The History Of Ibogaine

Ibogaine Shrub

In Gabon, iboga is seen as a sacred medicine (the original word boghaga literally means “to care for”). Sometimes referred to as the “Holy Wood”, each community has a nganga (chief healer) who is responsible for leading ceremonies of initiation and other healing ceremonies. Iboga has been used as a sacrament by the Bwiti for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

In 1864 a French doctor is the first Westerner to discover the root and bring it to France, where a botanist names it Tabernanathe iboga H. bn (as is often done, he gave the plan his initials, because clearly he discovered it even though African people have been using it intentionally for eons).

But it’s not until 1901 that two French scientists extract the easiest alkaloid to produce from the plant and name it ibogaine. Ibogaine then goes through several manifestations as a prescription drug to combat fatigue in low doses under the name Lambarene, which remains on the market until ibogaine is eventually banned in the United States in the 1960’s.

Large pharmaceutical laboratories show no interest either. Between the fact that Ibogaine comes from a plant (so any patent can only be for its applications) and the fact that it is a Schedule I illegal substance, getting Ibogaine to market would mean a lot of investment for a relatively small return. As an example, the official response from pharmaceutical company Ciba-Geigy was: “While the indication for narcotic addiction withdrawal is almost certainly worthwhile, it has not been identified as a strategic commitment for our company”. It’s strange to think of the ramifications of private medicine, of all the peoples’ lives that could have been saved or at least who could’ve benefited from Ibogaine had it only been a more “strategic commitment” to private corporations.

The first human experiments with Ibogaine were done in Holland, the only country at the time to have a real policy for the prevention of drug addiction. At the same time, research with Dr. Stanley Glick back in the U.S. shows that Ibogaine will reduce self-administration of morphine in rats, which is very promising.

Time Line


The first description of T. iboga is published. A specimen is brought to France from Gabon. A published description of the ceremonial use of T. iboga in Gabon appears in 1885.


Ibogaine is isolated and crystallized from T. iboga root bark.


Ibogaine is isolated and crystallized from T. iboga root bark.


Ibogaine is sold in France as Lambarene, a “neuromuscular stimulant,” in 8 mg tablets, recommended for indications that include fatigue, depression, and recovery from infectious disease.


Harris Isbell administers doses of ibogaine of up to 300 mg to eight already detoxified morphine addicts at the U.S. Addiction Research Center in Lexington, Kentucky.


The description of the definitive chemical structure of ibogaine is published. The total synthesis of ibogaine is reported in 1965.


In the United States, Howard Lotsof administers ibogaine to 1-9 individuals at dosages of 6 to 19 mg/kg, including 7 with opioid dependence who note an apparent effect on acute withdrawal symptomatology.


The World Health Assembly classifies ibogaine with hallucinogens and stimulants as a “substance likely to cause dependency or endanger human health.” The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) assigns ibogaine Schedule I classification. The International Olympic Committee bans ibogaine as a potential doping agent. Sales of Lambarene cease in France.


Dr. Claudio Naranjo, a psychiatrist, receives a French patent for the psychotherapeutic use of ibogaine at a dosage of 4 to 5 mg/kg.


Howard Lotsof receives a U.S. patent for the use of ibogaine in opiate withdrawal. Additional patents follow for indications of dependence on cocaine and other stimulants, alcohol, nicotine, and polysubstance abuse.


U.S. and Dutch researchers publish initial findings suggestive of the efficacy of ibogaine in animal models of addiction, including diminished opioid self-administration and withdrawal, as well as diminished cocaine self-administration.


Treatments are conducted outside of conventional medical settings in the Netherlands involving the International Coalition of Addict Self-Help (ICASH), Dutch Addict Self Help (DASH), and NDA International.


Based on case reports and preclinical evidence suggesting possible efficacy, NIDA Medication Development Division (MDD) begins its ibogaine project. The major objectives of the ibogaine project are preclinical toxicological evaluation and development of a human protocol.

August 1993

FDA Advisory Panel meeting, chaired by Medical Review Officer Curtis Wright, is held to formally consider Investigational New Drug Application filed by Dr. Deborah Mash, Professor of Neurology at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Approval is given for human trials. The approved Ibogaine dosage levels are 1, 2, and 5 mg/kg. The Phase I dose escalation study begins December 1993, but activity is eventually suspended due to lack of funds.

October 93- December 94

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) holds a total of four Phase I/II protocol development meetings, which include outside consultants. The resulting draft protocol calls for the single administration or fixed dosages of ibogaine of 150 and 300 mg versus placebo for the indication of cocaine dependence.


