Michael Tierra

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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 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', in which herbalists combine herbs, treatment principles and diagnostic techniques from various traditions, instead of practicing exclusively Chinese medicine, Unani, Western herbal medicine, Ayurveda, or other traditional herbal practices.[1] The idea has been influential in the practice of herbal medicine in the United States, but it is controversial. Some practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine, for example, believe their diagnostic system is too complex to be abbreviated or integrated 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.[2]

Western herbalism has adopted medicinal herbs from a variety of places in the world. (Conversely, American herbs, such as American Ginseng, or Ayurvedic herbs, have been adopted within Chinese medicine.)[3] Planetary herbology requires diagnosis and translation between different humoral systems, which is difficult.[4][5]

Michael Tierra says,

"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. 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.”[6]

A global perspective of herbal medicine allows treatment of conditions that may not be properly addressed in the predominant medicine of an area. Herbalist Alan Tillotson, who practices this type of medicine, says,

"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."[7]

The 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 representation of professional herbalists regardless of tradition.[8] 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 variety of traditions, from Native American medicine practitioners, who trained as apprentices, to graduates of Chinese Medicine schools or Naturopathic colleges, can be considered as members.[8][9]


  • The Way of Herbs (Rev. 1998), and
  • The Way of Chinese Herbs(1998)
  • Planetary Herbology (1987),
  • Biomagnetic and Herbal Therapy (1997)
  • The East West Course of Herbology
  • Treating Cancer with Herbs: An Integrative Approach (2003).

Co-author with Lesley Tierra of the following:

  • Chinese Traditional Herbal Medicine, Vol. 1 & 2 (1998)
  • Healing with the Herbs of Life(2003),
  • Chinese-Planetary Herbal Diagnosis (1998)
  • Co-author Dr. John Lust, Natural Remedy Bible
  • Co-author Candice Cantin, Herbal Tarot (1993).
  • Edited American Herbalism: Essays on Herbs & Herbalism by Members of the American Herbalist Guild (1992).


Tierra began his study and practice in 1968 while living in a commune, Black Bear Ranch, in the Klamath National Forest in northern California. He learned the wild forest plants and healing traditions of the Yurok and Karok American Indians. He moved to Vancouver where he studied with Dr. Christopher.

He moved to San Francisco, where he studied acupuncture with Efrem Korngold, Foon Lee Wong and Miriam Lee. He studied Ayurvedic medicine and yoga with Baba Hari Dass. He moved to Santa Cruz in 1976, where he started a holistic medicine school, the Garden of Sanjivani. Tierra received his Acupuncture and N.D. degrees, and studied Ayurvedic medicine in India for three months.[6] He received his Oriental Medical doctor's degree (OMD) from the San Francisco College of Acupuncture in 1987. He was among the first group from the United States to study herbal medicine in China.[10]

In 1979, Tierra received a distinguished achievement award for Master Herbalist from Dr. Christopher at the Herbal Symposium.[6]

See also


External links

  • [1] - 'East West Herb Course '