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Michael Tierra

Michael Tierra is an herbalist and acupuncturist who has been in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for nearly thirty years. He integrates Chinese, Western and Ayurvedic herbal medicine and acupuncture. He is a founder of the American Herbalists Guild[1] and is the author of numerous books including The Way of Herbs and Planetary Herbology.


Planetary Herbology

Tierra is known for coining the term and describing the idea of 'Planetary Herbology' where herbalists combine herbs, treatment principles and diagnostic techniques from various traditions instead of practicing just Chinese medicine, Unani, Western herbal medicine, Ayurveda, or other traditional herbal practices.[2] The idea has been influential in the practice of American herbal medicine and now the idea of combining material from various traditions is broadly practiced. It is somewhat controversial among some pratitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine who believe that the diagnostic system is too complicated to be abbreviated within other traditions. Difficulties in its application have been noted by David Winston in his American Botanical Council Herbalgram review of Peter Holmes's book, the Energetics of Western Herbs. [3] Medicinal herbs from a variety of places in the world have been widely adopted within Western Herbalism (and conversely American herbs like American Ginseng or Ayurvedic herbs have been adopted within Chinese medicine.)[4] Planetary herbology requires more than just adopting the plants however, as diagnosis and translation between different humoral systems is difficult. [5][6]

    • “Every plant has an effect either positively or negatively which coincides with the nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system and the sympathetic nervous system. Instead of five elements like the Ayurvedic and TCM systems, the Native Americans used the four directions and the medicine wheel—plants were classified according to the medicine wheel,” according to Tierra. Many of the basic principles and ideas about health are shared globally; from completely independent developments have come strikingly similar ideas. “Planetary draws from the roots of these traditional systems and integrates this wisdom. Although there are similarities, it is a very difficult process and most companies do not do this, it is hard enough to understand one system let alone developing synergistic formulas from multiple systems,” [7]

The importance of Planetary Herbalism is that a global perspective of herbal medicine allows treatment of conditions that may not be properly addressed in the predominate medicine of an area. Herbalist Alan Tillotson who practices this type of medicine points out, "Many serious health conditions considered incurable at home have known solutions in other parts of the world. For example , little is known in this part of the world about the fact that Chinese doctors have promising medicines for leukemia, Ayurvedic doctors have time-tested medicines for chronic hepatitis, and Nigerian doctors have medicines routinely used for sickle cell anemia."[8] Herbalist David Winston points out that appendicitis is regularly treated by herbs and acupuncture in China, whereas in the United States it is invariably treated by surgery. Although diseases may be viewed differently in different cultures, so that simple adoption can be difficult, significant treatment modalities can carry over

American Herbalists Guild

Tierra is one of the founders of the American Herbalists Guild, established in 1989 as the only organization representing professional herbalists regardless of tradition. This organization certifies professional members, establishes standards for herbal education and sponsors educational conferences. The standards are planetary in nature so that herbalists trained in a number of ways, from Native American medicine practitioners who trained as apprentices can be considered along with graduates of Chinese Medicine schools or Naturopathic colleges. [9][10]


Tierra is the author of numerous books on health and herbal healing including The Way of Herbs (Rev. 1998), and The Way of Chinese Herbs (1998) published by Pocket Books, Planetary Herbology (1987), Biomagnetic and Herbal Therapy (1997) from Lotus Press, The East West Course of Herbology, and Treating Cancer with Herbs: An Integrative Approach (2003). He is co-author with his wife, Lesley of Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine, Vol. 1 & 2 (1998), Healing with the Herbs of Life (2003), Chinese-Planetary Herbal Diagnosis (1998); co-author with the late Dr. John Lust of the Natural Remedy Bible pub. by Simon and Schuster; and of the Herbal Tarot with artist-herbalist Candice Cantin (1993). He is editor of American Herbalism: Essays on Herbs & Herbalism by Members of the American Herbalist Guild (1992).


His practice began in 1968 while living in a commune in the Klamath National Forest in northern California. There he learned the wild forest plants and healing traditions of the Yurok and Karok Indians. He moved to Vancouver where he studied with Dr. Christopher, then to San Francisco where he studied acupuncture with Efrem Korngold, Foon Lee Wong and Miriam Lee. And he also studied Ayurvedic medicine and yoga with Baba Hari Dass. He moved to Santa Cruz in 1976 and started a holistic medicine school called the Garden of Sanjivani. Tierra received his Acupuncture and N.D. degrees, studied Ayurvedic medicine in India for three months. He also received a distinguished achievement award for Master Herbalist from Dr. Christopher at the internationally recognized Herbal Symposium in 1979. He received his Oriental Medical doctor's degree (OMD) from the San Francisco College of Acupuncture in 1987 and was part of the first group from the United States to study herbal medicine in China. [11] [12]


Tierra has taught at many schools including Norma Meier's Herb School in Vancouver, Canada, The California School of Herbology, Heartwood College, the Esalen Institute, the American Herbal Academy, Santa Barbara Center for Holistic Studies, Antioch University and the Ojai Institute. Tierra is co-founder of the American School of Botanical Medicine with Amanda McQuade Crawford. He lectures internationally, in England, New Zealand,and a number of other countries. He founded The East West College of Herbalism with David and Sarah Holland, recognized as an accredited professional herbal college in the UK. Each spring, Michael and his wife, Lesley teach in England at the East West College. His East West Correspondence course has taught his brand of herbal medicine to thousands of students.


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  2. ^ Planetary Herbology (1987)
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  4. ^ Chinese Herbal Medicine: Materia Medica, Third Edition by Dan Bensky, Steven Clavey, Erich Stoger, and Andrew Gamble, (2004)
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See also

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Michael_Tierra". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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