How it began - A brief history

How I became involved with Iboga

I first heard about Iboga and its main alkaloid Ibogaine in my early twenties; when I was interested in entheogens and psychedelics for the purpose of expanding consciousness; the first I read about Iboga was in a book by Albert Hoffman titled “Plants of the Gods”

What intrigued me about Iboga from all the other medicinal plants was first of all its rarity and secondly; if you did manage to find some one who had experienced taking Iboga they were secretive and more reluctant to share information; compared to those who has experienced psilocybin for example.
Later I found that there were several reasons for this; one of them being that Iboga is given to Bwiti initiates and information is not intended or allowed to be shared with the uninitiated. As life progressed and my interest in psychedelics waned a bit; Iboga retreated to deeper depths of my consciousness; there but not entirely forgotten.

It was only when I wished to address some destructive behavioural patterns that I remembered this rare plant from West Africa; used for hundreds of years by the Babongo pygmies as a right of passage and as a means to commune with the dead. (Along with viewing ones life experiences while under the influence of Iboga it is also common to see or communicate with deceased relatives) As far as I was concerned; even though my parents were separated; I was under the impression there were no real issue there as I did have substitute role models and I certainly did not hold my self responsible for my parents separation. Yet some how I had developed a very negative habit of sabotaging any project I started just before completion. I was depressed and had no idea where this could have come from or what could have caused me to behave in such a manner.

Needless to say, I began to research Iboga once again and started with the root bark which I managed to trace through the internet.

Early Experiments with Iboga

When I first took Iboga it was not the mind blowing experience I had hoped for; but then I was not experienced enough to know that one reacts differently each time one takes Iboga. I did manage to gain some insight and one of the issues that came up was related to my parents divorce. In time I have come to believe that Iboga gives the person what they need to know or experience at that specific point in time; I can’t explain it in any other way. Although we claim to understand some of Ibogaine’s mechanisms of action; it works on so many levels as more than just an agonist; I believe we only have theories presently and have a long way to go in understanding Iboga and how it works on the mind and body.

I did not blame my self for the separation but was taken back to the time and place in our kitchen; at the time I must have been about five years old. I remember feeling that I was “a problem” and that my mother would not be in the current situation were in not for the fact of my birth. The result was feeling unwanted and that I did not belong; which later let to low self esteem and low self worth. I could see my self standing there in the kitchen thinking these things and then I suddenly understood where it all began and how from that point in time I started to make more negative associations and gravitated to people who were also marginalised.

I was able to review my whole life through the experience and see how my choices had had a far reaching effect on my future; I knew then I had to learn to love my self.

Experiences such as these while under the influence on Ibogaine are meant to be private and only shared with selected people; but for the point of this exercise I will allow my self to mention the one aspect regarding my parents divorce; even thought there were many times I felt I had gained a great deal of personal awareness and understanding from the experience.

During the experience I became interested in the way of life that evolved around Iboga known as Bwiti which was first practiced by the Babongo pygmies of Gabon; but I had no intention of travelling to West Africa in search of my new passion in life and to understand it better. Fortunately for me and by whatever synchronicity existing in the universe; I was contacted by some one claiming to be a Bwiti Nganga or shaman from Gabon who was currently living in Johannesburg.

Involvement with Bwiti InitiationBwiti Celebration

I was interested in the traditional aspects of Iboga, but wasn’t prepared to go to Gabon in search of it. From a South African perspective, we know a bit more about traditional healers – a lot of them are con artists, so I was very wary of that.

Once I decided to try and do a bit more research into the traditional aspects of Iboga, I got the call from Johannesburg from the Bwiti Shaman who was living there at the time. He said he had found some information about me on the internet, and wanted to know if knew about Bwiti, or if was I interested.
I said, sure I was interested... He said: “Well come to Johannesburg, we do Bwiti here”
I thought, “Ok ok, I know Jo’burg", so knew if there was a situation I was not comfortable with I would be able to deal with it - being familiar with the territory; and so I went. I was introduced to everyone and everything started to work from there. They offered for me to join them in a celebration involving Iboga known as “Bwiti” I accepted and that was my first step on the long and winding road Iboga had set me on.

