Dr Sebastian Liew: The Phytotherapy Approach to Skin Conditions

By Dr Sebastian Liew| For Epoch Times 

I have a personal soft spot for those suffering from skin conditions such as eczema, acne, and psoriasis. This is probably because I suffered from chronic palmar dermatitis for over 10 years during my childhood. Moreover, I inherited a constitutional weakness from my mum (who used to suffer from severe chronic eczema for years), and was often devastated by sensitive skin and periodic eczema.

Thirdly – and for some reason – I have been given the opportunity to treat many clients with serious and chronic skin diseases.

Here is one story of healing to ponder:

Chronic Face Eczema

Chronic Face Eczema (Courtesy of Sebastian Liew)

My skin troubles started when I was 18. The culprit was metal in costume jewellery.

For two whole years, people kept asking me, “Are you having chicken pox?” That was the extent of my skin problem. I managed to get over it, but my skin was never the same.

Every now and then, I would get flare-ups on different parts of my body and each time I depended on either topical steroids (usually a continuous usage of up to a month) or oral steroids (usually for up to a week) or a combination of both to resolve the symptoms. Now that I calculate it, I had been a steroid user for 23 years of my life!

In March 2016, I had my worst flare-up ever. I had huge, “angry” red patches on my skin that felt warm, swollen, painful and itchy, all at the same time. Oddly (but thankfully) it affected only my face. The culprit I believe was food (most likely oyster sauce or soya sauce) but the scary thing about it was, I was never allergic to that. Of course, as per usual practice, I went to see the doctor and was given oral steroids for a week.

[My] symptoms cleared a little but not totally. The doctor increased the dosage of the second cycle of steroids, but at the same time warned me that he can’t continue to give me such high doses for too long.

My symptoms cleared tremendously while I was on the high-dose steroid but once I was off the steroid, [the] symptoms returned. I was offered more steroids but I knew then that I had to do something else. This was the first time that I needed steroids for an extended period [of time]. It was the first time I needed such a high dose. The situation called for a different solution, a true solution.

So from here I began my journey with Dr Sebastien Liew. Through him, I learnt a lot about my own body as I went through my healing process. I got to know that I have new “fast poison” (i.e. food that causes immediate reaction). I got to know my “slow poison”, something that I have never suspected. I’ve been shown that non-pharmaceutical alternatives can work just as well and in fact better. It’s been nine months now and my worst is over. Every now and then I still get mini allergic reactions but I’m proud to say that I have been able to resolve it nature’s way.

I will be forever grateful to Dr Liew for giving me a new skin.

After 6 months of phytotherapy

After 6 months of phytotherapy (Courtesy of Sebastian Liew)

According to traditional European medicine (TEM), the single most important symptom associated with ‘bad blood’ is skin diseases of some kind. Any form of eruption of the slightest type, such as acne, pimples, or boils, is taken as a manifestation of some toxins poisoning the blood.


Over the years from my clinical practice, from research, and understanding traditional herbal medicine, I have found that there are two ‘wrongs’ in skin diseases:

Deficiency in excretion of toxins from the body, principally through the liver and the gut system. This results in food intolerance, inflammation, and intestinal permeability issues.

Absorption of nutrients, which is elaborated in detail in my book Leaf to Life.

The above metabolic condition is compounded by low thyroid activity (may not show in the usual blood test; need differential diagnosis), aging skin (which tends toward dryness after 40 years of age), hormonal imbalance, stress, and environmental and constitutional weakness.

Food intolerance test is a common test I used in my clinic, and it is very helpful if you have a history of allergies and poor digestion. In general, avoid all dairy (including yogurt), wheat gluten (pasta, bread, biscuits, cakes etc.), peanuts, vinegar, pork, soy milk, and all forms of sugar. Allergies may also be triggered by certain fruits, such as pineapples, strawberries, plums, peaches, kiwis, and bananas.

Absorption of nutrients can be enhanced by herbs such as dandelion and fennel. I usually put these in a tincture, with 1 teaspoon taken in water 15 minutes before each meal.

Many people think that all eczema cases are caused by heat. This is not necessarily so, as low thyroid activity or metabolism can be a strong contributor to poor skin condition. Low metabolism may manifest as a deeply coated tongue, feeling cold easily, decreased sweating, fatigue, poor response to stress, high cholesterol, low blood pressure, and poor digestion. Such conditions may respond well to warming herbs such as turmeric and Echinacea.  The use of plant-based essential fatty acids (not fish oil) enhances oxygen uptake to the cells.  This is one of the chief reasons why you should seek professional natural medicine help if you suffer from a chronic condition. Self-healing or medication is helpful, but certain skin diseases are very complex and may take two hands to help.

Have you ever wondered why your skin itches easily after you turn 50? This may be caused by the aging process and hormonal imbalance. Herbs such as violet and sage will be helpful to maintain skin’s resilience.

I lately found that bath and shower filters can improve chronic skin conditions. Have you ever wondered why your skin itches or tends to be dry after a shower? It could be our water. I have seen (including in myself) many cases of improvement in skin conditions after a shower filter is used to remove chlorine. Oh yes, think of a filtering system too for your drinking water.

Last but not the least, relax and maintain a detached attitude. Chronic stress tends to aggravate conditions such as eczema and acne.

Work with a healing-centred natural medicine practitioner and trust during the whole process that you will be healed sooner or later.

Last but not the least, relax and maintain a detached attitude. Chronic stress tends to aggravate conditions such as eczema and acne. (GPOINTSTUDIO/ISTOCK)

Ask your Higher Self or God within what is the message behind my condition. What is the body trying to teach me? Is it my lifestyle, my stress, my insecurity, or unforgiven hurts?  If you suppress the symptoms with medication without learning the lesson behind it, the healing will not be lasting. The symptoms are not the ‘devils’, but the body’s way of crying for help.


About Sebastian Liew:

Sebastian Liew is the first Singaporean medical herbalist and doctor of naturopathy accredited with the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia.  He has over 15 years of clinical experience in treating and preventing diseases with phytotherapy (Western herbal medicine). He is also the author of the book Leaf to Life and the co-founder of a herb-based vegetarian restaurant in Melaka (http://seedsgarden.com.my). Please visit http://slnaturopath.com or find us in face book http://facebook.com/slnaturopath. Email: sebastianliew@slnaturopath.com

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