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.

2 thoughts on “Rest in peace, Michael

  1. Jessie Emerson says:

    There will be a Memorial and fundraiser to celebrate the life of Michael Moore. It will be april 17-19, 2009, Truth or Consequences, NM. For complete information: http://www.mooreandmore2009.com

    Check into student and group rates.
    The documentary ” Just an Old Fashioned Herbalist.”, by jessie Emerson, the story of michael moore and the plants of the American Southwest will be premiered. This DVD will be sold, with 30% of sales going to Donna Moore to help with Michael’s medical expenses.
    I have known Michael for 30 + years and this is my way of honoring him for all has contributed to our Mother Earth and to modern American herbalism.. It will highlight the medicinal plants of the american southwest that he loved so much. We will take a road trip thru the Southwest and down memory lane. His students will recognize many of the beautiful and wild placaes as we take our journey. We will see Mchael at his best,teaching, both in the classroom and in the field. His musical compositions will be interwoven throughout the piece.

    To order copy of documentary: os**************@ya***.com

    • Micah says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, for telling everyone about the Memorial, and for making a documentary about this important grandfather of the healing herbs! We didn’t know Michael as you did, just a few meetings here and there, but his love and connection to the desert plants inspired us so much. I don’t think anyone could even begin to count the number of herbalists that he created, either from his direct teachings at the school, or from the wise and humorous words in his books. So many people will carry on his work, that lineage has just begun. He will be so missed, and remembered so fondly….I am sorry for the loss those close to him must feel.

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