San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Hallucinogenic health

An appointment with Dr. Iboga

About an hour had passed since I took the four-capsule microdose of dried iboga root, perhaps the most powerful visionary plant on Earth. Time seemed to have slowed down. I felt drunk, and my arms trailed beside me as I walked. Groovy.

I sat down Indian-style on the mat at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa in Nosara, waiting to begin my “iboga yoga” session. The straw-thatched yoga deck overlooked a rain forest valley with a running waterfall and an incredible view of the ocean. It was sunset, and howler monkeys roared from the treetops. I couldn’t have been happier.

Skilled yoga instructor Ashley Ludman led the class. Her cues were impeccable, and I experienced the sensation of stretching like never before. Thanks to the microdose, I could feel each cell within my muscles yawning, opening gently and snapping back. My body felt more flexible, and I was elated – grateful to be alive and practicing yoga right here, right now. All unwanted thoughts in my head seemed to have melted.

Photo by Genna Marie Robustelli | Photo Illustration by Erin Morris


For those of you unversed in ancient entheogens, the psychedelic substance Tabernanthe iboga was first employed by the Bwiti tribe in Gabon, Africa, for its curative properties (both mental and physical), as well as for spiritual purposes and rite-of-passage ceremonies. It comes from the root bark of a mature African shrub that must be at least 10 years old to contain enough mind-altering compounds for it to be psychoactive.

Although iboga has been around for thousands of years, it is now becoming increasingly accepted in Western medicine – mostly for its success in treating addictions, including heroin, cocaine and alcohol. According to Darin McBratney, owner of Costa Rica Yoga Spa, iboga’s healing powers don’t stop there. He hopes that through proper research, iboga can be used as a magic bullet to treat a host of modern illnesses including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and even cancer.

Because of the plant’s incredible versatility and strange knack for sussing out what ails a person, the substance is often referred to as “Dr. Iboga.” During my research, I’d read countless reports of people successfully using it for mental problems like depression. Some have reported that it’s like 10 years of therapy – in one night.

To me, these claims seemed questionable. I had to check out iboga for myself to see if they were legit.

The bitter ground up bark is usually taken in a smoothie and not in capsule form.

Genna Marie Robustelli


The effects of the microdose had turned out to be so pleasantly intoxicating that when the final yoga pose came and went, I wondered if I should take more. Other psychedelic explorers stop after iboga yoga ends, after having taken just one gram – particularly people with heart or liver problems.  But I felt curious; I wanted to explore another mental dimension. I had signed up for the full treatment: An intense journey with “Dr. Iboga.” And in order to truly meet the doctor, you have to ingest a lot of iboga root.

To reach a clinical dose, it’s necessary to take between 14 and 26 grams of iboga. For me, that equaled at least 42 capsules of ground up root bark. Although my stomach shudders to think about it, I’ve no doubt that taking the root in pill form is the least revolting method of ingestion. The other option is drinking this same quantity of bitter bark in a smoothie.

I’ll be honest with you, readers. Iboga was not always a journey of happy visions and pretty lights. It was often nauseating and unpleasant. Let me start off by saying that “purge” is a nice word for “puke” or “shit.” You can expect to do plenty of this on iboga, particularly when it comes to vomiting. But the purging is good. With each purge come the best visions and the most meaningful messages.

Luckily, the Costa Rica Yoga Spa crew has thought of every detail to make the experience the most comfortable it can be. Their setup was nothing short of luxurious.

Courtesy of Costa Rica Yoga Spa


I began my attempt to reach a clinical dose by lying down on my  personal fluffy floor bed, which was adorned with high-quality, high thread-count sheets. On top of the first, light sheet was a heavier blanket in case I got cold. To my right was a heavy puke bucket that Darin or Ashley would empty every time I threw up in it.

They even gave me a blackout sleep mask that allowed me to open my eyes and stare at a black “screen” (imagine a pair of swim goggles, except where there would normally be glass, it is completely black).

