Can Plants Like Ibogaine and Ayahuasca Cure Addiction and Depression?


Alternative medicine is a natural way to pursue physical, spiritual and emotional healing. From plant-based medicines to acupuncture, a long history of nature-based healing methods span cultures across the world. Scientists are working to catch up with history and gain the understanding of how these alternative medicines work in an effort to learn more about the process and the benefits of natural healing. Ayahuasca and ibogaine are two plant-based medicines that are capturing mainstream attention due to personal accounts of healing and an impressive list of benefits.


Ayahuasca is a tea made from the components of at least two plants; a vine called Banisteriopsis caapi which contains monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and a plant called Psychotria viridis that contains N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT). Additional plants may be mixed into the tea, which forms a psychoactive brew. Although ayahuasca is not legal in the United States, it is legal in many South American and Central American countries, such as Costa Rica. The main active ingredient, N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT), is a Schedule I controlled substance in the United States.

The use of ayahuasca based on religious exemptions has been granted by the United States Supreme Court, and scientists are studying the effects on brain function and beneficial properties of ayahuasca in hopes of gaining further acceptance for the therapeutic benefits of this medicine. Initial research indicates that it may help treat substance abuse and depression with emotional healing, self-awareness and spiritual insight. The risks and benefits are currently not fully understood, but ayahuasca-assisted therapy is quickly gaining popularity for therapeutic, spiritual and religious use.


Iboga is a shrub from West Africa, and it contains a naturally occurring psychoactive alkaloid called ibogaine. The bark of the root of this shrub is typically chewed or used as a tea, and in small doses, it is a mild stimulant. In larger doses, it creates a strong psychedelic response. With the power of a protein that blocks receptors in the brain, ibogaine can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of withdrawal. A dream-like state produces introspective feelings that allows addicts to view their problems and past experiences in a new light.

Used in spiritual healing ceremonies by the Bwiti religion in West Africa, ibogaine has shown promise for reducing substance abuse, improving withdrawal symptoms and reducing addictive cravings. In the United States and parts of Europe, ibogaine is classified as a Schedule I drug. Scientists are studying the risks, uses and benefits of ibogaine for mental wellness and for addiction treatment, and their work will identify the therapeutic goals patients can expect to meet during spiritual vacations with plant medicines.

International Clinics

Ayahuasca and ibogaine are unregulated and widely used in many areas of the world, especially in South America, Central America and Africa. International clinics, such as ayahuasca Costa Rica, provide therapeutic use of ayahuasca and ibogaine and San Pedro cactus in safe, medically supervised environments while also incorporating physical checkups, healthy living and emotional support.

Because ayahuasca and ibogaine are typically only taken once for therapeutic use, they can speed healing and reduce treatment time that may involve many months using other modalities. These powerful, natural medicines interrupt addiction and emotional unbalance and help patients quickly find their way on a road to whole health. The ability to identify triggers that interfere with sobriety help many patients recognize their addictions and choose different options for their lifestyles during ibogaine and ayahuasca retreats.

Scientific Studies

With so many therapeutic benefits, it is surprising that ayahuasca and ibogaine haven’t yet been thoroughly studied to prove their medicinal use and identify potential risks. However, as natural substances, there is very little possibility of being granted a patent; therefore, no pharmaceutical company with deep pockets is willing to lead and finance scientific studies. Significant testing requires time and money, and the scientific study of ayahuasca and ibogaine has been steady, but slow.

The effort to learn more about these therapies and research their safety and effectiveness is led by the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS). This 501(c)(3) non-profit organization has an educational goal, and MAPS develops the medical, legal and cultural contexts for psychedelics to more thoroughly understand their benefits for therapeutic and spiritual use. The MAPS website states, “Through perseverance and patience, MAPS has obtained approval from government regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to conduct research on Schedule 1 substances.” Their clear mission and focused path continue to bring the benefits of psychedelic plant medicine to the attention of mainstream society.

The Plant Medicine Experience

As natural remedies that have been used across the world for thousands of years, sacred plant medicines are gaining new acceptance and respect for the effective benefits they can offer. Ayahuasca and ibogaine have been traditionally used for overall spiritual wellness, and their contemporary use includes healing for drug addiction, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Western science is focusing more attention on identifying the benefits of plant medicines, and the scientific data is validating their use for physical and mental ailments while promoting spiritual enrichment.

Personal Accounts of Transformation

The personal accounts from participants in ayahuasca and ibogaine spiritual retreats are many, and most people describe it as a transformative life experience that sets them immediately onto a new life path. Struggles with addiction and depression are often life-long battles, and the opportunity to enjoy the immediate healing can be emotionally overwhelming. Many patients report feeling a new sense of self and losing an interest in the continued use of addictive substances. Depression retreats not only provide effective plant medicine therapy, they allow the soul to heal and be rejuvenated in a beautiful, relaxing environment with supportive staff in comfortable surroundings.

Healing Retreats

When you choose to participate in an ayahuasca and ibogaine retreat at an international clinic, you can expect to be guided with compassion and care. A naturopathic physician will work individually with you to assess your health and determine which type of sacred plant medicine is the best choice for your goals and your physical and mental needs. A beautiful location, healthy nourishment and supportive surroundings all contribute to your therapeutic experience at spiritual retreats.

Although your goals may be addiction or depression retreats, your whole health will be considered and addressed during the course of plant medicine therapy. Ibogaine and ayahuasca will bring deep clarity to your thoughts and alter the course of your personal journey by resolving blocks to your emotions and a willingness to change while allowing the medicine to reveal its benefits. A safe, comfortable environment with well-trained staff and medical supervision is critical to the success of your overall experience and ongoing personal success. With balanced therapies, effective healing can occur and patients can naturally realize their goals and full potential.


Image Credits: Flickr

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