September 23, 2021 08:00 am ETEstimated Read Time: 14 Minutes
Note: Veriheal does not support illegally consuming therapeutic substances such as Iboga but acknowledges that it transpires because of the current illicit status, which we strive to change by advocating for research, legal access, and responsible consumption. Always consult a physician before attempting alternative therapies.
Iboga is a botanical substance that is used for ritual and ceremonial purposes in certain African cultures. Apart from cultural purposes, iboga is commonly associated with alleviating addiction. However, this gift from mother nature is far more miraculous than that. The substance is said to be able to assist you in healing on deeper levels than one might have thought possible. One could even say that iboga provides holistic healing. Fortunately, one such man, Levi Barker, provided us with some much-needed insight into what the substance is, how it is used in treatment, and more.
Meet Iboga Expert Levi Barker
Levi is an iboga expert, and provider, who is passionate about raising awareness of the gift that is iboga as well as spreading healing through this botanical substance. But what makes Levi truly unique is the fact that he is a Bwiti iboga provider. This means that he is not only a provider of iboga, but he was also well trained under the blessing of a 10th generation Bwiti shaman, Moughenda Mikala in Gabon, Africa. He has since been welcomed into the Bwiti practice and now spends his days in Costa Rica at the Iboga Wellness Center. Levi is a Bwiti shaman, but he goes by iboga “provider” since the term “shaman” is reserved for those born into the culture.
Levi was kind enough to sit down with us for an interview and after chatting with him and becoming familiar with iboga, it’s clear that his expertise is nothing short of remarkable. Let’s see what he had to say.
Veriheal: How did you first get into botanical medicines and come to heal at the Iboga Wellness Center?
Levi Barker: Many people turn to iboga and other herbal medicines out of necessity, usually due to big problems they’re facing. I remember that information started spreading through news channels during the 80s. The information was claiming that addiction is a genetic problem. Some of my own family members had problems with addiction and I remember thinking that “if addiction is genetic, I guess I don’t have much of a choice; that’s a bummer.” Looking back, I know that the news was wrong (that addiction isn’t genetic), but it was impressionable on me, and I developed a belief system of thinking I already had a problem.
This led to a lot of experimentation with various substances throughout my life but starting at age 12. Eventually, my experimentation led to opiates. Opiates are great for a short amount of time, then once you are hooked, things don’t ever go back to being the same. Fortunately, a close friend of mine was trying to help me and introduced me to iboga. I was able to use iboga as a tool to move past the opiates, but iboga does more than help with addiction. Many have heard of iboga or ibogaine as a tool for overcoming opiate problems, which it does, but it can also be used as a tool for so much more. This includes life problems such as depression, anxiety, PTSD… all the way to showing us the next step in life when we are stuck and knowing that there is more for us out there. My problem wasn’t just addiction, it was a problem of living. I didn’t know how to think, make the right decisions for myself, or have a positive relationship with myself.
Veriheal: How would you explain what iboga is to a novice? What is the relationship between iboga and ibogaine?
Levi: I would explain iboga as a tool for human life. At its core, it is a human tool and once someone experiences iboga, it becomes very apparent. This tool grows in West equatorial Africa in the rainforests of Gabon, Cameroon, D.R. Congo, and the Congo. Iboga is a shrub that can grow 2-3 meters in height. The bark on the roots of the tree contains the medicine that helps people learn about themselves and their place in this world.
Veriheal: What makes iboga special? How can it be used as a tool for a better life? What effects can be expected and are any of them adverse?
Levi: Iboga is special because of how well it works. People come from all over the world with many different life experiences and problems and iboga helps with most of them. The only thing iboga will not help with is benzodiazepine withdrawal. It definitely helps with drug and non-drug addictions, trauma, depression, anxiety, bad habits, belief systems, and negative ways of thinking.
During an iboga experience, a person goes deeper than they ever have in understanding themselves and how they operate on earth. In our tradition, the two most important things are knowing who we are and what we want. Once we know those two things, our path can open in front of us. We work to go after what we want in life without confusion, because we know ourselves and where we are going.