I was beginning to feel nauseous and after swallowing 42 pills, and I really didn’t want to put anything else in my stomach. After taking a distantly-related plant called ayahuasca last year, I know that with this type of trip it’s often better to take too much medicine than too little. You want to make sure to take enough to push yourself over the edge, and your body will always get rid of the excess. My intuition told me to take even more, but I ignored it. Too bad.

Suddenly I puked in my bucket – lots of water and black stuff. About five seconds later, I did it again. Then I laid on my back and enjoyed the ride.

Looking up at the ceiling, I thought to myself: Genna, why don’t you close your eyes? Surely the best stuff will happen in the dark. But it already was dark – I had my blackout mask on. If I have my mask on, I thought, how the hell can I see the ceiling?

This was unreal. If I could see the ceiling through my mask, I wondered if I could see farther. I tried to go beyond the ceiling, and it gave way to a starry black sky. The sky began to ripple, much like the surface tension of water, and at that moment I knew that the real action was behind that screen. I needed to burst through the sky to get there.

Every time I got a glimpse of what was beyond, I would slip and fall right back into my screen. I just didn’t have enough iboga power to “blast off,” I decided. I wanted to ask for more, but I was mostly incoherent, and I wondered if we were even allowed to ask. Also, I was a little scared. Then came the sounds.


This sound got louder and louder in my ears. I wondered who would operate a weed whacker at such a late hour. Then I remembered that loud buzzing is a side effect of iboga. The buzzing sounds got louder as my visions got more intense.

That’s when the real fun started.


That word, CONNECTIONS, started repeating itself in my head, both spelled out in capital letters and also spoken in someone else’s voice. With each unique thought that crossed my mind, the words were spelled out for me in a visual sentence within my brain. It became chaotic with all those words flying around.

Infinity also became a theme for the night. I saw fractals and train tracks and piping that stretched on into infinity. I somehow followed both sides at once, lengthening out into the ether.

Photo Illustration by Masakazu Matsumoto


At some point I started receiving succinct life lessons that would flash on my screen like banners, accompanied by a game show sound. Blah bla bla BLINGGGGGG. I can only remember two of them:

Every beginning has an end.

What are you really so afraid of?

Then the Dr. Iboga entity took me on a self-improvement learning journey, scene by scene within my memory  – kind of like Scrooge McDuck in “A Christmas Carol.” I went from my childhood to having conversations with people I knew, all of it happening inside my head. The visions sped past rapidly, however, and I could never stay in the same place for more than a few seconds, which was frustrating.

I spent some time walking down memory lane with my father, going camping and to the batting cages. I remember watching myself grow as a fetus in my mother’s womb, eventually becoming a baby and coming out the canal, watching people cut the umbilical cord. I felt sad that my mother and I were once so connected and are now so disconnected. I vowed to change that. I realized that I came out of her body, and she cares about what’s going on in my life even though we live so far away.

After the umbilical cord was cut, the animation went backward and I was sucked back into her stomach and shrank and shrank. I turned into a fetus and then an egg and then went *poof* into a cloud of dust that looked like a cloud of little sparkling stars.

Throughout the entire night I was very aware that this was going on in my head. I never thought I was really anywhere but in Nosara, on the mat. It was pretty easy to control what my thought topics were, but not the thoughts themselves – and if I ever came across anything upsetting, I could always take off my mask and open my eyes, and everything looked more or less normal.

My eyes were so sensitive to light that I wondered if I were really able to magically see through my mask or if my eyes were so sensitized they were able to perceive light through it. The Bwiti tribe in Africa actually uses iboga to sharpen night vision.

At one point I saw a sort of X-ray diagram of my own body on my “brain screen.” I could feel something calmly moving around, from my shoulder, to back to my side, to strange muscles I didn’t even know I had. As it scanned each muscle group, the area would light up orange and become warm. A soothing chime sound would ring every time it reached a new place.

When it reached my head, I got nervous. I have a history of migraines, but they’ve mostly stopped as I’ve gotten older. I was worried that the iboga might change something in my brain that would switch the headaches back on (thankfully, it didn’t). The medicine did a lot of scanning at the tip top of my brain, analyzing it. I could actually feel it moving around up there.

