It is unclear as to how long the use of ibogaine has occurred in Africa. Based on oral record, the ancestors of the Bwiti people had at least used it ceremoniously for over 200 years, and their ancestors were introduced to the psychoactive shrub by the Pygmy tribes.

It is easy to see why it has been so influential, even to the extent that an entire culture and religion emerged because of its impact on holistic medicine in Western societies. Today there are between 2 and 3 million members of the Bwiti religion throughout Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Gabon. This is significant considering this was also the general location of the largest genocide in modern history. The fact that the iboga-inspired culture managed to survive colonial imperialism at the hands of Belgian and French expansion, Catholic missionaries, the slave trade and genocide stands a testament to the resilience and will of the Bwiti way of life. ‚Äč

In 1901 a French botanist extracted the alkaloid from Tabernanthe iboga for the first time and named it ibogaine. It was given the brand name Lambarene and prescribed for its stimulative effects in low doses up until the 1960s when the United States banned it based on its classification as a psychedelic substance. The CIA had been secretly researching it since the 1950s for its anti-addictive potential, but never released any documents pertaining to this study.

Not long after, the psychedelic movement of the 1960s was soon underway in the United States. A man by the name of Howard Lotsof was given ibogaine by a chemist friend since he was interested in hallucinogenic substances. Ironically, Lotsof was also a heroin addict at the time, and when he first took the dose he was given, he experienced a trip like nothing he had felt on LSD, mescaline or mushrooms.

After the effects faded, he realized that he had not had a craving for heroin in a few days because his withdrawals had completely vanished. Astonished, he gave ibogaine to some other heroin addicts to try and similar results occurred. Lotsof began to conduct his own research in an open clinical trial. Although some argue that his methodology affects the validity of his results, his conclusions have positively correlated to modern research which suggests that ibogaine does in fact have anti-addictive properties to chemical dependency.

Currently, ibogaine is still illegal in most nations, but is considered experimental medicine in Brazil, Costa Rica, Gabon, Guatemala, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, and South Africa. Without much advocacy, this might not be the case. The effectiveness of ibogaine will prevail as more research continues to exhibit its true potential.