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Ibogaine and Psilocybin: A Comparison of Two Natural Compounds

Iboga root bark

The human brain is a frontier where billions of neurons work tirelessly to help us develop, remember, and survive. Scientists have found that psychoactive substances like ibogaine and psilocybin could assist in boosting neurotrophic factor signaling.

What does this mean, and could psychedelics help treat mental health disorders? Recent research and anecdotal reports suggest positive applications humanity hasn’t understood before. These results could pave the way for future alternative treatments worldwide.

Ready to dig deeper into the human psyche? Let’s explore this possibility in depth and determine the differences between psilocybin and ibogaine for specific therapeutic applications.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or an endorsement of psychedelic substances. The cultivation, sale, or use of psilocybin mushrooms and ibogaine is illegal in many jurisdictions. We strongly advise readers to adhere to their local laws and regulations and to seek professional medical advice for health-related issues.

What Are Neurotrophic Factors?

Psychology is a fascinating field packed with mystery and constant discoveries that help us understand the human brain better. Throughout history, our species has explored and tried many methods of treating mental, physical, and emotional health.

Neurotrophic factors, which are specific types of proteins essential for the growth and survival of nerve cells, are involved in nerve growth and nervous system development. They play a vital role in cell regulation and migration, synaptic plasticity, and long-term memory formation

Scientists started studying these molecules in the 1930s. Over time, they found irregular brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNF) in people with various central nervous system diseases.

More recent research proves that regulating BDNF results in multiple medical advantages. Neurotrophic therapy could help treat central nervous system diseases like Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and depression and promote better neuron health.

Where, then, do psychedelics like ibogaine and psilocybin fit in? Let’s find out.

What Is Ibogaine? A Brief History


Ibogaine, a psychoactive substance with dissociative and psychedelic properties, occurs naturally in several plants of the Apocynaceae family, including Tabernanthe iboga, Voacanga africana, and Tabernaemontana undulata.

Among these, Tabernanthe iboga, a shrub native to the rainforests of Western Africa, is particularly notable. Traditionally used by followers of the Bwiti religion for its therapeutic and spiritual benefits, ibogaine was utilized in initiation rituals and healing ceremonies.

For much of history, ibogaine remained a sacred mystery outside of its indigenous context, revered by Central African tribes and largely unknown to Western civilization. However, it began to capture the attention of the American public in the 1960s, a period that also saw a rise in the popularity of other psychedelics, such as the Penis Envy mushrooms. This convergence of interest marked a turning point in the cultural and scientific exploration of ibogaine and its potential applications.

Much of the knowledge we have on ibogaine today is thanks to an American scientific researcher Howard Lotsof. He was addicted to heroin and accidentally discovered the anti-addictive effects of ibogaine.

Lotsof started researching and advocating for the use of the plant, particularly in addiction therapy. However, the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) prohibitions and the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) limited his efforts in the 1960s and 70s.

The regulations slightly hindered his progress but didn’t stop him. In 1986, he received patents to implement ibogaine treatment trials in various substance abuse cases, including cocaine, alcohol, and nicotine. He continued to advocate for its use before passing away in 2010.

Since then, more scientists have been interested in understanding this phenomenon and using it to help treat other addictions. At the beginning of Lotsof’s research and tests, some people had already experienced the same recovery he had.

Ibogaine is a banned Schedule I substance in most places worldwide but is medicinally legal in South Africa, Brazil, and New Zealand. Some countries, like Spain, have started clinical trials, while others regulate it under strict conditions.

In recent years, we’ve seen piqued interest in psychedelics like Penis Envy mushrooms and LSD. More places are decriminalizing them and implementing medicinal regulations, and ibogaine might join them soon.

How Does Ibogaine Work?

Since Howard Lotsof’s discovery, multiple studies have highlighted the significant potential of the iboga shrub. How does it work, and how does it differ from other psychoactive substances?

Ibogaine’s primary action involves modulating dopamine receptors, which can suppress hunger and mitigate various conditions. Research suggests ibogaine’s capabilities extend to:

  • Alleviating thirst, appetite issues, and fatigue
  • Addressing urinary infections, coughs, and conjunctivitis
  • Serving both as a stimulant and an aphrodisiac
  • Reducing fever symptoms and providing pain relief

Similar to the way psilocybin functions in Penis Envy mushrooms, ibogaine’s effects vary with dosage; smaller amounts may enhance energy and brain function, while larger doses are likely to induce hallucinations.