As the most intense part of the trip began to fade, a headache set in and I felt like I needed to puke. I could feel all of the medicine sloshing around in the bottom of my stomach, but I just couldn’t throw it up.

I tossed and turned and had the same images on my screen in an endless loop. Words words words floating across the screen, all repeating and often negative. I knew there was something I was supposed to learn from all this but I just couldn’t figure out what. I waited patiently until morning.

This whole time, Darin and Ashley were incredibly attentive. Throughout the night, they came by to check on me every so often, and I’d just give a thumbs up indicating that everything was OK. I seriously doubt there is any other service like this on the planet, and it is incredible.

It was so nice having them there to help with walking to the bathroom. Let me tell you, walking is truly challenging on iboga. You feel like a zombie. Your feet are heavy and clumsy and your depth perception is totally screwed. Stairs disappear and look flat, and flat surfaces often look like stairs you must lift your feet over. Add this to a complete lack of balance, and a walking aid is a must.

At some point, my mask unexpectedly changed from black to a beautiful electric blue, and then faded away into what looked like a heart monitor slowing its pace. I knew that this signified the end — the iboga was powering down.

The next morning I felt like all of the words and messages that had been rattling around inside my head had been shaken up and dumped on top of my skull. The iboga had pried my brain open with a crowbar, and my body felt like it was hit by a train.

Photo Illustration by Masakazu Matsumoto


My brain was foggy and I couldn’t remember much from the night before. My thoughts revolved around the discomfort I was feeling now.

“Don’t worry, that’s why we call it the Gray Day.” Darin said. Most people don’t remember much and it slowly starts to come back as they reflect on the experience.”

Phew. Otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

It’s been more than three weeks since the iboga session.

I have a newfound depth of concentration, and my thoughts are crisp and clear. Thanks to this laser-like focus, my procrastination habits have largely become a thing of the past. I find myself drinking about a quarter as much alcohol as I normally drink, and I seem to be handling stress better.

Also, my measuring systems seem to be retuned – I’m extremely aware of how empty or full my stomach is, and of how loudly or softly I’m speaking. I’m optimistic that it permanently switched off my migraines, but only time will tell. Although the iboga experience was intense and unpleasant at times, it brought me to so many realizations and showed me so many amazing things. It was completely worth it.

While iboga is legal in Costa Rica, many societies have a problem with it, along with several other ancient therapeutic medicines like ayahuasca, peyote and the San Pedro cactus. In the U.S., iboga is a Schedule I drug. It’s in the same category as heroin and cocaine, the category designated for substances with a high potential for abuse and no medicinal value.

No medicinal value? No medicinal value my ass. This plant’s medicinal value is indescribable – it’s off the charts. And to abuse this plant would be an incredible feat of human determination. Iboga provides such an intense journey that once you ride it out, you won’t be ready for another one for a long, long while.

The time has come for more psychedelic explorers to come out of the closet about the benefits of these life-changing visionary plants. I want to live in a world where exploring a self-improving, 100 percent natural drug doesn’t come with jail time. Where peaceful navigation of different realms of consciousness is a basic human right.

I just hope that the self-improvements brought on by iboga don’t wear off with time. Otherwise I might just have to make another appointment with Dr. Iboga.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that iboga contains DMT. Iboga actually contains ibogaine, an indole alkaloid that is highly psychoactive.

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George Olson

@Genna Marie Robustelli

That is so beautiful. I am very happy for you and all the get the gifts you received. There is very few things that one can do to attain those benefits in such a short amount of time. For those wondering if it is possible for them too? It is very possible if you prepare properly, know what you are looking to find or rid yourself of and approach it all with respect and love.

Please excuse me for thinking that someone left you alone, I interpreted that wrong. It is great that they stayed with you.

I am also glad to hear you had the root bark rather than the ibogaine HCL, although for some the HCL could be a better choice depending on the users need.
The root bark has a lot of other good stuff in there like ibogaline, ibogaine, ibogamine, noribogaine (the stuff that get’s in your fat cells and stays with you for month’s and gives you that great state of mind/body/spirit.

