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Tabernanthe iboga - Baill.

Common Name Iboga
Family Apocynaceae
USDA hardiness 10-12
Known Hazards Toxic doses of the plant may produce convulsions, paralysis and death from respiratory arrest[299 ]. In the 1980's, Iboga became popular in the United States and Europe as a non-addictive interrupter of drug dependency, but soon thereafter it was classified as a hallucinogen and dangerous substance in the United States, where it is therefore illegal to buy, sell, or possess it without a licence. Its possession is also prohibited in Belgium, Switzerland, Sweden and Australia. There has been renewed interest in iboga since the late 1990's[299 ]. The latex is mixed with Periploca nigrescens and/or Strophanthus spp., and then used as arrow poison[299 ].(Parts of plant are poisonous if ingested)
Habitats Forest understorey, sometimes in riverine or swamp forest or relatively wet savannah, at elevations from sea-level to 1,500 metres[299 ].
Range West tropical Africa - Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, DR Congo, Angola.
Edibility Rating    (0 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (4 of 5)
Care (info)
Tender Moist Soil Wet Soil Semi-shade Full sun
Tabernanthe iboga Iboga

Tabernanthe iboga Iboga
Marco Schmidt[1] wikimedia.org


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Tabernanthe iboga or Iboga is a perennial small shrub about 4 m in height and native to western Central Africa. The leaves are small and green. The flowers are white and pink. The fruits can be oval or round and orange in color. No plant part is edible but the plant is of medicinal importance. In particular, the root is hallucinogenic, aphrodisiac, febrifuge, and tonic. It is taken in different forms as relief from tiredness, hunger, and thirst, or as treatment for coughs, urinary infections, and conjunctivitis. The leaves, on the other hand, are anesthetic and aphrodisiac, and used against toothache. The latex is anthelmintic. However, there are serious side effects using this plant thus caution should be observed.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Tabernanthe iboga is an evergreen Shrub growing to 1.5 m (5ft) by 1.5 m (5ft) at a fast rate.
See above for USDA hardiness. It is hardy to UK zone 10.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils. Suitable pH: mildly acid, neutral and basic (mildly alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist or wet soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map


Iboga vateriana Braun-Blanq. & K.Schum Tabernanthe albiflora Stapf Tabernanthe bocca Stapf Tabernant

Plant Habitats

Edible Uses

None known

References   More on Edible Uses

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anaesthetic  Analgesic  Anthelmintic  Aphrodisiac  Febrifuge  Hallucinogenic  Odontalgic  Ophthalmic  
Sedative  Tonic  Urinary