Ibogaine Risks and Safety

While ibogaine has demonstrated a range of potential benefits, including its ability to treat opioid use disorder, it’s crucial to consider its safety profile due to associated risks. Clinical findings have highlighted reversible but significant side effects, primarily affecting cardiac function:

  • QTc Prolongation: An extended QT interval on ECGs, pointing to potential cardiac irregularities that, while reversible, could lead to serious heart-related complications.
  • Bradycardia: A condition marked by a slower-than-normal heart rate, potentially causing symptoms like fainting or dizziness due to reduced blood flow.

Additionally, ibogaine’s impact extends to neurological function:

  • Severe Ataxia: A profound disruption in coordination and balance, severely affecting daily activities.

Other observed side effects include low blood pressure, anxiety, breathing difficulties, seizures, various heart complications, gastrointestinal issues, and irregular heartbeat. Ibogaine’s tendency to accumulate in fatty tissues can also lead to cardiac problems by blocking potassium channels. Although instances of death or severe hallucinations from ibogaine are exceedingly rare, they highlight the importance of cautious use.

Given these insights, it is paramount to approach ibogaine treatment with thorough monitoring and under the guidance of medical professionals, ensuring it’s administered in a controlled environment to effectively manage its potential risks.

Comparing Ibogaine and Psilocybin

What are the primary differences between ibogaine and psilocybin? Both have neurological applications and can contribute to improved regulation of neurotrophic factors.

The table below compares various characteristics and effects of each compound. Note that some of these are anecdotal, and both substances are still illegal in most parts of the world.

Scientists don’t condone the use of these substances. For medicinal and research purposes, most emphasize supervised sessions under strict regulations, which could produce specific outcomes. Under no circumstances should someone use them alone or illegally.

Psychoactive ingredientIbogainePsilocin
Primary use (traditional)Religious ceremonies and healingReligious rituals, spiritual connection, and therapeutic application
Primary medicinal use (today)May treat addiction withdrawal symptomsMay alleviate depression, anxiety, and some neurological disorders
Primary recreational use (today)Stimulant, anti-depressant, aphrodisiac, psychedelicEuphoria, relaxation, visual and auditory distortions or hallucinations
Possible side effectsSeizures, prolonged hallucinations, heart complications, dizzinessNausea, impaired cognition and concentration, weak muscles, paranoia, prolonged hallucinations
Abuse potentialLowLow

Can Ibogaine Help in Treating Addiction?

Despite some reported adverse effects, ibogaine has been successful in treating addiction. Howard Lotsof’s legacy has inspired further research, such as a recent study showing positive therapeutic potential.

The outcomes also showed that ibogaine increases neurotrophic factor activity in some brain areas. It specifically targets the ventral tegmental, vital in regulating cognition, motivation, and reward.

These effects of ibogaine might assist people recovering from substance addiction. Scientists and therapists need to conduct further research, but the compound could soon join other psychedelics in revolutionizing alternative medicine.

Check out our Fungushead blog for further fascinating information on psychedelics.


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  • Bading-Taika B, Akinyeke T, Magana AA, Choi J, Ouanesisouk M, Torres ERS, Lione LA, Maier CS, Bobe G, Raber J, Miranda CL, Stevens JF. Phytochemical characterization of Tabernanthe iboga root bark and its effects on dysfunctional metabolism and cognitive performance in high-fat-fed C57BL/6J mice. J Food Bioact. 2018 Sep;3:111-123. doi: 10.31665/JFB.2018.3154. Epub 2018 Sep 30. PMID: 30582133; PMCID: PMC6301038.
  • STATE OF KNOWLEDGE STUDY ON Tabernanthe iboga Baillon –
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  • “Ibogaine” Wikipedia –
    Cameron, L.P., Tombari, R.J., Lu, J. et al. A non-hallucinogenic psychedelic analogue with therapeutic potential. Nature 589, 474–479 (2021).

All of the content and images on our site are for informational reference only. The cultivation of psilocybin mushrooms is federally illegal in the United States. We do not promote the cultivation of psilocybin “magic” mushrooms under any circumstances. Do not contact us asking for advice related to this subject. Any products found on this site are for microscopy and taxonomy purposes only. None of the psilocybin mushroom spores we offer are for consumption or cultivation. We do not sell any products containing psilocybin. 


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