@Xoas – I agree to not let people scare you away from taking the medicine if you need it. I also think a traditional setting is preffered over a clinical setting, although some may need that as in the case of addictions. For addictions, I think a hybrid of traditional (whatever that means :-) ), and clinical might be the best approach.

It is great to see so many people interested in Iboga.


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Great article! It really took me back to my experience. I wish I could recall even a tenth of the profound wisdom the root poured on me, but, as you know, it comes way too fast for the conscious mind to grasp it all.

It is important that people know Iboga can be fatal, but I really question the attitude that people should only have the experience if administered by a physician. I think it’s great that clinicians are utilizing it. (One of my good friends runs an ibogaine treatment facility.) However, I feel strongly that a medical center is not the ideal setting for this experience unless there is a compelling reason for it.

People’s right to decide where and how they do something so sacred should be the highest concern. Yes, there have been some deaths, but it is not nearly as dangerous as alcohol or acetaminophen, and I personally cannot think of a better way to die than in the midst of that experience. Of course, if people have ravaged their bodies with cocaine or methamphetamine, it’s probably a very wise thing to have a doctor and medical staff on hand to monitor the process, but for many of the people who need that kind of treatment, such a luxury is financially unobtainable. Taking a flood dose of ibogaine in whatever form is probably one of the least risky things many of these people have chosen to put in their bodies, and a life free of a drug problem that means death if they’re lucky or a life in prison if they’re not, Iboga is a gift from the heavens.

Also, the root bark seems to have many safety mechanisms built into it that the isolated alkaloid commonly used by physicians seems to lack. Trust me, the body knows how much of the root is enough! I’ve explained the particulars of my experiences with some of the leading medical experts on the subject, and while they confirmed that my body closed down the option of over-ingestion at exactly the point that a serious issue caused by the metabolism rate of ibogaine to noribogaine in the body could have meant that the introduction of more ibogaine might have been dangerous, the wisdom shared by my body and the plant were plenty to keep me safe. I could not have ingested more if I had a gun to my head!

Root bark deaths are extremely rare. Isolated ibogaine deaths are a little more common. That’s a pretty good case for nature vs. a clinical approach, IMO. Besides, I had near fatal reactions to NSAIDs that doctors glibly told me to take without any concern whatsoever. I think we would all do well to assess how much faith we put in doctors as opposed to the miracles of our bodies and plant teachers like Iboga and Ayahuasca. Let’s be honest, the chances of dying from “properly” prescribed prescription medication are far greater than dying from ingesting Iboga root bark.

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Thank you for sharing your experience working with iboga. I’m curious to learn more about your experience microdosing with the plant. Was this experience part of your journey to Costa Rica?

All the best,

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Genna Marie

Yes, they also do microdoses. I took a full dose (the microdose came first to make sure there weren’t any allergies). Then we took the rest. A microdose is I believe one or two grams, but I’m not sure. You’d have to email Darin at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa.

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Jeremiah Josey

Thanks for sharing. My next journey.

Ayahuasca in Peru has been the best so far (6 sessions over 14 days).

I’m looking forward to the iboga.

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Genna Marie

My only advice is, DO NOT COMPARE THE TWO GOING INTO IT. I felt like the iboga was almost ‘punishing’ me at some points for expecting it to be like ayahuasca, which I had done the year earlier.

Go in with a completely open mind. Iboga is different!

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Arik Vlaanderen

Hi there,

I always find it nice and informative to read, hear or see your experiences. Through blogs, facebook or youtube. However, just a slight remark. My sister is a doctor specializing in drug related cases and obviously has seen a lot. A case that stuck with her the most though was of a guy my age (26) that took iboga and sadly died. He showed no signs of heart of liver weaknesses or deficiences (I’m Dutch forgive my English) and she was not able to crack the case as to what lead to his death, after studying it intensively. I too often see posts or blogs like this about Iboga and would like for people to know that although recommended it is not without risk. You can state this to be a given, but alass many go into these rituals without knowing what they’re getting in to. It is not that I wouldn’t recommend Ibago, quite the contrary, but for all you who read this and thinking about taking it for the first time. Please be aware of the risks. I have done ayahuasca several times, as well as other entheogens so I’m a rather big advocate of medicinal plants and healing agents. But still, it is often easy to be enticed by others and be told stories about all the pros without the cons, so I hope I can add a little balance. Much love, Arik.