Iboga root is very important in the initiation ceremonies of certain African tribes. The root bark can be eaten whole; or it can be crushed and ground then rolled into small balls; sometimes it is mixed with other ingredients; sometimes it is taken as a decoction of the crushed roots. The root is mainly employed as a hallucinogenic, a catalyst for spiritual discovery, and to seek information from ancestors and the spirit world, hence 'coming to terms with death'. Iboga is usually taken in large quantities in these ceremonies[299 ]. Iboga is also taken, usually in rather smaller quantities, as a means of divination to diagnose situations and also for therapeutic purposes[299 ]. The roots are considered to be aphrodisiac, febrifuge and tonic[299 ]. A decoction is often taken as a means of combating tiredness, hunger and thirst in situations such as hunting when it can be necessary to overcome physical stress[299 ]. A root macerate in palm wine is taken to soothe coughs, whilst the root decoction is drunk to treat urinary infections[299 ]. The pounded roots are also used in the curing ceremony (called 'zebola') for treating psychosomatic afflictions[299 ]. A decoction of the root is used for eye drops to treat conjunctivitis[299 ]. The leaves are considered to be anaesthetic and aphrodisiac[299 ]. The warmed leaves are rubbed on the gums to calm toothache[299 ]. The latex obtained from the plant is taken as an anthelmintic[299 ]. The active compounds, present in the root, root bark, stem bark, leaves and seeds of the plant, are indole alkaloids. About 20 have been identified so far[299 ]. The highest concentrations of alkaloids occur in the root bark (5 - 6%), followed by the roots (1 - 2.5%), stem bark (2%), seed (1%) and leaves (0.4 - 0.8%)[299 ]. Ibogaine (ibogan class) is the most important alkaloid present in all plant parts except the seeds. The main activities of ibogaine are on the central nervous system and on the cardiovascular system. At low doses, it exerts primarily a stimulant effect, increasing alertness and reducing fatigue, hunger and thirst. At higher doses, the primary effects are hallucinations, with unpleasant possible side effects such as anxiety and depression with fear or rage[299 ]. The peak effect is reached 1 - 3 hours after swallowing the drug; it subsides gradually, ending in complete insomnia and lethargy. These effects can last for 2 - 5 days. Apart from the psychological effects, the physical effects include tremor, light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, loss of muscular coordination and prolonged and often painful muscle spasms, all in a dose-dependent way[299 ]. Toxic doses may produce convulsions, paralysis and death from respiratory arrest[299 ]. Most activities have been tested with purified ibogaine, but during initiation ceremonies powdered root bark is usually taken, which is more powerful as it contains a range of related alkaloids[299 ]. Ibogaine is a potent cholinesterase inhibitor, and the root extract is even 100 times stronger in its inhibitory effect because of the additional effects of the alkaloids tabernanthine, ibogamine and the more distantly related iboluteine. This property contributes to the anti-fatigue properties of ibogaine, and results from an increased sensitivity to adrenaline, bringing about a transient excited state of the sympathic nervous system[299 ]. Despite the reputation of iboga as an aphrodisiac, ibogaine did not produce a stimulation of sexual functions in various trials[299 ]. Tests have not shown ibogaine to have a significant analgesic effect[299 ]. Recent research indicates that ibogaine has a novel pharmacological mechanism of action, acting strongly on a variety of different receptors in the brain, resulting from complex interactions between neurotransmitter systems. There is no consensus yet on how ibogaine works precisely, but it is known to inhibit the re-uptake of the neurotransmitter serotonin, which can cause hallucinations[299 ]. However, the suggestion by laymen that ibogaine has considerable potential in the field of psychotherapy is premature. Research has shown that ibogaine is converted in the liver to noribogaine, which fills opiate receptors, thus eliminating withdrawal symptoms. Ibogaine also stimulates nicotinic receptors in the cerebellum, which contributes to modulating the dopamine reward circuit. At high doses though, ibogaine is toxic as it destroys neurons in the cerebellum[299 ]. There is evidence to suggest that ibogaine has considerable potential in treating addictions to heroin, cocaine, alcohol, nicotine, caffeine, amphetamine, desoxyephedrine or methadone, or combinations of these. Several methods to arrest the physiological and psychological aspects of dependency on drugs by using ibogaine have been patented in the United States. Treatments are claimed to be effective for 70 - 100% of the cases. However, the serious side effects of ibogaine make its use potentially harmful and additional clinical studies are needed to determine if and how it can be used safely[299 ].

References   More on Medicinal Uses

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Other Uses

Other Uses: None known

Special Uses

References   More on Other Uses

Cultivation details

Newly planted young shrubs can reach a height of about 60cm after 3 years[299 ]. If produced from cuttings, they can commence flowering in just 4 months[299 ]. Plants often flower and produce fruit all year round[299 ]. Plants can be cut back into the old wood, resprouting well from the trunk[299 ].

References   Carbon Farming Information and Carbon Sequestration Information

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Plant Propagation

Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe because after a few months the seed coat dries out, making it difficult for the seedling to emerge[299 ]. Sow the seed in a semi-shaded position in a nursery seedbed or in individual containers[299 ]. Germination is slow and irregular, ranging from a few weeks to a few months. Scarification prior to sowing increases the germination rate considerably[299 ]. Young plants can be transplanted to their final location after 2 - 3 months, when the root has become twice as long as the stem[299 ]. Cuttings of about 25 cm long and 1 cm in stem diameter root easily in humid soil.[299 ].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

bitter grass, bitter-grass, bois amer, bois sacré, dibughi, dihoa, eboka, eraga, iboga, ibogo, leaf of god, leaf-of-god, lihoka, ochima, sacred wood, sacredwood, éboga.

TROPICAL ASIA: Cambodia AFRICA: Tanzania, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Angola

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status : This taxon has not yet been assessed

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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A special thanks to Ken Fern for some of the information used on this page.

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