Dr. Sebi — whose real name was Alfredo Bowman — was a self-proclaimed healer who believed achieving an alkaline state protects the body from disease-causing mucus buildup.
He claimed that by adopting his alkaline diet and taking his herbal formulas, you can live a long and healthy life without debilitating chronic diseases.
However, you may wonder whether these claims are too good to be true.
This article provides an in-depth review of the potential benefits and downsides of the Dr. Sebi alkaline diet and his supplements.
Who is Dr. Sebi?
Alfredo Darrington Bowman — better known as Dr. Sebi — was born in Honduras in 1933.
Despite the title, Sebi was not a doctor.
He immigrated to the United States where he was apparently unsuccessfully treated for various health conditions, including diabetes, impotency, asthma, and obesity.
Frustrated with Western medical practices, he became drawn to natural healing methods.
He was inspired by the healing properties of herbs and created herbal mixtures which he sold under the name, “Dr. Sebi’s Cell Food.”
Sebi claimed that his natural botanical mixtures used in conjunction with an alkaline diet cured a range of diseases, including cancer, AIDS, and other chronic diseases.
He believed the root cause of all disease is mucus and that disease manifests itself in parts of the body where mucus has accumulated due to an acidic state.
In turn, Sebi suggests that alkaline foods and herbs are necessary to promote an alkaline environment in the body to support the healing process and achieve optimal health.
However, he was reprimanded several times throughout his life for practicing medicine without a license and making false claims about his methods being able to cure diseases.
He was arrested in 2016 on money laundering charges and died later that year in prison from complications of pneumonia.
Today, so-called nutritional consultants — who were reportedly trained by Sebi — carry on his protocols that include his line of Dr. Sebi’s Cell Food products and nutritional advice.
Dr. Sebi’s alkaline diet
Sebi lays out the details of his alkaline diet in his nutritional guide.
He states that if the food is not listed in this guide, it’s not recommended.
Here is a complete list of the foods allowed:
- amaranth greens
- bell peppers
- chayote (Mexican squash)
- dandelion greens
- garbanzo beans
- green bananas
- izote (cactus flower or leaf)
- lettuce (except iceberg)
- nopales (Mexican cactus)
- poke salad (greens)
- sea vegetables (wakame, dulse, arame, hijiki, nori)
- tomato (cherry and plum only)
- turnip greens
- purslane (verdolaga)
- bananas (the shortest ones)
- berries, all varieties
- cherimoya (sugar apple)
- grapes, seeded
- limes (key limes preferred with seeds)
- melons, seeded
- orange (Seville or sour preferred)
- prickly pear (cactus fruit)
- raisins, seeded
- soft jelly coconuts
- wild rice
Nuts and seeds
- raw sesame seeds
- raw sesame “tahini” butter
- Brazillian nuts
- olive oil (not for cooking)
- coconut oil (not for cooking)
- grapeseed oil
- sesame oil
- hempseed oil
- avocado oil
Spices and seasonings
- bay leaf
- sweet basil
- cayenne (African bird pepper)
- coriander (cilantro)
- onion powder
- pure sea salt
- powdered granulated seaweed (kelp, dulce, nori)
- pure agave syrup (from cactus)
- date sugar
All-natural herbal teas
Important things to remember
In his nutritional guide, Sebi also makes the following recommendations:
- Drink 1 gallon of natural spring water daily.
- No animal products, no dairy, no fish, no hybrid foods, and no alcohol.
- Consume the grains listed in the nutritional guide instead of wheat.
- Many of the grains listed have been made into pasta, breads, flour, and cereal (the products can be found in most health food stores).
- Avoid using a microwave, it will kill your food.
- No canned or seedless fruits.
Does it work?
Sebi’s central belief was that alkaline foods and herbs are necessary to protect the body from an acidic state, which he claims promotes disease-causing mucus buildup.
Indeed, the blood maintains a strict pH range between 7.35 and 7.45. This means that blood is naturally alkaline or basic (1).
However, neither foods nor herbs can alter the pH of the blood (1).
Certainly, some foods — especially meats and dairy products — have a positive acid load, meaning they produce more acid in the body when they are digested.
But the kidneys and lungs work to maintain a healthy acid-base balance as even a slight change in blood pH from normal can cause significant health problems or result in death (2).
Besides, not all parts of the body are designed to maintain an alkaline state, despite Sebi’s claims that maintaining such a state is optimal for health.
For example, the stomach contents and organs like the skin naturally maintain an acidic environment to aid digestion and protect the body against infection from bacteria, viruses, and other infectious agents.
Sebi also claimed that when the body becomes acidic, it is forced to strip minerals from the bones to restore alkalinity.
However, the human body and its processes are a bit more complex.
