treat addiction to “heroin, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, amphetamine, methamphetamine, opium, methadone, hycodan, morphine and caffeine|
|Patent 6,211,360, issued 3 April 2001||Ibogamine cogeners||Albany Medical College (Albany,NY, US) and the University of Vermont (US).||Ibogamine-derived compounds for treating drug addiction|
|Patent 5,616,575, issued 1 April 1997||Bioactive tricyclicibogaine analogs||University of Minnesota, US and University of Miami, US||Ibogamine-derived compounds for treating drug addiction|