|Was||Botanist, Healer, Dietitian, Scientist|
|Birth||26 November 1933, Honduras|
|Death||6 August 2016, Honduras (aged 82 years)|
Alfredo Darrington Bowman (26 November 1933 – 6 August 2016), better known as Dr. Sebi, was a Honduran herbalist and self-proclaimed healer, who also practiced in the United States for a period in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Bowman claimed to cure all disease with herbs and a vegan diet based on various pseudoscientific claims, and denied that HIV caused AIDS. He set up a treatment center in Honduras, then moved his practice to New York City and Los Angeles. Numerous entertainment and acting celebrities were among his clients, including Michael Jackson.
Although he used the title and name Dr. Sebi, Bowman had not completed any formal medical training. He was considered a quack by licensed doctors, attorneys, and consumer protection agencies in the United States. He was prosecuted in New York state for practicing medicine without a license, and acquitted. He was charged in a civil suit that resulted in his being prohibited from making therapeutic claims for his supplements. B
In May 2016, Bowman was arrested in Honduras for money laundering, after being found carrying tens of thousands of dollars in cash with insufficient accounting for its origin. During several weeks detention in jail, he contracted pneumonia. He died in police custody as he was being transported to a hospital.
Bowman was born in 1933 in Ilanga, Honduras, and was of African descent. He first learned of herbal healing and related traditional practices from his grandmother. His grandfather was an immigrant from Haiti. As an adult, Bowman identified as an “African in Honduras”, not as an African Honduran.
He claimed to have become dissatisfied with Western medical practices in treating his own asthma, diabetes, and impotency. He visited an herbalist in Mexico whom Bowman claimed healed him.
After that, Bowman began his own healing practice in Honduras. He developed a treatment that he called the “African Bio-Electric Cell Food Therapy,” and claimed that it could cure a wide range of diseases, including cancer and AIDS, as well as a variety of chronic conditions and mental illnesses. He also developed related herbal products. Bowman set up a center in the 1980s near La Ceiba, Honduras, and marketed his herbal products in the United States. He called his center the USHA Research Institute, located in the village of Usha.
Bowman relocated to New York City in that decade, where he encountered legal opposition to his medical and therapeutic claims. He said his supplements could cure AIDS. He relocated his center to California.
According to McGill University, Bowman’s diet and food therapy was based on the discredited alkaline diet. His beliefs on the origin of disease denied germ theory and factored in faux-afrocentric claims about the unique genetic characteristics of Africans and their diaspora.
He gradually earned considerable revenue, more than $3000 a day, after giving advice and developing a wide range of celebrity clients, such as Lisa Lopes, Steven Seagal, John Travolta, Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson. He reportedly treated Jackson before he went to trial in 2004 on charges of child abuse (of which he was acquitted).
In the early 1980s AIDS had newly been recognized as a disease as an epidemic started in the United States, with numerous cases in New York and other major cities. Bowman claimed that HIV is not the cause of AIDS and used herbal remedies to treat people.
In 1987 Bowman was arrested and charged in New York State with practicing medicine without a license. the jury acquitted him, saying the state had failed to prove he made a medical diagnosis. In the 1990s he was sued in New York for making claims of therapeutic benefits for his products; as a result of the civil case, he was prohibited from making such claims. He relocated to Los Angeles, California, where he cultivated celebrities among his clients.
Arrest and Death Controversy
On 28 May 2016, Bowman and his associate Pablo Medina Gamboa were arrested on charges of money laundering at the Juan Manuel Gálvez de Roatan Airport, after they were found to be carrying $37,000 in cash and had no explanation for it. They were attempting to transfer from a commercial flight from the United States to a private plane for another destination in Honduras.
Released pending a court hearing on 6 June 2016, but he was re-arrested by the Public Ministerio on money laundering charges. He was held for several weeks in a Honduran prison, while his family was attempting to obtain his release. He fell ill and, after police officials realized the severity of his condition, they transported him to a hospital. Bowman died of complications of pneumonia on 6 August 2016, en route to Hospital D’Antoni. The length of his time in custody and the poor condition of the jail may have contributed to the 82-year-old man’s death.
Some of his followers question the circumstances of his arrest and death. They claim that there was a conspiracy to silence him because his teachings differed from the medical establishment and threatened the pharmaceutical industry.
Bowman identified as African, not an “African Honduran”, but an African in Honduras. He was known to have been married twice and, at the time of his death, he had 17 living children.
In 1987, the New York State Attorney General charged Bowman with two counts of practicing medicine without a license after he placed ads in local newspapers claiming to be able to cure AIDS. The Attorney General’s Office sent undercover agents to his office to gain diagnoses and treatments for purported symptoms of disease. Bowman was acquitted because jurors said the tape recorded by the agents failed to show that Bowman had made a medical diagnosis of their purported conditions.
In an effort to stop Bowman’s false claims, the New York Assistant Attorney General for consumer fraud filed a civil suit against Bowman, his Ogun Herbal Research Institute, and other named businesses. It resulted in a consent agreement by which he was prohibited from making therapeutic claims for his products. He was also fined $900. The suit had proved that the claims were unsubstantiated.
Alfredo Bowman and Dr. Sebi LLC v. Michael Jackson
In 2004, Bowman reportedly treated Michael Jackson prior to his being tried on counts of child abuse. Bowman claimed to have helped the singer overcome addiction to painkillers Demerol and morphine with his African Bio-Electric Cell Food Therapy. He worked with Jackson for six months at an Aspen retreat.
After Jackson’s brother Randy paid Bowman $10,000, the herbalist sued Michael Jackson for related costs, claiming that the singer owed him $380,000, and seeking an additional $600,000 in lost revenue for having deferred other clients and various speaking engagements. Raymone Bain, a publicist of Jackson, denied that his client received any “professional treatment” or that he had any painkiller addiction. The case was dismissed in 2015 for lack of prosecution.
- Nipsey Hussle was reportedly working on a documentary about Dr. Sebi in 2019; that year he was murdered outside his clothing store in Los Angeles in April 2019. Law enforcement believe the killing was unrelated to Bowman.