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Moore Medicinals: Medical Plants of the Desert and Canyon West.
by Michael Moore Museum of New Mexico

Press, P.O. Box 2087, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87504. 1989. 184 pp. Paperback. $8.95.

There's a book on my bookshelf; one of the most treasured botanical books in my library. I've had it eight years. Its spine is broken. The pages show loving use. I'm always checking out an herb in its pages, if I think the herb might be in there.

The book is Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (MPoMW) by herbalist Michael Moore. When it was first published eight years ago, it was hailed as one of the best herb books written in many years, or (I can now add with some authority) since. Its long-overdue sequel has just been published by the Museum of New Mexico. In Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, author Moore takes on approximately 60 more plants which he did not treat in the earlier volume. The format is the same as MPoMW, but this time Moore adds a small map for almost all species to indicate their range of distribution.

To call Moore an author or herbalist is inadequate, as anyone who knows him will attest. He defies description and categorization. Writing in the foreword of this new work, Steven Foster accurately recalls that I once termed Moore "the Godfather of American herbalists." This is so true. Moore is unique among herbalists. There axe few writers who can convey with such authority the botany, pharmacy and preparation, pharmacology and chemistry, and clinical usage of a plant as he can. As Foster points out in his foreword, "Michael is a combination of gatherer, pharmacist, clinician, teacher, and writer. When he writes about identifying or harvesting a particular plant, he draws from his own experience. When he writes of medicinal use, he does so as an experienced clinician...Michael is known as an herbalist's herbalist."

I know a number of herbalists who trace their training back to Moore's teachings in Santa Fe during the `70s and I personally consider him one of my greatest mentors. I will most likely carry forever my own regrets that I did not spend more time attending Moore's workshops in Austin and Santa Fe when I had the chance.

There are 60 species covered in this book. A few were covered in the earlier volume. Most of the plants are described in the following aspects: nomenclature, appearance, habitat, chemical constituents, collecting and preparation, medicinal uses, dosage, other uses, stability, and contraindications. Specific formulas are given in an appendix in the rear, plus a glossary of medical and botanical terms, and therapeutic index.

One of the values of this book is information on some species for which little information is readily available in most other herbals. For whatever reason, most of the books on medicinal plants of the U.S. have historically focussed on the Eastern half of the country; there has been very little written on the West. What has been written is usually found in ethnographical accounts of Native Americans published by the government or a museum around the turn of the century. This book adds some important new information in an area of scant knowledge.

The real value of this volume lies in Moore's authority and expertise with each plant. He has actually used these herbs; he is not merely echoing what someone else has written or said, a condition one finds all too often in some of the popular herb books. Then there is Moore's sense of humor which pervades almost every page; one of the more salient features of his previous work which I still cherish after almost a decade of use.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.