It’s true that a diet high in acidic foods can cause the body to release calcium — an alkaline mineral — from the bones to neutralize the excess acid. Most of the calcium is then lost through urine.
However, acidic foods like animal products also tend to be rich in phosphates, which decrease the loss of urinary calcium by increasing its retention by your kidneys.
Therefore, any potential losses of calcium from an acidic diet are negated by the phosphates typically found in acidic foods.
Besides, urinary calcium levels are not a reliable indicator of calcium stores in your body or of bone health in general (3).
Dr. Sebi’s supplements
Sebi sells bio-mineral compounds that are said to be made exclusively from plants that retain their original alkalinity and high electrical resonance.
Sebi claims these herbal compounds cleanse the body of mucus and toxins while simultaneously restoring minerals and missing nutrients to the body’s trillions of cells.
He calls these herbal compounds, Sebi’s Cell Food product. They are also known as African Biomineral Balance compounds, and they contain a blend of herbs, algae, and seaweeds.
Sebi states that taking his products regularly while following his alkaline diet produces the best results for reversing disease.
Like his alkaline diet, however, there is no strong evidence in humans to support the use of the ingredients in his products for the conditions they claim to help.
Take for example one of his products called Blood Pressure tea. Sebi’s website claims this product relieves fluid retention, regulates blood pressure and cholesterol, and supports a healthy cardiovascular system.
It contains Chiranthodendron pentadactylon (flor de manita), a medicinal plant whose flowers have traditionally been used to treat heart illness, epilepsy, and infectious diarrhea (4).
While there’s some evidence to suggest that this herb offers antimicrobial and antidiarrheal properties in test tube and animal studies, no study to date supports Sebi’s claims of improved heart health or reduced fluid retention (4).
What’s more, each product contains an unsettling statement explaining that Dr. Sebi’s original and unique formulas are proprietary and may contain ingredients not listed.
This is not only concerning in that you don’t necessarily know what you’re taking but also that these products may contain ingredients to which you may be intolerant or allergic.
Should you try it?
It’s hard not to get behind Sebi’s view on health and healing in that the world is becoming increasingly sick with chronic conditions as a result of the inflammatory, highly-processed food typical of the Western or standard American diet.
However, Sebi’s claims about what alkaline foods and herbs can do for your health are based on a poor understanding of human physiology.
Foods — whether more alkaline or acidic — cannot influence blood pH and a natural state of alkalinity isn’t preferred by all body systems as Sebi claims since other organs and bodily fluids maintain a natural acidic state to protect the body from disease.
There’s also no evidence to suggest that eating a diet rich in acidic foods promotes significant calcium loss from bones.
However, that’s not to say some components of his teachings aren’t evidence-based.
For example, Sebi promotes a high intake of most fruits and vegetables.
Diets rich in fruits and vegetables have been shown to reduce the risk of various chronic diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer, namely colorectal and breast cancer (4, 5).
People who consume diets rich in fruits and vegetables are also less likely to experience depression and improved measures of mental health (6).
Beyond Sebi’s emphasis on fruits and vegetables, however, there are no benefits to avoiding animal products or other foods in the absence of a food allergy or intolerance or unless you otherwise choose based on religious or personal reasons.
Eliminating animal products like dairy, seafood, and even some plant foods that the diet restricts like oats and certain types of nuts, seeds, and legumes, can lead to nutrient deficiencies, such as vitamins B2, B3, B12, and D, and iodine, zinc, calcium, and selenium (7).
Not to mention, the more food restrictions you have, the more difficult it is to plan meals or navigate special events or holidays, which are typically centered around food.
Depending on where you live and your financial situation, many of the foods Sebi recommends may also be difficult to find or fit into your budget.
Sebi recommends the use of his Cell Food product line, but like the nutritional strategies he teaches, there’s no strong evidence in humans to support these products for the conditions in which he claims they manage.
It’s also a red flag that Dr. Sebi’s Cell Food products may contain ingredients not stated on the label and that they lack third-party testing to ensure potency, quality, and purity.
The cost of these products can range from $11.99 for a package of tea leaves up to $1,500 for supplement stacks.
So depending on what you’re buying, you may be paying a premium for something that lacks scientific support and may contain adulterants or contaminants.
The bottom line
Sebi’s central belief was that alkaline foods and herbs are necessary to control the acid in the body and promote homeostasis.
Sebi claimed that his natural botanical remedies used in conjunction with a plant-based alkaline diet optimize wellness by restoring the body to its natural alkaline state, even though there’s no good evidence behind these claims.
Other factors to consider about Sebi’s products and his alkaline diet include potential challenges in purchasing or accessing his products or the foods he recommends, the risk of nutrient deficiencies as a result of eliminating animal products and other plant-based foods, as well as the lack of quality and safety of his Cell Food products.