A Skeptical Look at the Late "Dr. Sebi"

Stephen Barrett, M.D.

"Dr. Sebi"—real name Alfredo D. Bowman (1933-2016—has beenwidely promoted by himself and others as a self-taught healer who has cured thousands of people with serious diseases and has proved in court that his methods are effective. The Web site for "Dr. Sebi's Cell Foods" described him this way:

Dr. Sebi is a pathologist, herbalist, biochemist, and naturalist. He has studied and personally observed herbs in North America, Central and South America, Africa, and the Caribbean, and has developed a unique approach and methodology to healing the human body with herbs that is firmly rooted in over 30 years of experience.

Dr. Sebi was born Alfredo Bowman on November 26, 1933, in the village of Ilanga in Spanish Honduras. Dr. Sebi is a self-educated man. He took cues on being obedient to the procession of life from his beloved grandmother. . . . His early days of play and observation by the river and in the forest, coupled with guidance from his grandmother, afforded Sebi the foundation to be obedient to the Truth in his later life.

 

Sebi came to the United States as a self-educated man who was diagnosed with asthma, diabetes, impotency, and obesity. After unsuccessful treatments with conventional doctors and traditional western medicine, Sebi was lead to an herbalist in Mexico. Finding great healing success from all his ailments, he began creating natural vegetation cell food compounds geared for inter-cellular cleansing and the revitalization of all the cells that make up the human body. Dr. Sebi has dedicated over 30 years of his life to develop a unique methodology that he could only obtain through years of empirical knowledge.

Inspired by the personal healing experience and knowledge he gained, he began sharing the compounds with others, which gave birth to the USHA Research Institute, Dr. Sebi LLC, and the USHA Healing Village (USHA) located in La Ceiba, Honduras [1].

The Web site also indicated that he had spoken (or planned to speak) in 2015 in several cities throughout the United States. Promotional materials for the talks described him as "The Curer of AIDS-Diabetes-Sickle Cell-Cancer and More." Of course, Anyone who found a simple way to cure any of these conditions would make headlines everywhere and probably win the Nobel Prize. Do you think he ever will?

In 2001, the USHA's Web site stated:

Unlike most healing entities, the Usha Village offers four most unique features. First is our natural electric therapy coupled with our intracellular chelation. This means that every cell would be cleansed of the toxins accumulated over the years manifesting itself in many forms of disease. Second, our thermal baths which have been proven to remove all kinds of skin problems removing stress in seconds and delivering the amount of oxygen needed for proper body stability with a PH 8.9, one of the highest attainable levels known. With such a high level of hydrogen ions, one should receive immediate healing.

Third is our natural sauna. Our sauna uses the vapor from volcanic activity. This vapor contains sulfur and phosphorus. Sulfur, as we know, is one of nature's greatest internal healing agents. Phosphorus, on the other hand, offers us energy or vitality.

Last are our compounds made from fresh herbs delivering their maximum level of energy. Energy is lost with the presence of disease. It will have to be replaced electrically. Since the body is electrical, we need to consider affinity for assimilation. Electric body. Electric therapy. This is consistency [2].

Various articles indicate that Bowman came to the United States when he was 20 and began marketing his products in the 1980s. The only information I have found about what he did during the 25+ years in-between was a tidbit he offered during a recent Rock Newman Show that in the early 1960s he was impotent, had diabetes, and "was in fact crazy . . . placed in an insane asylum in New Jersey in 1961—schizophrenia and paranoia" but had been helped when he went to Mexico. He also said, "I've been struggling with weight since 1964. I was 291 pounds. Now I only weigh 120 and I'm 6'2." [3]

Product-Related Claims

The Dr. Sebi's Cell Foods Web site explained the basis for his approach this way.

Our research reveals that all manifestation of disease finds its genesis when and where the mucous membrane has been compromised. For example, if there is excess mucous in the bronchial tubes, the disease is Bronchitis; if it is in the lungs, the disease is Pneumonia; in the pancreatic duct, it is Diabetes; in the joints Arthritis. All of the African Biomineral Balance compounds are comprised of natural plants; which means its constitution is of an alkaline nature.

This is important—and instrumental in our success in reversing pathologies—because disease can only exist in an environment that is acid; thus it is inconsistent to utilize inorganic substances when treating disease because they are of an acid base. Only consistent use of natural botanical remedies will effectively cleanse and detoxify a diseased body, reversing it to its intended alkaline state.

Our system of nutrition goes even further. In addition to removing the accumulation of years of toxins, the African Biomineral Balance replaces depleted minerals and rejuvenates damaged cell tissue eroded by the acid, diseased state. The primary organs of elimination are the skin, liver, gall bladder, lymph glands, kidneys and the colon. If all toxins are eliminated from the above mentioned organs they will be recycled throughout the entire body, manifesting disease. Eventually the body breaks down in the weakest organs due to its inability to dispel the influence of toxins. The colon is the most important organ and must be cleansed by detoxifying before any disease can be reversed. If the colon is the only organ cleansed and detoxified the other major organs will be left toxic, thus leaving the disease in the body.

