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Gabrielle Settles
By Gabrielle Settles May 25, 2023

‘Dr. Sebi,’ promoter of controversial diets, died from pneumonia. He was not killed

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  • Alfredo "Dr. Sebi" Bowman died in 2016 after contracting pneumonia while in jail in Honduras. In 2019, his family debunked claims about his death. 

Alfredo "Dr. Sebi" Bowman, known for promoting alternative diets, has long been the subject of rumors that he was killed because of his controversial advice. That false claim resurfaced again on social media, this time in a viral Facebook reel. 

Posted May 19 on Facebook, the video opened with a photo of Bowman alongside an image of burdock root, a plant with some health benefits such as improving blood sugar. Text on the screen says, "Did you know? They killed him for revealing the truth." 

The text also says, "Burdock contains over 92 out of 102 minerals that the body needs." Text on the video acknowledges the fact that Bowman died in prison, but gives it a conspiratorial twist: "Dr. Sebi tried to show it to the world but they threw him in prison and he died. They want to hide the benefits of burdock." 

The video was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.) 

But Bowman wasn’t killed. He died in 2016 after contracting pneumonia while in jail in Honduras, after he was arrested for entering the country with large amounts of cash. He was charged with money laundering, The Telegraph reported

A native of Honduras, Bowman was a self-proclaimed herbalist and healer. Though he was known as Dr. Sebi, Bowman did not have a medical degree. He was arrested in 1987 and charged with practicing medicine without a license in New York and advertising that his treatments could cure AIDS and leukemia. Celebrities including rapper Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, John Travolta and Michael Jackson sought his health advice and treatment. 

Bowman was also sued in 1993, when the court ordered him to cease claims that he could cure diseases. 

In the years after his death, conspiracy theories held that Bowman had been killed by the government  — something his children and grandchildren debunked in a 2019 interview on morning radio show "The Breakfast Club." 

"No. It wasn’t anything government, it wasn’t no government foul play. If your dad or grandfather (goes) to a prison in a third world country where there’s not hot showers and hot meals and a television, then it’s a possibility that he can die as well," said Isaiah Bowman, Bowman’s grandson. 

We rate the claim that Dr. Sebi was killed "for revealing the truth" about the health benefits of burdock plants False. 

RELATED ARTICLE: No, these grocery list staples do not cause young people to get sick

Our Sources

Heavy, Dr. Sebi Cause of Death: How Did Alfredo Bowman Die?, April 1, 2019

Facebook reel, May 19, 2023

Mount Sinai, Burdock Feb. 21, 2023

PolitiFact, No, these grocery list staples do not cause young people to get sick, Aug. 5, 2022

Healthline: What Is the Dr. Sebi Alkaline Diet, and Is It Beneficial?, Dec. 16, 2021

BMJ Journals, Systematic review of the association between dietary acid load, alkaline water and cancer, June 13, 2016

The Source, Dr. Sebi Dies in Police Custody in Honduras, Aug. 8, 2016

The Telegraph, Alfredo Bowman, celebrity herbalist – obituary, Aug. 23, 2016

New York Amsterdam News, Herbalist found not guilty in fake healing case, Oct. 1, 1988

Medical News Today, What is the Dr. Sebi diet, and does it work?, Jan. 3, 2020

The Breakfast Club, Dr. Sebi's Family Discusses His Impact On Herbal Medicine & Carrying On His Legacy, Aug. 9, 2019

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‘Dr. Sebi,’ promoter of controversial diets, died from pneumonia. He was not killed

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