The recent interest in psychoactive plants as medicines has changed the dynamic of how the Western world views ‘drugs,’ and Cannabis is finally being legalized and appreciated for its legitimate healing properties. New research is pointing out the psychological benefits of psilocybin containing mushrooms, as the psychedelic mushroom experience is proving beneficial as a means of curing depression, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental health issues. Additionally, the explosion of interest in Ayahuasca, the vine from South America that is converted into a brew and ingested in shamanic healing ceremonies, is a testament to the plant’s powerful ability to address physical and psychological ailments, helping people along on their path to spiritual growth.
There is a growing interest in shamanic healing practices, and the Western world is coming to realize that these sacred plants have a proper place in our medicine cabinet. The type of holistic healing they demonstrate can in some ways go far above and beyond what is being offered in the manufactured commercial drugs of big pharma and the medical establishment, without the inclusion of detrimental chemical side-effects and expensive long-term regimens.
A lesser known sacred shamanic plant that is being recognized for its capacity to heal psychological and spiritual issues is iboga, the root bark of a small shrub, Tabernanthe Iboga, native to the West African rainforest. Taken ceremonially for perhaps centuries, iboga is the spiritual sacrament of the Bwiti and the Fang people of Gabon and Cameroon who are renowned for their musical rites of passage and energetic fire dancing ceremonies, using iboga as a potent means of initiating members of the tribe to stabilize community and to resolve psychological issues.
The effective compounds in iboga are the alkaloids found in the root bark, which is peeled from the tuber like roots, dried, then ground into a course, acidic tasting powder that is taken orally. Once ingested, the hallucinogenic journey can last for many hours or even days, and the initiate is typically in a deep meditative state for the duration of the experience consumed with visions and internal hallucinations.
The most widely accepted clinical use for iboga is the treatment of addiction, which typically involves taking ibogaine, an isolated alkaloid found in iboga. Ibogaine is primarily used to heal opioid dependencies to substances such as heroin, methadone and oxycontin, although, it is also very useful for addressing other substance abuse issues as well, such as with cocaine and alcohol.
Iboga is well known to be able to miraculously and permanently cure a lifelong heroin addict in a single session, yet, there is no coherent scientific explanation of how this happens because the transformative effects of iboga are more similar to the subjective results of psychotherapy. The visionary journey brought on by iboga is typically of deeply personal significance and it is often said that iboga triggers a powerful and sustained life review that brings one face to face with the circumstances and behaviors that resulted in the formation of their addictive behavior. In this way, it presents the patient with an opportunity to rewrite, or re-program, themselves, dislodging negative habits and thought patterns, omitting the addictive tendencies from their personality.
“Ibogaine is a psychoactive indole alkaloid derived from the rootbark of an African plant – Tabernanthe iboga. In recent years it has been increasingly noted for its ability to treat both drug and alcohol addiction. Both scientific studies and widespread anecdotal reports appear to suggest that a single administration of ibogaine has the ability to both remove the symptoms of drug withdrawal and reduce drug-craving for a period of time after administration. In addition, the drug’s psychoactive properties (in large doses it can induce a dreamlike state for a period of hours) have been widely credited with helping users understand and reverse their drug-using behaviour. [Source]
While it is certainly relevant to point out iboga’s effectiveness in treating addiction, it is perhaps more important to note the effects that iboga can have in transforming and improving the lives of ordinary people by helping them to better understand themselves and their past, therefore helping them to live more meaningful and fruitful lives. In short, iboga is a powerful means of discovering happiness for ordinary people who are fraught with the common cultural malaises of materialism, nihilism, and apathy. In this way, iboga acts as both a potent detox and an insightful spiritual guide, as the experience is known to cleanse the body of numbing toxins such as fluoride while triggering a serious spiritual awakening.
“…ridding the body of mind-numbing toxins, and freeing the mind from detrimental programming and limiting beliefs, this plant medicine offers serious promise as a tool for Western seekers in our collective quest to break free from the matrix and reconnect with Mother Earth.” [Source]
The psycho-analytical journey of iboga is deeply profound and is frequently described as a face to face meeting with a god-like intelligence, where one’s past and future can be directly examined in a manner that allows the initiate to directly interact with their past and future selves. In this way, iboga is a sort of spiritual time warp, as it can allow one to revisit specific moments in their life, observing and receiving life changing insight from a unique perspective while discovering answers about the nature and meaning of important past events.
“Some people have life reviews and identify negative thought and behavioral patterns, where those patterns started and why. Some people have a slower “de-programming” process, and that is okay too.” - [Source]
This process, while difficult and challenging in many ways, can have the effect of overwriting old habits, behaviors and ideas, leading to a renewed version of the self who is freed from emotional and psychological baggage that may have been prohibiting the person from living up their full potential. Somewhat akin to a total reboot of one’s psychological machinations, iboga is very unique in how it re-organizes one’s personality and thought processes in way that has the power to change the course of one’s life forever.
“Think of your brain as a hard drive on a computer. Iboga is like software that de-progams the hard drive and gets rid of viruses. It processes through all of the prior information (past traumas, belief systems, learned behavior…). It is a reset so the new re-programming can take place.” -Gary Cook, Shamanic Iboga Provider
Ceremonially, iboga has traditionally administered by experienced shaman of Bwiti lineage, although in recent years with the increase in interest in this plant, many qualified and talented healers have emerged who are giving people the opportunity to experience iboga. Sadly, in the United States and in parts of Europe, iboga is illegal, yet many healing centers have emerged in the world in places where iboga is either legal or as of yet unregulated.
Many people inherently understand that mental health and spiritual wellness is the root of total health, and shamanic plant medicines are gaining much deserved respect for the profoundly eye-opening journeys that they can induce.
Modern medical wisdom has largely reduced human health to chemical interactions and has detached the critical role that the human psyche plays in overall health and total wellness. Ancient healing wisdom tends to look at human health differently, first making the connection that a human being must be psychologically and emotionally well, and also spiritually awakened in order to experience abundant health and lasting peace.
Terence Newton is a staff writer for WakingTimes.com, interested primarily with issues related to science, the human mind, and human consciousness.
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