What is the difference between the two and which is right for me?
Ayahuasca and Iboga are both hallucinogenic plants that are used for deep healing on a personal and spiritual level. They are often compared, but are they really alike? They are alike in the sense that they are both entheogens and sacred plant medicines. Each have been used by the native peoples of their respective origins for hundreds, possibly thousands of years. They both contain psychoactive properties that can produce visions but there are far more differences between ayahuasca and iboga than they have similarities.
We will look at a few distinguishing factors that set the two apart.
Ayahuasca and Iboga come from two opposite sites of the world but both traditions have be practiced for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Ayahuasca is indigenous to the Amazon Basin with its use originating in Peru and Brazil. Iboga comes from West Africa, specifically Gabon, Camaroon and Republic of Congo where it is used as a sacrament by the Bwiti, a spiritual sect formed around the use of the 'holy wood'.
Both medicines are used under the guidance of a shaman or medicine man. These leaders are elected by members of the village for their abilities to communicate with ancestors/spirits and act as intermediaries between spiritual realms.
Both ayahausca and iboga are used in traditional ceremonial settings, but when compared they harshly contrast.
Ayahausca is typically consumed by many members of a village/community (5-20) with only 1 or 2 shaman facilitating the experience. Ceremonies typically last 3-5 hours. Ayahuasca is a tool used for many different reasons and ayahuasca users will often return to drink the brew many times for guidance. An ayahuasquero will drink ayahausca hundreds or thousands of times over the course of a lifetime.
Iboga ceremonies have only a few participants (1-5) consuming large doses of iboga while the whole community comes to participate in the ceremonies. Iboga is used as a 'rite of passage' and young men and women will traditionally only consume large doses of the sacrament once or twice in a lifetime. The ceremonies can last weeks and are orchestrated by the village 'chief' but each member of the community has a role to contribute.
Each plant medicine has its own unique feel and duration of effects.
Ayahuasca lasts for 4-6 hours and while it can sometimes be a challenging experience, it is often described as a beautiful and blissful, like the hug of a mother.
Iboga on the other hand is almost always difficult and painful. The effects of large doses of iboga(ine) can last 16-24 hours and are like a harsh lesson from a stern father.
Both medicines are used by those seeking to improve their lives, enhance connections to others and the earth, and finding a balance in life. Both ayahuasca and iboga bring the participant into direct contact with spirits realm, ancestors, earth and nature.
Ayahuasca is feminine energy/spirit and iboga is masculine energy/spirit Ayahuasca can be comforting, warm and gentle. Iboga is more harsh and shows things in a very blunt, direct way.
So Which Medicine is Best for Me?
The easy answer is to listen to your intuition and you will be guided to the medicine that calls you. Usually you will feel a pull more in one direction than the other and you should follow your gut.
If you are still on the fence, we we tend to recommend that most people start with ayahuasca and if they feel like they need to go deeper, then they can explore the option of iboga therapy.
We recommend ayahausca first for many reason. Ayahausca therapy is often enough to help an individual address and heal from the issues they face. An ayahuasca retreat can open your mind to different perceptions of reality and each time you drink is a new learning experience. Many people who have experienced ayahuasca continue to drink again and again to keep a spiritual connection and to gain answers about life, nature and the connections of all things.
Iboga(ine) treatment carries a lot more risk and requires a person to be of a certain level of physical health to participate. Medical tests (EKG and bloodwork) are required before a potential guest can even be considered for an iboga program. Iboga is very heavy and requires a full 24- 48 hours of recovery and is very taxing on the physical and mental body. A medical support staff should always be on site for all iboga ceremonies.
Cost is always a factor as well, with ayahausca retreats running about half the price of iboga therapy.
Feel free to ask questions and explore which medicine may be best for you. While ayahausca is usually a good place to start, there may be situations where iboga is better match. Both plant medicines require respect and should be taken seriously when considering participation in either one. Always do thorough research when picking a facility.