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Genna Marie

Thanks for sharing, Arik. Was it iboga root or ibogaine the guy took? The isolated chemical ibogaine seems to cause more deaths than the iboga root from what I’ve read.

I think there are risks with everything…and everyone’s bodies respond differently to different things. Do you know if the guy took a microdose beforehand to make sure he wouldn’t have a bad reaction?

I didn’t mean to imply in the article that iboga is perfectly safe. I think there is a risk that people will react badly to anything, even asprin. For me, I thought that risk of adverse side effects with iboga was very small. I also felt safer taking a small bit first and waiting a while to make sure my body would react ok.

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@ avigdor there are somewhere between 5 and 10% of Caucasians that do not have the enzyme necessary to process Ibogaine. This could be a possibility that you didn’t get the experience you were looking for.

You saw a man hold his hand over your heart and say that you needed to do some work, basically… Did you have an EKG? Maybe Iboga was letting you off light. If you have any heart issues this medicine could KILL you.

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Excellent report. Iboga is amazing medicine and a year later as I write this, I am opiate free still. I wish you the same success in your journey.

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That sounds like you were told to do something in your prior sessions with the medicine, or you’re supposed to be doing something, and you didn’t do it, or you aren’t done with it. What is that you are supposed to be working on?

It’s important we listen to what we are told and act/work on whatever it is what we get. Otherwise, you are showing disrespect for the wisdom and the plant. This is why it’s telling you to go away basically. Come back when you are done working on whatever it is you were supposed to work on.

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You shouldn’t consume ANY alcohol for at least three months after an Iboga session.. this is the surest way to flush out that precious noribogaine.

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Genna Marie

That’s good to know!

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We are Iboga providers in the South of Spain. Anyone interested in experiencing this sacred plant teacher shouldcontact us at.. info at harambedetox dot com

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excellent, descriptive article. i am researching for my first experience. this was very helpful.

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Really interesting article, and thank very much you for that. Would be nice to know more, if Iboga was helping you with your migraines. Im suffering from cluster headache’s and been treating myself with natural treatments, with good results.

Thank you again for the article!

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Genna Marie

I only get migraines VERY occasionally, maybe once every year or two. When I was younger I would get them several times per month. So it will be very difficult to definitively say that the iboga cured or didn’t cure my migraines. I think many years will have to pass without one to know if they are gone for good.

I would give it a try so long as you don’t have any heart problems.

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I only journeyed with this medicine one time. But nothing happened. I wish to understand why. Also the last few times I traveled with Ayahuasca nothing happened. the dose was the same for everyone in the case with Ayahuasca but for the iboga the dr. was so shocked nothing was occurring they upped my does to 1.9 grams. all i experienced was a man in a hooded red cloak put his hand on my heart and a sensation of the medicine saying i am not allowed to travel this way until i do the work? has anyone had a similar situation. my first experiences with the Ayahuasca was very deep and profound and i have only used that plant medicine maybe 8 times. the last 3 or 4 times as i have said the medicine did not speak with me except to also say there is nothing else i can show you until i do the work… any insight please.

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Genna Marie Robustelli

@George Olsen
Thanks for your kind words!

In terms of what I was hoping to gain personally – I’d say perspective. The thing I love most about plants like this is the perspective I get about what a huge universe I’m a part of, and what’s really important (and what’s not). Reconnecting with my mother was another nice side effect. The iboga really let me see myself the way she sees me, and allowed me to let go of any past feelings that were keeping me from being close with her again.

I wrote this article 3 weeks after taking it (I took it Nov 1, 2013), but now three months have passed and the enhanced focus/lack of desire to drink alcohol/awareness of hunger, etc is still in swing.

As for Darin and Ashley checking coming by to check on me – one of them was on the palapa the ENTIRE time the iboga was in full swing. I only meant they came by to actually ask me if I was doing alright out loud (I would just give a thumbs up if I didn’t feel like answering them). They were always right there, and if I looked restless they would often come over and see if I needed help. I didn’t mean to give the impression that they weren’t around — they definitely were.

