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Meet Tierra: What It Takes to Choose a Chinese Medicine Brand

You could say Dr. Michael Tierra is the Michael Jordan or Serena Williams of herbology. But he’s so much more than that. He’s also the Steven King, David Attenborogh and Carl Sagan of the natural healing world. 

Michael Turk

In other words, Tierra is among the best in his field; he’s a prolific author; an expert on herbs, not just Chinese, but medicinal plants from Ayurvedic, Native American and other traditional healing systems from around the world; and he’s a gifted, respected teacher.

At 80 years of age, Tierra’s voice belies his chronological age; his Jing (essence) is that of someone closer to half his age. Speaking on the phone to ActiveHerb from his residence in the redwood forest, in the mountains near Santa Cruz, CA, Tierra, mentions a few reasons why he dispenses ActiveHerb formulas in his clinical practice and recommends them to his 1000’s of students worldwide. 

We are extremely grateful that Tierra chooses ActiveHerb when there are so many choices for Chinese medicines on the market. Tierra is indeed a famous figure in herbology. And before we mention why he uses our formulas for his patients, let’s get to know a little better, Michael Tierra, doctor of Oriental medicine.

The Roots of Modern Herbalism In America

After the second World War, the paradigm in America could be summed up like so: out with the old and in with the new. Americans, thinking newer equals better, ditched hearty, dark rye bread for empty-calorie white bread. And by and large, Americans stopped using natural healing methods such as homeopathy and herbs. Instead, Madison Avenue convinced Americans they needed pharmaceutical drugs to fight infections. Within a decade of the end of the war, herbalism was as good as dead. 

Up until the second world war, every neighborhood pharmacy was essentially an herbal apothecary. It wouldn’t be until the counterculture movement of the late 1960s that interest in herbal medicine was rekindled. 

Living in a commune in Northern California during the turbulent ‘60s, Tierra learned all he could about herbal medicine, often experimenting on himself with different herbs he foraged in nearby forests. Keep in mind there was no Internet and no Whole Foods or other supermarkets stocked with dozens of herbal products. The only resources from which to learn were a few esoteric textbooks. Tierra would also make the drive to San Francisco to learn about acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine. 

Eventually, Tierra would go on to author nine books on herbs. He also founded the East-West School of Herbal Medicine in Santa Cruz, CA. Through his tireless devotion to herbal medicine, Tierra, along with a handful of other herbalists around the country, is a key player in the renaissance of herbal medicine. 

ActiveHerb Formulas: The Choice of Master Herbalists

One would think that a master herbalist like Michael Tierra knows every herb and formula under the sun. But somewhat surprisingly, Tierra says that while there are thousands of different herbal formulas, only a couple hundred or so are used in clinical settings. Therefore, he’s not the herbal walking encyclopedia one would think he is. 

I know for a fact that 90% of acupuncturists don’t use herbs in their practice

“There’s only so much you can carry around in your mind,” Tierra says. “I know for a fact that 90% of acupuncturists don’t use herbs in their practice. And a big reason why is that they forget what they learned in school.”

And it’s for this reason, together with quality and their great price why Tierra was first attracted to ActiveHerb formulas in his own practice. He says that the names of the formulas make it easy to use in a clinical setting. (Tierra’s clinic offers pro bono service for the homeless.) The names of the ActiveHerb formulas, Tierra says, benefits both the practitioner and recipient. 

“When a homeless person sees that a formula is called Stomacare or Kneekinder, they understand the benefit immediately. And for the acupuncturist, there is no need to look up the name of a classic formula,” says Tierra. 

ActiveHerb formulas, Tierra adds, aren’t always “mainline, classic formulas that are used in clinical settings,” but rather, they are very outcome-specific. As another example, Tierra points to the formula, VoiceGold. “Now there’s a formula you won’t read about in classic textbooks such as the Yellow Emperor’s Classic, but someone has done the research on what supports the voice, it makes it really easy to help patients.” 

Chinese Herbs: Purity is Paramount

While ease of use and price are very important another factor that is even more critical for Tierra is quality. To most people, this might seem obvious. But as Tierra point out, in China, it could be argued that purity of herbs isn’t as critical as it is here. 

When asked why, Tierra explains that in China, herbs are considered medicine. As such, the number one priority for herbs is that they cure an illness. In comparison, herbs are considered as a nutritional supplement in the States. Consequently, the American consumer demands purity and quality when it comes to choosing a brand. 

But with so many brands of Chinese medicine to choose from, surely, there are other players that emphasize purity and quality like ActiveHerb does.

Other companies don’t claim the high standards of testing for heavy metals and contaminants because they simply can’t make that claim

“You can tell that ActiveHerb formula are very pure, with very little fillers or binders. The truth is, not a lot of companies can stand the scrutiny, even the so-called good companies,” says Tierra. “Other companies don’t claim the high standards of testing for heavy metals and contaminants because they simply can’t make that claim,” continues Tierra, adding, “To stay in business for as long as ActiveHerb as, they couldn’t get away with making claims about being 100% free of arsenic, lead, mercury, and cadmium if they really weren’t, because they wouldn’t be able to get away with it; other companies can’t claim the same.” 

Herbal Medicine Without An Herbalist

Now that herbal medicine seems to be once again accepted by much of mainstream society, the question then becomes, is there a problem with the lay public purchasing herbal formulas without the supervision of an herbalist? 

Tierra is of the opinion that not only is it absolutely fine for somebody who knows next to nothing about herbal medicine to purchase a formula without consultation, it’s actually necessary for the survival of herbalism. 

“Herbalism is both a profession and folk medicine. Herbal medicine will die if it’s only in the purview of professionals. Herbalism has always been based on user experience, not clinical trials,” explains Tierra. “Side effects are miniscule compared to drugs. That’s not to say that there are some herbs that should not be restricted, but companies like ActiveHerb won’t sell products on the open market that contain ma huang (ephedra). The most fundamental reason people turn to using herbs instead of pharmaceuticals is safety and balanced herbal Formulas are much safer than single herbs especially for chronic conditions,” adds Tierra, who is also co-founder of the American Herbalists Guild.

As long as the consumer selects an herbal company that is third-party tested for purity, is free of preservatives, and uses high-quality ingredients, they will be assured that what they are taking is safe and effective, Tierra explains. 

Dr. Michael Tierra, DAOM, is founder of East-West Course of Planetary Herbology. His course is  appropriate for both lay people and experts wanting to learn about Chinese herbs, as well as Ayurvedic, and those used in Native American healing. For more information, contact:

East West School of Planetary Herbology https://planetherbs.com/