They found it interesting that there was a European man  involved with Iboga - that was new to them in a sense. Anyone who is involved in Bwiti becomes passionate about it, and it becomes what one shapes one's life and belief system around. So when you share an interest with someone, you want to discuss these interests. That was his motivation for contacting me I guess…

First success

There were no real Ibogaine practitioners or providers in South Africa at the time; so my next step took place when my lawyer approached me regarding her son; a heroin addict at the time who had tried just about every form of treatment yet could never make more than four month abstinent. I agreed to give it a try since I had researched the subject extensively; and trusted were anything to go wrong the parent was a lawyer and I would not wind up in a heap of trouble.

Any concern was unfounded and the treatment went on to become one of my greatest success stories. After the son I treated the “then” girlfriend successfully; and both have gone on to live productive lives and now have had a child. If I had to pick a “happily ever after story” this would certainly be a top candidate.

Things more or less started there with the invitation to learn more about the traditional aspect of Iboga by being initiated into Bwiti and studying traditional African medicines. From there word spread and things progressed by word of mouth.

I continued to study while making friends and sharing information with established Ibogaine practitioners and traditional healers. It became my mission to spread the word about how powerful Iboga was as an addiction interrupter: There is no other medicine known to man that has the ability to allow a person to completely detox and avoid the excruciating discomfort of opiate withdrawal in a period of two to three days; while also giving the patient insight into the cause of the habit. This was unheard of; a detox with no withdrawal symptoms? As if some one has the cure for cancer or HIV and simply did not bother to tell anyone it existed.

I soon discovered that there would be no real incentive in promoting a product that you do not need to take regularly from the point of the pharmaceutical companies.
Pharmaceutical companies were focussed on profit so this would not appeal to any of them. One way these companies are able to put the breaks on any initiative to bring Iboga to the public is quickly thwarted by the astronomical costs that are required to bring a drug to the shelves in the market place. I found the costs were in the millions of dollars; so what can one do faced with these facts?

This discovery was a bit depressing to say the least; especially when I realised how well Ibogaine worked as an antidepressant. Only half a gram of root bark was required every four days to combat depression; not only that but it halved the side effects of the current drug the patient was on.

This was certainly a marvellous drug with many applications and so I plunged straight in to researching what I could and collecting as much information as I possible.

The next problem we were facing was supply. Iboga only grows in specific areas of Gabon and some of the bordering countries. It grows very slowly and can take up to eight years before the plant matures and the root is ready for harvest. Through a lot of trial and error and continued attempts I managed to source the location and conditions that produce the highest grade of Iboga. I found out that there was a great difference between “commercial” Iboga and sacramental Iboga; the latter being highly potent. The reason being that taking Iboga is such an ordeal and the taste beyond description (tasting so bitter it feels like it burns) it’s better to take less of a more potent plant than having to consume up to half a kilo of conventional root bark.

Analytical work at the University of Cape TownbIbogaine and Alkaloid Extraction

The following step took a lot longer than getting to know about Iboga root bark: Extraction. For three years I scouted for people who were able to assist in the process. I started with the pharmacology department at the local university and we met with kind support from several of the professors who themselves seemed interested in Iboga. Unfortunately the ethics department put a halt on the progress I had made and restricted what I was doing to analytical work only.

At least I was able to test different root bark from different locations to discover which had the highest alkaloid content; and that was not a complete loss. Armed with the information I had gathered to date; as well as the raw materials (Ibogaine is highest in content in the second layer of root bark) I set out to find some one to help me with Ibogaine extraction.

Again through synchronicity; chance or favourable conditions I was put in touch with a chemist and laboratory that were not only like minded but were willing to help me achieve my final goal of Ibogaine extraction.

Now that South African Ibogaine is a reality we are finally able to offer more affordable treatment as well as to stock the purest form of Ibogaine available globally.

What began as a means to better understand my self and to help others; has gone on to a project beyond what I could have ever anticipated and we continue to evolve and make a difference in peoples lives on a daily basis.


Simon Loxton
Director, Iboga Association Cape Town 

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