NIDA Ibogaine Review Meeting is held in Rockville, Maryland, chaired by the MDD Deputy Director, Dr. Frank Vocci. The possibility of NIDA funding a human trial of the efficacy of ibogaine is considered. Opinions of representatives of the pharmaceutical industry are mostly critical, and are a significant influence in the decision not to fund the trial. NIDA ends its ibogaine project but it does continue to support some preclinical research on iboga alkaloids.

Mid 1990’s- 2001

Ibogaine becomes increasingly available in alternative settings, in view of the lack of approval in the Europe and the United States. Treatments in settings based on a conventional medical model are conducted in Panama in 1994 and 1995 and in St. Kitts from 1996 to the present. Informal scenes begin in the United States, Slovenia, Britain, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic. The Ibogaine Mailing List begins in 1997 and heralds an increasing utilization of the Internet within the ibogaine medical subculture.

History from A Review by Kenneth R. Apler


April 6 2012

Seventh Subject Completes Follow-Up in Observational Study in Mexico

As of April 6, 2012, seven out 30 subjects had completed follow-up in our ongoing observational study of ibogaine treatment for addiction in Mexico. 19 out of 30 subjects are still in the follow-up portion of the study, which entails one year of evaluations for addiction and quality of life following treatment at an independent ibogaine treatment center in Mexico. Data from this study will be compared with data from our recently approved observational ibogaine study in New Zealand.


June 12 2012

MAPS' observational study of ibogaine-assisted therapy for addiction treatment in New Zealand is the focus of a 10-minute segment on Television New Zealand. Study investigator Geoff Noller, Ph.D., explains how the study could help find better treatments for people suffering from substance abuse, and New Zealand Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS) Director Susanna Galea says that the benefits of the research significantly outweigh the risks.


July 16 2012

On July 16, 2012, the first two participants were enrolled in our recently initiated observational study of ibogaine treatment for addiction in New Zealand. Both of these individuals are suffering from methadone dependence and are receiving treatment at independent ibogaine clinics in New Zealand. This study is the second in our international series of observational studies of the safety and efficacy of ibogaine treatment for addiction, building on our nearly completed study in Mexico, where the final one-year follow-up evaluation will happen in September 2012.


September 10 2012

On September 10, 2012, the 30th and final subject completed the 12-month follow-up in our observational study of ibogaine treatment for addiction in Mexico. This will be first long-term outcome study ever conducted with ibogaine in the treatment of addiction. In this study, Principal Investigator Thomas Kingsley Brown, Ph.D., is observing the long-term effects of ibogaine treatment for individuals undergoing treatment at an independent clinic in Mexico. Data from this study will be compared with our concurrent, ongoing study of ibogaine treatment for addiction in New Zealand.


January 11 2013

On January 11, 2013, Principal Investigator Geoff Noller, Ph.D., reported that our ongoing observational study of ibogaine treatment for opioid dependence in New Zealand had received an additional donation of about $10,000 from Matt and Kristi Bowden’s Stargate International Trust. The grant, which follows the Bowdens’ earlier $25,000 donation to MAPS-sponsored ibogaine projects in New Zealand and Mexico, could not have come at a better time, says Dr. Noller. "With the study gaining momentum, we're beginning to draw participants and interest in general, from around the country. While this is great news for ibogaine research in New Zealand, it also means extra resources are required, as each participant must be introduced to the study and then followed up on a monthly basis." Ideally the research team aims to meet with each potential participant before their treatment, to build rapport for what will hopefully be a 12-month relationship between researchers and subjects. Despite recruitment starting slowly in 2012, the recent increase in interest suggests the target of between 20 to 30 participants will be met, although the initial 18-month recruitment period may be extended to two years.

February 2013- Present

Ibogaine continues to be researched and studied today. An increased understanding of the drug and its effects has resulted in controlled trials where the drug can be safely administered on individuals in a comfortable manner.

Since it is still a Schedule 1 restricted drug in the USA, Ibogaine continues to be researched in Europe, Mexico and South America.
The method of Ibogaine extraction has also come further than before. Ibogaine Hydrochloride is extracted from the root bark of the Iboga. This is then purified in order to be used for treatment of chemical dependency.

The drug shows some amazing abilities of removing symptoms of withdrawal and can be effective when it comes to the treatment of addictions such as:-

Opiate medications

Although the drug is known to be rather successful in trials, it is important to understand the risks associated with Ibogaine use. Since it can be harmful for individuals at risk of heart attacks or liver disease, it is best to refrain from its administration. In all other cases it is important to administer the drug in a controlled environment in the presence of an expert.

Although The History of Ibogaine treatment has a rich history, much of it still remains to be understood. As further research is done on the effectiveness of the drug, we can see positive signs for the presence of a permanent cure of dependency.