Iboga is the shortened version of Tabernanthe iboga, a small tree found throughout the Congo basin but mainly found in in central West Africa, especially in countries like Gabon, Cameroon and Congo. Iboga refers to the root bark that is shaved from the roots of the iboga tree. The shrub grows up to the height of 1.5–2 and has, has yellowish or pinkish flowers, and produces sweet pulpy fruits. The root bark of the iboga plant contains at least twelve alkaloids, including ibogaine, ibogamine, ibogaline, tabernanthine, voacangine and coronaridine in the proportions 80%, 15% and 5% respectively for the first three listed. The chemical formula of ibogiaine is C20H26N2O and its molecular mass is 310.433 g/mol. It possesses two distinct chiral centers, thereby generating four stereoisomers. After shaving the root bark from the roots, it is then dried, and consumed in its raw form by people during traditional Bwiti ceremonies common to the pigmy people of West Central Africa A huge, visionary dose of root bark is consumed as a rite of passage, and smaller quantities are taken for healing ceremonies and hunting. Ibogaine is the most abundant of all the alkaloids found in iboga. There is some evidence that at least some of the other alkaloids, principally ibogamine, potentiate ibogaine through a so-called “entourage” effect. Even though the iboga tree which is most often described as a shrub can in fact grow up to 10m in height and this iboga tree has a symbiotic relationship with elephants, who eat the fruit and distribute the seeds. Sadly, this relationship has had negative consequences in recent years, due to the illegal ivory trade.
TA, PTA and HCL
If you are hearing about iboga and ibogaine for the very first time, you may come across people talking about “TA”, “PTA” and “HCL”. And this is what they mean: TA stands for total alkaloid. TA is extracted from iboga through a well-defined chemical process. So for those who prefer a natural experience with all the alkaloids present without having to consume huge amounts of root bark TA is the best option. PTA stands for purified total alkaloid. In other to obtain PTA, it involves another chemical process to further concentrate the alkaloids. PTA has just three of the iboga alkaloids: ibogaine, ibogaline and ibogamine. Typically, PTA contains 96% ibogaine, with the remainder divided between ibogaline and ibogamine. HCL stands for hydrochloride which refers to ibogaine hydrochloride. The ibogaine molecule minus any entourage potentiating effect of the other molecules. Ibogaine HCL is the most likely candidate molecule for medical trials with ibogaine, as it is the most controllable.
There has been strong argument for the full, traditional experience, and many treatment centers have found that huge quantities of iboga root bark need to be taken for a full experience. However, consuming such a huge quantity of plant bark can be quite difficult to some people seeking treatment. In the traditional Bwiti initiation ceremony, doses as much as 1 kilogram of iboga root bark have been consumed throughout the initiation ceremony. This however is the maximum dose observed, and different providers have different philosophies about the exact doses. A typical therapeutic dose of the iboga root bark ranges from 5 to 100 grams, depending on the person and the treatment objective, but eating a large quantity of fibrous plant matter like that can make anyone nauseous. Moreover, iboga root bark seems more likely to cause effects like physical discomfort, nausea, and vomiting so associated with the iboga ritual, as compared with its other forms like TA and HCL. However, purging is an important spiritual component of the experience. Another disadvantage of iboga is that the amount of active chemicals can vary widely between species or even between individual plants. This makes it hard to administer an amount that’s in the therapeutic window and not too strong or too weak. Many patients who use iboga may still experience some withdrawal afterward, possibly for this reason. Still, there is a long history of its use, and those seeking a truly spiritual experience may appreciate what is seen as a direct communication with the Bwiti “tree of life.”