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Ashley Harrell

Thanks to the commenters who helped us catch the error about DMT, which we have corrected in the story.

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George Olson

I am very involved with Iboga and thought that was a great story, congrats.

If the author could chime in on what they were looking to gain by the experience that would be great.
Did you have a medical examination beforehand?

Things like ” iboga can be used as a magic bullet to treat a host of modern illnesses including multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy and even cancer.”
Now I agree this could be possible but it isn’t happening and the Costa Rica Yoga Spa where there has been very little training going on in how to respect, treat and care for a patient. I know this first hand. I am not looking to throw accusations around, but this is true and I will leave it at that.

To cure the ailments named above we are talking a whole other ball game and it isn’t going to happen in 1 session with just iboga.
There will have to be additional plant medicines involved. I don’t want readers to get the idea that they can go and take iboga 1 time and suddenly be cured from cancer or MS.

“Throughout the night, they came by to check on me every so often, ”
You don’t leave the “patient” going through a ceremony even for a minute.
If you have to go to the bathroom someone else should come in and take your place as the caretaker.

Iboga has soooo many benefits, but it needs to be approached respectfully, scientifically (like not comparing it to DMT or calling it DMT :-). If we want to keep the movement going as I am sure Costa Rica Yoga Spa does…there shouldn’t be any outrageous claims on their website (like they can help with heavy physical problems with HIV/AIDS) If someone didn’t know any better they could think that they are going to be cured from the physical disease of AIDS. I
I am sure they mean well, but please tread lightly so we can help this sacred plant spread and heal as many people as possible.

Much love.

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What kind of medical training or licenture does this yoga instructor have? How many years has she studied with a Nganga and where?
I would be terrified sending patients to someone who doesn’t have real medical and or traditional training. I’m frightened by some of the inaccuracies on this spa website. I’m sure people have good intentions and that powerful healing work can be done but I’m going to recommend that folks who want to respect this medicine to go to any of the other real iboga clinics in Costa Rica.

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Great testament to the power of the plant teachers. One mistake though: Ibogaine is the main active molecule in the Iboga root, not DMT (which is found in the brew Ayahuasca).

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Nice place, nice article other than the dmt/Ibogaine mistake. Also see blessings

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Excellent article on your iboga experiences. As a student of Mother Ayahuasca, I am intrigued to work with Dr. Iboga one day. This sounds like a good set and setting.

I agree with your stance on consciousness freedom. I’ve featured this article on my blog:

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Iboga contains the alkaloid ibogaine and not dimethyltryptamine(DMT). Two completely different molecules. Beautiful trip report though!

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call me 707-342-0183

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Ashley Ludman

As our program grows at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa, we will be incorporating research (both quantitative and qualitative) into our upcoming Iboga work. Currently, we do follow up check ins with our clients, and many report that the effects of the Iboga work have continued on past the initial session itself. As with anything, you can either change a pattern or deepen its grooves, depending on the actions that you choose once you are aware.

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Genna Marie

I did it on November 1, but I wrote this article 3 weeks later and the changes still apply. I’d love to check back in 6 months or a year! I hope the positive side effects stick.

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Beverly Jensen, Ph.D.

Thank you for your bravery and for your report on the experience. How about an update in six months or a year? Would be useful!

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jane fryer

My journey with Dr. Iboga was in September ’13 at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa. My intention was to help with chronic depression. It did help… for awhile. Need another session!! luckily I live here so the option is right up the road. Thank you for the great article. I totally agree that exploring consciousness is a basic human right… and privilege. The staff is beyond present and my experience included loving care to the max.

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Ashley Ludman

Carlos, we would love to support you in any way. Check out There is a page devoted specifically to our Iboga therapies. Thank you, Genna Marie for the informative piece.

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Carlos Edwards

Where are you located in Costa Rica and how much does a session cost? I have worked with psychotropics before in the 80s with the supervision of MDs and PhD’s. Ayahuasca bring one of them. I would be interested in experiencing Dr. Iboga.

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