Veriheal: What are some of the most common conditions you treat with iboga? In your opinion, what is iboga most effective for?
Levi: The most common conditions we treat are depression, anxiety, PTSD, childhood trauma, and we also treat people who come looking for a reset in life. A chance to start fresh and to see the path forward and get out of a “rut.”
All human conditions depend on healing physically, mentally, and spiritually. The iboga cleanses very deeply physically, and it’s the first order of work. People will not only be physically cleansed but also mentally. The iboga will clear space in the mind, which people very clearly feel afterward. Many of us have more in our minds than we need…
Veriheal: Can you walk us through a typical iboga treatment? What would you say one should expect when going into an iboga-based therapy session? Is one therapeutic session enough?
Levi: People come to Iboga Wellness for 8 days, 7 nights and experience iboga on two occasions. Before arrival, we get to know the client a bit and understand what they are coming for. We then talk [privately] about their goals for the experience. We encourage people to think about what they want their life to look like afterward rather than what the actual experience will be like.
We then coach people on the [effects] of the medicine and how to manage the different situations that can come up with iboga. Really, we encourage people to just lay there and listen to the music. Once they’ve put their wants and needs into the medicine, their work is essentially done. It is then time to allow the medicine to go in and work and do its job.
The ceremony lasts all night long. On sunrise the next day we get people up and take them back to the room for some quiet introspective time. As the medicine slows down things will begin to clarify and make sense. The overall experience can last 24 hours, but the intense part is more like 6-12 hours. The medicine then gradually slows down and all the things that have been brought to the surface are now ready to begin the releasing process. Many people should expect to be awake for at least 24 hours.
Once sleep comes, the guests will wake up the next day and feel a lightness, clarity, and focus that they haven’t felt in a long time. They will find that things that used to bother them, or made them feel a certain way, do not affect them in the same way. They are now left in a reset state, and now have a choice in what they are going to bring into themselves moving forward.
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Iboga is unique since it continues to teach well after the experience. The iboga stays in the body for a long time and continues to guide one well after their initial experience.
Veriheal: Can you shed some light on the Bwiti culture as someone with experience? What drew you to become a Bwiti shaman? How did you end up in Gabon amongst the Bwiti?
Levi: Iboga brought me to Bwiti. Iboga came first, and I worked a long time with the medicine before [being] initiated into the Bwiti. In our Bwiti they wouldn’t call me a shaman; I am known as an iboga provider. Although we do shamanic things during the ceremony and the retreat, we reserve the word shaman for someone that was born into Bwiti and iboga.
Veriheal: Are there any common misconceptions you have come across concerning iboga? If so, how would you address them?
Levi: The main misconception I encounter is that iboga is very dangerous and toxic. Having iboga for psycho-spiritual reasons is much different than doing it to detox from drugs. Detoxing from drugs just in general can be dangerous. If one is not detoxing, then the requirements for participating are reasonable.
There have been some studies showing iboga is toxic. Like many things, they can be toxic if consumed in huge amounts. Someone would have to eat a half kilo of iboga to get near any sort of toxicity. For those that have had iboga, they will know how impossible that is.
Care does need to be taken to look at a person’s heart before doing iboga. This is mostly to make sure they don’t have any serious heart problems. In the last 6 years, there have been 2-3 people we couldn’t accept due to them having some heart issues they were not aware of. For 99% of everyone else, they are fine to have iboga and count on it being safe.
Another misconception is that iboga is only for addicts. Iboga is here for everyone that is called. Iboga wants to share its wisdom and gifts with the world. Iboga is just as good for depression as it is addiction, just as good for trauma, and just as good in giving one the guidance they need in their life.
Veriheal: If iboga had a slogan, what would it be in your opinion?
Levi: Give thanks for the gift of life you have been given.
Consumption and Dosage
The root bark of the shrub is what is used for medicine and contains a chemical known as ibogaine, which is administered orally. However, the appropriate dosages depend on factors such as one’s age, cardiovascular health, and several others. An example of the safety of iboga can be drawn from the fact that the Bwiti and Pygmy tribes have been using iboga in their rituals and ceremonies for many, many decades. The tribes consumed the substance to communicate with ancestors, but also to cure physical ailments including impotency, mental illness, addiction, stomachache, liver disorders, and fever.
