The Ministry of Health issued a warning alert on March 19th against the use of the Iboga plant after the recent appearance of the plant in Guanacaste to treat sicknesses and addictions.
This warning was issued due to the death of a Norwegian woman in 2013, who had ingested the substance in the Iboga House center in Liberia.
On March 24th, the Nicoya Area of Health conducted an inspection at the Costa Rica Yoga Spa, located in Nosara, after being advised that therapies using Iboga were taking place at the center.
Mario William Acosta, in charge of the Area of Strategic Planning and Health Promotion, participated in the inspection and reported that no indication or evidence that the substance is administered in the center was found during the visit.
“It was a routine inspection. We verified that the operating permit they have is for yoga and spa and is up to date. We went to the rooms where yoga sessions are held, we checked the bathrooms and found nothing irregular,” he explained.
Nonetheless, the website www.costaricayogaspa.com indicates that Iboga retreats that combine yoga with Iboga therapies are held at this place to treat ailments and addictions.
These therapies last several days and are offered at prices starting from $3,900.
Although the use of the Iboga plant is not prohibited in Costa Rica, Ibogaine, which is the name given to the processed form, is not currently registered as a medicine with the Ministry of Health, so its use is prohibited.
For his part, Darin McBratney, owner of the center, confirmed that in effect they use extracts from the plant there in a natural way, mainly to treat ailments and pains.
“Although Iboga can be used to eliminate addictions, I prefer to treat people suffering from ailments like skin problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression,” McBratney explained.
In addition, McBratney reported that not all people can receive Iboga treatments. They perform a series of medical checkups beforehand, including a cardiogram, to verify heart condition.
“We need to know how the condition of the heart and liver are. For that, we do preliminary checkups to find out the condition of each person. If a person is very weak, the person is ruled out,” McBratney explained.
Regarding the death of the Norwegian women, McBratney believes the factors that could have provoked the death might have been that she had a preexisting heart condition and that her health condition was not the best.
Also he believes that the main reason why this drug has been banned in the United States and other European countries is due to the economic interests of pharmaceutical companies, who do not want the plant to be used medicinally.
“This plant is so healing that the big drug companies do not want it to interfere with their business,” McBratney explained.
Moreover, Mario William Acosta pointed out that the Ministry of Health has not given operating permits to any establishment in the canton of Nicoya to perform rehabilitation therapies.
Such permits must also include an authorization from the Institute of Alcoholism and Chemical Dependency (IAFA- Instituto de Alcoholismo y Farmacodependencia).
Additionally, Acosta said they will continue conducting inspections and monitoring centers that might be using the substance in Nicoya.