A plant with psychotropic effects used in traditional rites in Gabon, iboga seems to be the victim of its growing popularity abroad and could disappear, worries environmentalists.
Absorbed in powder form Iboga, a shrub endemic to the equatorial forest of Central Africa, gives "visions" and allows one to "connect with one's ancestors", explains the Gabonese healer "Maman Dje Dje". 19659002] In Gabon, it is inseparable from the "bwiti" ceremonies, a traditional rite of initiation, but the plant has been out of its purely traditional use for about fifty years.
Patents have been filed because of medicinal properties of ibogaine, one of the active ingredients of iboga.
Ibogaine "could be used against diseases such as Parkinson's disease, or Alzheimer's," says Natacha Nssi Begone, director of valorization forest products at the Gabonese Ministry of Water and Forests
But above all, this molecule of the alkaloid family has, according to several studies, therapeutic virtues to cure addictions, in particular to opiates whose hard drugs such as heroin.
, iboga has become over the years an attractive plant internationally and Gabon, like the Amazon with ayawaska, welcomes more and more Westerners who have come to "learn".
The plant begins to export and his business has become "ultra lucrative", said Yann Guignon, founder of the NGO "Blessings of the forest" ..
– Commerce forbidden –
However, iboga can not be marketed or promoted in countries such as the United States, France, Belgium and Switzerland, where ibogaine is considered a "staggering".
And the lack of control is a danger because iboga can be mixed with other potentially very harmful substances, warns Mrs Nssi Begone
The illegal but juicy sale of iboga is done a lot via the " dark web ", the part of the Internet not indexed by the main search engines.
Yann Guignon has also identified" iboga specialists "more or less serious who flourish outside Gabon where they briefly came "To learn" before returning home
"Back in their countries, they appropriate some traditional codes and open their business.It takes at least ten years in Gabon to be master initiator. see Western initiating masters in two mo is shocking, "he rebels.
"There are at least 150 people who say they treat with iboga abroad", according to Mr. Guignon who closely follows the opening of "clinics" specialized in iboga. On average, two health centers open every month in the world, according to him.
A draft decree is under way in Libreville to protect the plant, set the conditions and modalities of its use, but also frame its sale to "develop a Gabonese commercial sector".
Gabon similarly ratified in 2012 the "Nagoya Protocol" which provides for a "sustainable" trade in biodiversity resources.
In the absence of a precise count, no one can today measure the rarefaction of iboga, which is for the most part gathered without being replanted.
A census mission on the The whole of the Congo Basin is being discussed with the Kew Garden Botanical Garden in London.
Meanwhile, Yann Guignon is touring Gabon and is based on indicators such as the scarcity and degradation of the quality of the plant in the markets, or the "100 percent increase in plant prices in 25 years."
Iboga is fragile, he notes. The plant likes the undergrowth and needs a ferrallitic and clay soil as well as a certain moisture content. Beyond 37/40 degrees and below some hydrometry, iboga dies.