Sebastian Liew is a Medical Herbalist and now, an author.
His book “From Leaf to Life: Unlock the Secrets to True Health” was published earlier this year. A very successful launch event at the Marine Parade Library reflected the community Sebastian has built over the years, and the interest in natural medicine.
What Therapy was invited to review the book and I met Sebastian at his light-filled serene office, behind the hustle and bustle of People’s Park.
Overlooking greenery, it’s a fantastic place for a herbalist to set up shop. (Click here to read What Therapy’s review of the book)
You opened your clinic in 1999, as the first Singaporean with a Western Herbal Medicine practice. How has the receptivity of natural therapy, and particularly Western herbalism, changed over the years?
I started with a hard time explaining to patients that I am practicing Western herbalism. But there are quite many people who have heard about it, together with Naturopathy, and came to me. Gradually they spread the word and they are still doing it. Many people in Singapore also trust the Western form of natural medicine as they perceive it to be safer and more scientific.
What’s really the difference between Eastern and Western herbalism?
Herbs are just plants. There is no fundamental difference between East and West except how we use them, prepare them or extract them.
Nowadays, Western Herbal Medicine is more to scientific herbalism, prescribing pharmacological dose of herbs rather than traditional preparations. This does not mean there is no value in traditional preparations. I use them mainly for long term health and chronic ailments, where the herbs must be taken long term for treating or preventing a condition. These may be in the form of teas, elixirs, spices, wines etc.
What words of advice would you offer those still skeptical about using herbs for themselves and their families?
There is no need to be skeptical. Just try. Because if you don’t, you may miss out on an opportunity to heal your present condition. As the 19th century German pioneer in natural medicine Fr Sebastian Kneipp said, “many people died while the herbs that could have saved them grow on their graves”.
You need to ask why you are skeptical. You are part of nature and nature is herbs etc. I supposed we are skeptical because our present lifestyle is denatured. We are surrounded by electronic gadgets and denatured foods. Some of us are even afraid to walk on the grass and touch a tree. It is our underlying denatured lifestyle that has caused this skepticism.
As a herbalist, what do you stock in your kitchen cabinet?
In my food, I use both dried herbs, such as pyrethrum root, rosemary, thyme, basil, and galangal, and fresh herbs like coriander. I use cold-pressed oils such as virgin coconut, walnut, and sunflower oils. I love herbal tea like nettle, horsetail, and Chinese bolay.
In your book, you advise living in moderation. Given the high pressures in Singapore, what are some easy suggestions?
Living in moderation means having a balance between rest and work. The night time is for relaxation, not work and artificial stimulation, such as long hours in front of the computer or TV and on handphones.
We relax to sleep, not sleep to relax.
Also eat in moderation and fast once a week.
One of the reasons we eat so much is stress, and this stress is associated with emptiness in life. When we feel empty in our inner world, we tend to fill up with food. So treat the underlying stress, rather than eating and creating other disease conditions.
The ritual part of the book outlines how to destress. Having a healthy ritual is the first step. Have a spa routine – a head massage with sesame oil and rosemary oil. Or go for a foot reflexology.
Living in moderation also means not going unceasingly after material things for the sake of money, but do everything out of passion and use it as a tool to love others and bring joy to others.
Any other reflection on the book?
The concepts in this book can be a personal protocol and foundational framework for the prevention and treatment for almost all diseases. It is teaching us how to live rather than how to make a living.
There is no better joy than learning how to live, because by this, you discover yourself.
Aside from Western herbal medicine, Sebastian Liew also practices Hildegard Medicine at his clinic, Sebastian Liew Centre. For the first five What Therapy readers who visit Sebastian for a Naturopathic Phytotherapy consultation, receive a free copy of “From Leaf to Life: Unlock the Secrets to True Health”. See the review below – this is a comprehensive guide to living well and highly recommended.
“From Leaf to Life: Unlock the Secrets to True Health” can be purchased directly from Sebastian or online at Kinokuniya, Open Trolley, Fishpond, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.
From Leaf to Life
Unlock the Secrets to True Health
A Book Review by What Therapy Editor
“Buy local” has become the slogan for the environmental movement, to cut down on carbon footprint and to support sustainable small businesses. It’s a throwback to a time when things were simple and community-based. Buying local, to me, is a wonderful way to support people right where you are and to show appreciation of their immediate contribution to your life.
This is how I see Sebastian Liew’s book From Leaf to Life: Unlock the Secrets to True Health.
Singapore is a city of contrast, a wonderland of sorts, and a pressure cooker in many ways. It’s dubbed the Garden City but many are quite disconnected with nature and the natural world. Despite its rich heritage in traditional medicine, most people rely on western conventional drugs. So it is exciting when a homegrown medical herbalist decides to write a book that speaks directly to the challenges we face living in Singapore.
This isn’t to say that this book doesn’t apply to communities worldwide.
Because this book speaks about the great divide that exists in modern society. Something is amiss when there is such a disconnect between our everyday life and the natural world. This imbalance is reflected in society today, and on the individual level.
The saying goes that for every illness, nature has a cure. Pharmaceutical companies know this – much of our medicine today is based on an extraction from nature, from plants. But like the underlying scientific basis, it is reductionist.
From Leaf to Life is not only about herbs or even herbal or natural medicine, though it is chock full of information about helpful and safe herbs and spices. The book isn’t even only about health but is a comprehensive guide to living life well, because that is what it’s really all about.
To encapsulate his philosophy, Sebastian has created The 9 Credos of Wellness™ and The 7 Sacred Letters of Wellness™. Don’t let the philosophical sound of it put you off. Sebastian’s approach is grounded and do-able, even while the idea is lofty. He is really here to bridge what is possible and the busy modern life that is the reality for many.
Through relating personal stories, clinical experience, and research into eastern, western, historical, and scientific sources, Sebastian has woven a tremendous amount of information in this 300+ page book.
The 9 Credos is a set of belief statements that can build the foundation for the pursuit of wellness. What we believe is the difference. Changing our beliefs is, well, a game-changer. Do we have empowering or defeating thoughts? “The law of life is the law of belief”. The 7 Sacred Letters, which spell out the word “healers”, are the seven areas that will “enable you to live a functional, youthful, and peaceful life”.
From Leaf to Life is not just a philosophical book that raises questions about how we are living life now. We are not thrown into the deep end and left wanting, having our eyes opened to a different way of thinking and being. Sebastian provides practical exercises, localized recipes (Asian spelt noodles, anyone?), and tips on how to incorporate these changes.
With all the information provided in the book, you can practically design your own protocol. But do heed Sebastian’s advice to seek a Naturopath, herbalist, and other natural health practitioners, and not self-prescribe. Because frankly not everything natural is safe.
This book is also deeply spiritual (not religious). It will help readers find balance between doing and being, between the yang and the yin, and between the natural flow of life and living. Try, for example, a sacred break throughout the day – “to focus on being in the midst of your doing”. The key is to become self-responsible, self-aware, and live harmoniously within ourselves and thus with our environment.
From Leaf to Life: Unlock the Secrets to True Health is for everyone, regardless of background or whether they live in Singapore or not. Sebastian practices Hildegarde’s Medicine and Western Herbalism, decidedly not Singaporean, but nature is everywhere. Tapping into the healing powers of nature is everyone’s birthright and heritage.
For more information on Naturopathic Phytomedicine, visit the Leaf to Life website. The book From Leaf to Life: Unlock the Secrets to True Health by Sebastian Liew can be purchased directly from the Sebastian Liew Centre or online from Kinokuniya, Open Trolley, Fishpond, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.