It is with Dr. Sebi's intra-cellular detoxifying cleanse that each cell in the body will be purified. The body will then rebuild and rejuvenation will take place. Dr. Sebi offers the Folio-Mineral Therapy which is a natural vegetation cell food. A living substance which nourishes the body and detoxifies at the cellular level.

The first sentence mentions "research." To test whether products are effective against specific diseases, it would be necessary to have access to large numbers of patients, access to laboratory facilities, and the ability to do properly-designed studies that monitor patients over significant periods of time. I see no evidence that Bowman or his "Research Institute" conducted any such study or even kept track of what happened to their customers.

People who know little about how the body works may be impressed by "Dr. Sebi's" use of scientific-sounding concepts, but the above explanation clashes with established scientific knowledge of physiology, biochemistry, and disease processes. Diseases have many possible causes, and most have little or nothing to do with body acidity, alkalinity, mineral depletion, "toxicity," or mucus. There is no such thing as "body cleansing." I have no idea what he meant by "eliminating toxins" from the skin, liver, gall bladder, lymph glands, kidneys and colon. Real detoxification of foreign substances takes place in the liver, which modifies their chemical structure so they can be excreted by the kidneys which filter them from the blood into the urine. "Intra-cellular detoxification" (throughout the body) does not exist. Mineral products are not "living substances." I am not impressed.

Dr. Sebi's Cell Foods recommended its $1,500 "All Inclusive" package to all of its clients "because it cleanses the body on the cellular level by breaking down acid, mucus, toxins, and calcifications. It rebuilds and restores the body including the blood and immune system." The products included Chelation 1, Chelation 2, Amicus Capsules, Amicus Liquid, L.O.V., Lymphocytic, Lupron, Banjul (2), Folio Ferro Tonic (2), Bromide Plus Capsules, Bromide Plus Powder, Folio Ferro Capsules, Green Food, Viewer, Iron Plus (2), Endocrine, Vegatest (for male patients) or Estradiol (for female patients).  

Bowman asserted that his methods were useful for everyone, but especially for blacks of African origin. In 2001, USHA's Web site announced the creation of its "African Formula" and said that "after three decades in the forefront of field research and clinical studies of genetics that address disease, USHA's commitment to reconnecting the African with the nutritional compounds designed by nature for their maximum health continues." [4] And in a 2002 letter to Zimbabwe 's ambassador to the U.S., he wrote:

The African Bio-mineral Balance is a therapeutic approach that compliments the African gene structure. The reason we make the distinction between the African Bioidentical structure and others in the human species is because our research further reveals that the African gene resonates on a higher electrical vibration. Consequently, the African gene requires a specific quality food and medicinal. . . . In essence, the high electrical resonance of the Black Man must be complimented by organic natural plant food containing an equally high degree of electrical resonance. Our research shows an ELECTRIC BODY requires ELECTRIC FOOD. This is known as CHEMICAL Affinity, which is necessary for ASSIMILATION of the nutrients to occur.

Unlike other therapies, the African Bio-mineral Balance specifically benefits the nutritional needs of the African gene structure. But the beauty of the African Bio-mineral Balance is, because of its highly electrical nature, it has ample capacity to accommodate the nutritional needs of the entire human species. Over the years, we have treated people from all walks of life. In our early years, the bulk of our clientele were Mexican and Caucasian, who benefited especially from cures for Diabetes, Lupus, and diseases of the central nervous system—from Insanity to Schizophrenia to Paranoia. We are proud to say our methodology, though initially designed to rescue the African gene, compliments the genealogy of all races. This cannot be said of other therapeutic approaches, however. Other therapies, including the allopathic, homeopathic, and naturopathic approaches, may yield benefits for other gene types, but fail to meet the nutritional needs of the African gene because the substances used in those therapies do not compliment [sic] its high electrical resonance.

We must take action. WE MUST SAVE OURSELVESI! The Black Race can no longer depend on others—be they well-meaning but ignorant of our needs, orĀ· downright divisive with a negative agenda—to provide for us what they think we need for our health and well being. Africa is rich with natural resources, and we are a resourceful people. We survived—and THRIVED as a people, long before the advent of European intervention and modem technology. Besides being the creator of the African Bio-mineral Balance, I am a Steam Engineer, and have applied my knowledge in Botany and Biochemistry to Horticulture. Utilizing the land on the USHA Healing Village in Honduras, Central America, I have conducted successful horticultural experiments on the effects of natural vegetation cell food in cultivating hearty, bountiful, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables [5].

I do not believe that genes "vibrate" or that food can be "electric."

