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Posted under: Trending Opinion

Dr. Sebi: The Man, The Myth, The Legend

Dr. Sebi was the Black guru of clean eating.

Since the sudden death of Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle, who was gunned down on March 31 in front of his Crenshaw-area store, one of the most respected names in Black health and wellness has also started trending.

A plant-based alchemist with quite the controversial background, Alfredo Darrington Bowman, more popularly known as Dr. Sebi, was the subject of the fallen rapper’s much anticipated documentary project. Prior to his untimely passing, Nipsey spoke openly about the herbalist’s healthy living philosophies and practices, and his intention to complete the film despite potential backlash and the conspiracies surrounding the mysterious circumstances of Dr. Sebi's death.

Conspiracy theorists and proponents of urban legend have suggested that because Sebi's holistic discoveries and applied methods for maintaining a healthy, balanced, and disease-free life were perceived as a threat against the corporate interests of big pharmaceutical companies' multibillion dollar industry, his death in 2016 was the result of a deliberate effort to "silence" him. Now the timing of Nipsey's murder coupled with his ambition to amplify the story behind Dr. Sebi’s life, message and work has added to widespread speculation around his own death.

However, Nipsey isn’t the first celebrity whose demise had a mysterious connection to Sebi, adding to the already sensationalized lore surrounding his life and healing practices. In 2002, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes of the famed group TLC died in a motor vehicle accident while in Honduras on one of Sebi’s healing retreats. The docuseries Autopsy aired an episode titled "The Last Hours of Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes" on March 24, which implied that an "extreme diet" may have impaired Lopes' judgement while driving, and this could've been a catalyst behind the tragic accident.

Now that we know why Dr. Sebi has recently gone viral, let’s get into his life.

An Herbalist and Healer

Born Alfredo Bowman in 1933 in a small Honduran village, Dr. Sebi was no stranger to the wonderment of nature. According to his website, Sebi’s formative years were informed by “days of play and observation by the river and in the forest, coupled with guidance from his grandmother."


After migrating to the United States, Sebi was reportedly diagnosed number of chronic illnesses, including asthma, diabetes, erectile dysfunction and obesity among others. Traditional medicine proved unsuccessful in treating his conditions, so Sebi went to Mexico where he received treatment under the care of an herbalist. Sebi claims to have emerged healthier and with a newfound interest in the healing properties of herbs. By his own account, he researched and studied the African approach to medicine and developed his own treatment systems leveraging detox and diet programs to promote organic healing. His health care methodology could allegedly cure patients suffering from AIDS, herpes, diabetes and other chronic diseases.

A Philosopher on Health and Wellness

Dr. Sebi has often been regarded as a quack for his rejection of Western medical practices and Afrocentric methodology for living well, but closer examination of his philosophies reveals that they aren't so far fetched from other diets that endorse clean eating. His alkaline diet is centered around healthy consumption and is comprised of specific whole plant-based or vegan foods, replacing acidic or toxic edibles with non-toxic, alkalized foods. According to Sebi, certain vegetables were to be avoided such as asparagus, broccoli and cauliflower, supposedly, due to a lack of nutritional value, and GMO factors that might alter human genetics. Though, some of his recommended practices and suggestions were not scientifically proven, and side-eyed by naysayers and traditional nutritionist, his business, Dr. Sebi Cell Food, is predicated on this theory.

A Cannabis Advocate

Like other plans Sebi found useful, he understood the medicinal value of cannabis, as well. In a 2012 radio interview for "Perspective's Corner," he notes that he believes in the validity of the claims made in the textbook Medicinal Herbs of Ecuador, which says bud can "cure 20-plus disease," including anxiety, epilepsy, tremors, and Parkinson's to name a few.

YouTube | Rhona 'Rho' Bennett

An Adversary of Dick Gregory

For those who may not be aware, Dick Gregory was the face of the Bahamian Diet back in the 1980s. Rumor has it that Dr. Sebi and Gregory had a long-standing beef (pun intended). Supposedly on several occasions, Gregory accused Sebi of working as a government agent, while Sebi claimed Gregory was salty because he turned down a possible collab on a health initiative.

YouTube | Mix Fiend

Legal Troubles

Dr. Sebi has found himself on the wrong side of the law several times. In 1993, the holistic practitioner was found not guilty on two counts of practicing medicine without a license, according to the Amsterdam News. In addition, he was reportedly arrested twice in 2016, charged with money laundering on each occasion. While detained by Honduran authorities, he later died of pneumonia.

A Black Pioneer

No matter what quack tales, conspiracy theories, alternative facts and negative press swirl around Dr. Sebi’s name, one thing is for certain: He was a Black man who, out of concern over the health and welfare of the Black community, promoted a concept of living and eating healthily off the land. Love or hate him, he brought an awareness of veganism to Black folks who may not have been exposed. Best of all, he did so without sacrificing his Africanism, making it a fundamental component of his wellness theories. In many ways, one might understand why Nipsey revered Sebi and wanted to bring visibility to his story. I believe it was a case of one Black man recognizing excellence in another.

May both angels fly high with the ancestors.

Liking this content? Check these out:

Nick Cannon Has Promised To Complete Nipsey Hussle's Documentary On Dr. Sebi 

9 Times Nipsey Hustled For His People 

Police Identify Man As Suspect In Nipsey Hussle Killing

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Ida Harris is a current News Editor for Blavity. She is a native New Yorker, sowing seeds in Atlanta. She is savvy with standard English, but poetic with Black Vernacular. She's been known to f*ck up some Oxford commas. When she is not reciting Trap music quotables, she’s writing for The Root, Elle, USA TODAY, DAME magazine and MyBrownBaby. Follow her Twitter, Instagram, and Word2MUVA column.