Plant killed therapist

A MASSAGE therapist who went to Cameroon to add to her healing skills died of cardiac arrest after eating a native plant.

Laura Thornton, 32, from Salthill in Galway, died after eating the plant, iboga, as part of an initiation ceremony on January 2, 2010.

The inquest was told the rainforest shrub was used every day in central Africa as a stimulant to combat hunger and as part of a healing therapy.

Iboga is illegal in most western countries but is used to treat heroin addicts in some countries, including the Czech Republic.

Ms Thornton’s brother Ian told the inquest his sister was fit and healthy prior to her death, adding that she saw the initiation ceremony as part of her education in the area of healing and massage therapy. He said Laura had no prior history of taking any drugs.

Ms Thornton was described by her family as super-fit, someone who did triathlons and practised yoga. She was undertaking a course in cranio-sacral therapy at the time of her death.

Ms Thornton’s father, Kevin, said his daughter had had a mild reaction to iboga on a previous visit to Wales where she had taken part in seminars on healing.

He said his daughter had a great interest in furthering her ability as a healing therapist.

Iboga is a holy wood in Cameroon and is seen as the visionary root of Africa, as it is said to open up ancestral memories and enable people to re-evaluate life experiences and is not considered a drug, he said.

Iboga is used by traditional healers, called shamans, for therapeutic purposes, he said.

“The family of Laura and her friends wish to send out a strong warning of the great risks involved in the use of iboga. We would not wish anyone else to die unnecessarily like our lovely Laura.”

A postmortem found fluid in her lungs, soft tissue haematomas and 0.4mg per litre presence of iboga.

“The postmortem was carried out 11 days after death so the concentration of iboga may have been higher,” Dr Muna Sabah said.

Returning a verdict of misadventure, Dublin County Coroner Dr Kieran Geraghty warned against experimenting with drugs especially in foreign countries.

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