We just found out the sad news that the great herbalist, teacher, and plant elder Michael Moore passed away late February. If you are an herb geek like us, you know about Michael and his priceless contribution to American herbalism. If you’re not familiar with his work, please take time to visit his vast and informative website at:
Michael was not so much a clinician-herbalist, but an advocate of the plants, introducing their properties to people from the perspective of the herbs. His books, the Medicinal Plants series, covering the Desert and Canyon West, Mountain West, and Pacific West, inspired me to become an herbalist, and showed me a different way of connecting with the plants and their properties.
Those books offer a plant-centric view of teaching herbalism, not focused on illnesses and patient complaints, but on what each plant does in its ecosystem and what each can do for us. I have read them cover to cover like novels so many times, and every time been entertained, inspired, and informed. On a practical note, for the 23 years I have been studying herbs, I have never left on a collection trip without one of these books.
Michael’s connection to the real, green stuff of herbalism became apparent to me at a conference in Arizona many years ago. It was the beginning of the mainstreaming of herbal healing, and everyone was obsessed with pharmaceutical equivalency as a way of promoting herbs, trying to outdo each other with molecular diagrams, double-blind studies of Prozac vs. St. John’s Wort, that sort of approach.
I attended several lectures like this, and they were informative and interesting, one story about how plants heal us, and useful as a perspective. But then Michael’s lecture started, and it was immediately so very different from the rest: his lecture slides were pictures of plants.
That was when I realized that none of the other talks had any plant pictures, none of the greenery and images of these beings that heal us from their own bodies. Michael’s lecture was slide after slide of real plants, growing where they belong, explored on their terms.
The icing on the cake was that his scientific knowledge was also impeccable, his books being some of the most understandable and thorough explanations of how herbs really work, from ecosystem to metabolism.
Of course, stories of his personality abound, too, he was no New Age healy-feely sensitive guy! We saw his wonderful stubbornness at that same conference, set up at our table next to his.
Michael was curious about our Spagyrics, and Paul offered to let him try something. He chose Suma, giving the reason “because I hate it”. That willingness to go ever deeper into the properties of a plant simply because he didn’t like it amazed me, and it showed such a willingness to be taught by the plant kingdom.
If you want to be really inspired by the work of a great herbal elder, check out Michael’s books:
Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West
Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West
Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West
Do you have memories or stories about Michael? We would love to hear them in the comments below.