When Michael Tierra finished writing The Way of Herbs in 1980, he knew that the book presented an exceptional opportunity to reach more people seeking in-depth herb 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 at 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.
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 advanced diagnosis and treatment.
After typing just two lessons on an old-fashioned typewriter (this was, after all, long before personal computers!), he realized he would need help putting the course together. The director of Heartwood College in Santa Cruz, California where Michael taught recommended that 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. Ultimately, Michael and Lesley's partnership resulted in several co-authored books and lessons, their marriage, and their son, Chetan. As their business grew, they hired a course manager, 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.
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, and was 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. 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.
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 over 12 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. That meant that courses could only teach one system, Western, Chinese or Ayurvedic, 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 disbanded in 2002, but many of our outstanding graduates continue to practice and teach throughout the U.K.
When personal computers and the internet finally revolutionized communication and publishing in the 1990s, the East West Herb Course was professionally edited and stored in an electronic format. East West was one of the first schools 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 change to meet the technological opportunities and demands of our students.
In 2006, the Tierras developed the East West Certified Herbalist Program. The E.W.C.H. 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 and the growth of our East West School of Planetary Herbology over the last 32 years. 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.