“PLANETARY HERBOLOGY” THE FIRST GLOBAL APPROACH TO HERBALISM IS BORN

When Michael Tierra finished writing The Way of Herbs in 1980, he knew the book presented an exceptional opportunity to reach more people seeking in-depth herbal studies. No other distance-learning herbal courses operating then or now approached herbalism in a way similar to the method he was developing at the time. Today we call Tierra’s unique system ‘Planetary Herbology’ (a term coined by Lesley Tierra in the early 80’s). Michael’s own eclectic personal studies and experiences prepared him for his global approach to herbalism. He studied Western herbalism with Dr. Christopher and Norma Myers; Native American herbalism with the Karok Indians near the Black Bear Commune in Northern California; Traditional Chinese Medicine with Foon Lee Wong and as part of the first North American herbal study group in China; and finally, Ayurvedic herbalism with Baba Hari Dass. Weaving together threads from all these traditions, Planetary Herbology was born, and Michael decided to share this system via correspondence course.

THE EAST WEST CORRESPONDENCE COURSE ARRIVES

Michael structured the course content into 36 lessons, one lesson a month for three years. These were divided into three sections, the first focused on foundation principles, the second on materia medica, and the third on the remaining materia medica along with advanced diagnosis and specific treatments. After typing just two lessons on an old-fashioned typewriter (this was, after all, long before personal computers!), he realized he needed help putting the course together. The director of Heartwood College in Santa Cruz, California where Michael taught, recommended he enlist the help of a student at the school, a young woman named Lesley. She had just left careers in management training with Ohio Bell and photography in Wyoming to learn the healing arts. In addition to editing and typing the lessons Michael wrote, Lesley also managed the course. As a result of their efforts, the East West School (named after Michael’s East West acupuncture clinic) grew from a few students to hundreds and then thousands. Ultimately, Michael and Lesley’s partnership resulted in several co-authored books and several revisions of the herb courses, their marriage, and their talented musical son, Chetan. As their business grew, they hired a school administrator, Jill Unger, who was their daughter-in-law at the time, and the East West family began. Jill has been with the school ever since.

ON-SITE SEMINARS ARISE TO AUGMENT THE LIMITATIONS OF DISTANCE LEARNING

When the Tierras became aware of the limitations of distance learning, they developed the week-long seminars still offered today. The inaugural seminar was given in Boulder, CO, in 1987, sponsored by herbalist Brigitte Mars. When the Tierras’ young son began school, the seminars were held near their home, first at Mount Madonna Center and then at the Quaker Center near Santa Cruz. For over a decade in the 1990’s, their European branch, based in England, held annual seminars outside of London. Every year, students from all over the world attend these seminars and bring the teachings home to their practices and families. In fact, through this contact, much of the course has been translated into Turkish and Hebrew at this point.

EAST WEST BRANCHES OUT TO EUROPE AND THEN BACK AGAIN

As the course grew to enroll thousands of students worldwide, herbalists David and Sarah Holland established the European branch of the school in England in 1990. For 10 years, the Tierras traveled there to teach and help develop that school. By 1998, England began changing to fit European Common Union requirements, and as a result, herbalists standardized herbal studies in that country to only teach one system, Western, Chinese or Ayurvedic herbalism, and not a combination of them, which is, of course, exactly what the East West Herb Course does. Thus, the European branch of our school was ultimately closed in 2002, but many of our outstanding graduates continue to practice and teach throughout the U.K.

EAST WEST MEETS THE WORLDWIDE WEB

When personal computers and the internet finally revolutionized communication and publishing in the 1990s, the Herb Courses were professionally edited and stored in electronic format. The East West School of Planetary Herbology was one of the first to develop a website for herbal training with on-line learning options such as the chat room and student discussion forum. Today our school continues to grow and evolve to meet the technological opportunities and demands of our students.

INTRODUCING THE EAST WEST CLINICAL HERBALIST PROGRAM

In 2006, the Tierras developed the East West Clinical Herbalist Program (E.W.C.H.), which recognizes the expertise and uniqueness of the school’s graduates. Many of our graduates have become leading herbalists in the field today, practicing professionally, writing books, teaching, doing radio shows, creating products, maintaining quality assurance, and developing other aspects of herbal medicine. We are proud of our students, graduates and the growth of our East West School over the last over three decades. We look forward to our students’ and school’s continuing development and fulfillment of our mission to provide the finest herbal education for decades to come.

Michael and Lesley Tierra
Students and Graduates
Dr. Michael Tierra in the Mountains
Lesley Tierra

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