The Risks of Iboga?
As Levi mentioned, there are concerns over the cardiovascular risks and toxicity reportedly associated with iboga. One can present with, especially when taken unsupervised and in larger doses, adverse side effects such as irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, seizures, paralysis, difficulty breathing, anxiety, hallucinations, heart attack and even death. Levi was asked to comment on how he would reassure potential patients of their valid concerns, to which he responded that acknowledging the concern is important but getting them to understand that this is rarely the case when iboga is consumed in a controlled and iboga experienced environment such as Iboga Wellness Center. He explained that while all those adverse effects have been presented in people who consumed iboga, it was significantly due to inexperience, self-medicating, taking larger doses than one can handle as well as the fact that one is physically detoxing from drugs. He also noted that there are far more people whose lives have been changed forever when compared to those who have had negative experiences, but again, those whose lives were changed were administered iboga in a controlled environment.
Is There Any Research on Iboga and Its Medicinal Properties?
Unfortunately, there is not much research on the benefits of iboga, with anecdotal reports making up a significant basis informing the efficacy of the substance. A chapter published in Progress in Brain Research explained that there have thus far been 33 deaths as a result of iboga consumption, but that the substance has the ability to curb cravings for psychoactive substances. They advise that consumers be more careful, especially since it is challenging to identify the right dosage for ourselves on our own.
Ibogaine appears to be receiving most of the attention in terms of research, however, a study on the ‘legacy of an African shrub (iboga)’ explains that there is a novel iboga alkaloid congener, which “appears to have substantial potential for broad use as an anti-addictive therapy”, this alkaloid is known as 18-methoxycoronaridine (18-MC), a “more effective and safer structure derivative”. The study explains that ibogaine “produces whole body tremors and, at high doses (at least 100 mg/kg), cerebellar damage; 18-MC does not produce these effects”. Both Ibogaine and 18-MC appear to have potential as anti-addictive agents, but the student suggests that their data points to 18-MC being a safer option.
While we patiently await more research on iboga, its benefits, and its effects, Iboga Tree Healing House explains that there are benefits of iboga which many are unaware of, which include letting go and autoimmune healing. They explain that there are plenty of anecdotal reports which demonstrate the efficacy of iboga for conditions such as fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease. Additionally, they explain that iboga allows its consumer to experience “past memories in vivid detail, which users describe as akin to being transported into the past”. While this can be painful, after the reflective period of the treatment, you would have healed from the pain of your past, which is also why it is so effective for persons suffering from conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
More on the Iboga Wellness Center
Iboga Wellness Center is a place for everyone in need of assistance, healing, and a fresh start. The team offers “wholehearted support and care”. One can expect a combination of “Iboga’s natural source intelligence with ancient Bwiti wisdom teaching” in order to assist with your trauma, addiction as well as illuminating your own innate truth. The wellness center states that “the personal discovery of this truth within us is profound, empowering, and lasting”. Additionally, the center is legal, secure, and compassionate, surrounded by the tropics of Costa Rica. Levi explained that Iboga Wellness Center prides itself on its personalized and effective holistic healing experiences. The team also reaches out to previous patients several times throughout the year to check-in.
Iboga is a botanical substance source from the root of a plant found in select areas of Africa. While there are risks when self-mediating, especially if prior-cardiovascular conditions are present, these can be easily avoided under the right guidance. We know that we need more natural alternatives to pharmaceutical medications, which there are many of, such as iboga, cannabis, and psilocybin. Unfortunately, iboga shares a problem with those other natural therapeutics. There is not enough research to remove it from its illegal drug scheduling, despite plenty of anecdotal reports of its efficacy.
WARNING! Please do not attempt to self-medicate with iboga. Your health needs to be assessed by a medical professional and the iboga needs to be administered by someone who knows what they are doing in order to prevent any adverse effects.
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