New York Attorney General Actions

In the 1980s, Bowman directed the USHA Herbal Research Institute in Brooklyn, New York and advertised that he could cure AIDS. In 1987, he was charged with the crime of practicing medicine without a license. When the case came to trial, however, the jury found him "not guilty." The only third-party account I could find about the trial says that the jury voted in his favor because it was not persuaded that he was making medical diagnoses or prescribing medicinal substances [6]. There is more to the story, however. At a 1993 Congressional hearing, Shirley Stark, who headed the NYAG's Consumer Fraud Section, indicated that there was a successful civil case against his company. She stated:

A particularly glaring example of unsubstantiated therapeutic claims made for herbal supplements occurred a few years ago when the USHA Herbal Research Institute, run by a self-styled nutritionist calling himself "Dr. Sebi," advertised in the Village Voice and the Amsterdam News that "AIDs HAS BEEN CURED" by USHA and that they also specialize in cures for Leukemia, sickle cell anemia, herpes, lupus and other diseases. For an initial fee of $500 and $80 for each additional visit, patients were told they could be cured of AIDS and other diseases. The "cures" consisted of various herbal products, for each of which USHA made therapeutic claims. Eva Therapeutic Salve, for example, was referred to in USHA's brochure as . . . "very effective on major skin problems, in prenatal use, against poor circulation, cancer, cysts, hemorrhoids and arthritis." In fact, these claims were false. Our office filed suit against USHA and entered a consent agreement under which USHA can no longer make therapeutic claims for any of its products [7].

The consent agreement barred the Ogun Herbal Research Institute (d/b/a USHA), Fig Tree Products Company, Alfredo Bowman, Maa Bowman, and their successors and assigns from (a) claiming that their products or services were effective against AIDS, herpes, leukemia, sickle cell anemia, lupus, or any other human disease or condition, (b) selling any such products, and (c) diagnosing or treating any human ailment without a valid state license. The defendants were also assessed $900 for costs [8].

The USHA Research Institute and Dr. Sebi, LLC are now located in California.

Other Legal Entanglements

Several Web sites report that in 2004, Bowman spent six months with Michael Jackson (the singing star), treating him with African Bio-Electric Cell Food Therapy and supposedly helping him to overcome addiction to painkiller drugs. Later that year, however, Bowman and Dr. Sebi LLC sued Jackson for $380,000 in unpaid bills and $600,000 in supposedly lost revenues. The complaint stated that Bowman had provided "special herbal compounds" and trained cooks to prepare meals for Jackson [9.10]. Documents from the case are not posted online, but the docket indicates that the suit was dismissed in 2015 for lack of prosecution [11].

In 2014, Bowman sued Dr. Sebi Inc., Dr. Sebi Products, Dr. Sebi URUA Health Club International, Dr. Sebi's Office, Xave Bowman Chapman (a daughter who served as chief executive officer for Dr. Sebi's Products for several years), and ten other individuals for "contractual fraud." I do not know what the dispute involves, but it suggests that he had relinquished control of these businesses and was unhappy with what happened.

In 2016, Honduran Government authorities charged Bowman with money laundering. Press reports indicate that he was arrested shortly after entering the country with cash that he could not explain. Some reports describe two arrests, one in March involving $37,000 and another in May involving $50,000 carried by him and an associate. Other reports mention only one arrest, in June, with the amount being $37,000 or $50,000. All reports agree he was jailed on June 3rd, developed pneumonia, died on August 6th, and was survived by 17 children [13].

Final Impressions

Alfredo Bowman—a/k/a "Dr. Sebi"—liked to tell stories. I have been unable to find any published evidence suggesting that he did extensive research or cured people who were seriously ill.

References

  1. About us. Dr. Sebi's Cell Food Web site, accessed June 19, 2016.
  2. USHA Healing Village. USHA Herbal Research Institute Web site, archived Dec 8, 2001.
  3. Rock Newman Show, Oct 20, 2015. (Transcript available on request.)
  4. "The herbs are for the healing of nations": There are no incurable diseases, only incurable people. USHA Herbal Research Institute home page. Archived Dec 2, 2001.
  5. Bowman AD. Dr. Sebi's African approach to health and healing. Letter to Dr. Simba V. Mubako, Sept 30, 2002.
  6. Jamison H. Herbalist found not guilty in 'fake' healing case. New York Amsterdam News, Oct 11, 1988.
  7. Statement of Shirley Stark. Hearing on Dietary Supplements. Before the House Committee on Government Operations Subcommittee on Human Resources and Intergovernmental Relations, July 20, 1993, pp 106-110.
  8. Judgment and order on consent. People of the State of New York against Ogun Herbal Research Institute (d/b/a/USHA Herbal Research Institute; Alfredo Bowman, a/k/a/ Dr. Sebi; and others. Supreme Court of the State of New York (new York County), Index No. 40396/87, Filed June 28, 1988,
  9. Jackson sued by herbalist. Economic News, Oct 15, 2004.
  10. Michael Jackson sued by herbalist Female First Web site, undated, accessed June 20, 2016.
  11. Docket. Los Angeles Superior Court Case No. BC322867, filed Oct 13, 2004, dismissed Dec 19, 2005.
  12. The official story of Dr. Sebi's death. Secret Energy Web site, August 6, 2016.

This article was revised on August 16, 2016.

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