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Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West.
by Michael Moore. 1993. Red Crane Books, Santa Fe, NM. Softcover, 359 pp. $19.95. ISBN 1-878610-31-7.

This title completes Michael Moore's triumvirate of field herbals for the Western United States. The other titles in the collection are Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West (1979), and Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West (1989), both published by the Museum of New Mexico Press. Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West sports a new look and a new publisher (Red Crane Books). This is the most substantive of Moore's works. The publisher's description of Moore as the "grandfather of the 20th century herbal renaissance," while capturing the spirit of the respect he receives from his peers, is a little premature. Perhaps, he is best described as the "big brother" of the herb renaissance. No one has better characterized Michael Moore's writing than Susun Weed. She says, "If you like your herbal medicine with a proper amount of scientific terminology, a dollop of dry humor, a salting of opinionated pronouncements, and a dash of high jinks, Michael Moore's latest book is just yo ur cup of tea." That just about says it all.

Moore describes himself as an old-school herbalist who approaches the subject (both in writing and in reality) from the perspective that if you want to be knowledgeable about herbs, "You first have to know the plants."

If you expect a therapeutic result, you have to have high quality herbs. Moore believes, "Although some of the plant medicines that are marketed are prepared by knowledgeable herbalists there is still a whole lot of absolute junk out there." Much derived from sources "who have paid measly prices to poor folks in Appalachia, or slave prices to third world, really poor folks, for oftentimes iffy-quality herbs."

Instead, Moore advocates that the herbalist must know where a plant can be found, "how it can be gathered and when; how common or rare it is; in what kind of circumstance the plant will make the best therapeutic; how it is to be processed, dried, or preserved; and how long it will stay good." Then you can decide if an herb is of useful quality or not.

Once you know that, before using the herb, you will want to know its physiological and pharmacological activity; how it may help the sick or affect the healthy; what might be the side effects or contraindications; what is the proper dose, etc. Moore, as he stated in his foreword, has attempted to provide this information to the reader.

Moore's Medicinal Plants of the Pacific West is the first book in decades to make a comprehensive, practical survey of the medicinal plants of the Western United States. In the 81 entries, nearly 300 species are described or discussed. The articles include information on the plant's appearance and habitat, constituents, collecting, stability, preparations, medicinal uses, and contraindications. Good pen and inks illustrations have been provided by Mimi Kamp; range maps and sixteen color plates display the best color photographs to yet appear in one of Moore's books. A bibliography, and perhaps, the most well-written glossary in any herbal that I've seen, are featured. The book is somewhat larger than Moore's previous works, and is presented to the public in sewn signatures, creating a book of more lasting value for field use.

This is the crowning jewel in Moore's Western herb trilogy. There is more book here, more experience, harder hitting views, slightly more biting humor, more text, and just more of Michael Moore.

Article copyright American Botanical Council.


By Steven Foster