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Apocynaceae, Tabernanthe iboga, Iboga, Gabon

February 9, 2010

Tabernanthe is a genus with only two species in Africa. T. iboga is a shrub, growing up to 2m in height. Iboga grows wild in the tropical rainforests of Congo, from Camaroon to Angola. It is also cultivated in domestic gardens as a fetish plant and a medicinal. I took the photos above in Gabon.

T. iboga has longish, lanceolate, opposite leaves and tiny flowers ranging in color from pinkish white to yellow. The small fruits are pointy at one end and turn bright orange/yellow when ripe, somewhat reminiscent in shape and size to an olive. All parts of the plant exude a white sap when cut, like many of the Apocynaceae family.

Iboga is considered to be one of the most important psychedelic/hallucinogenic intoxicants used in African ritual and initiation rites. Root extracts have intoxicant/psychoactive properties. 2-10 mg/kg of ibogaine will cause hallucinations and visions, which typically involve a feeling of euphoria and meetings with ones dead ancestors.

For many hundreds of years, and probably far longer, the plant has played an important role in a number of West African cults. In secret societies, iboga is a sacramental plant, one of the magical plants of the fetish priests. It’s psychedelic effects are powerful, and delibrately encouraged in ritual.

The root is considered to be one of the strongest African aphrodisiacs, often combined with yohimbe bark (Corynanthe yohimbe).

The root is also chewed by indigenous people of tropical West African rainforests to suppress hunger and fatigue.

Iboga seeds are rich in monoterpene indole alkaloids (catharanthine, voaphylline and coronaridine). The roots contain 1% alkaloids with ibogaine, ibogamine, tabernanthine, and ibogaline.

Here are some additional photos of T. iboga (young fruit, leaf, flower bud, and open flower) from a more recent trip to Gabon.

Here’s a link to a fascinating documentary about using Iboga to treat chemical dependency.

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