Emily Ruff, Executive Director, is a community herbalist who has practiced the art and science of plant healing for over a decade. Her studies have taken her around three continents where she has studied under healers of many traditions. Her background in gardening and botany came in childhood while wandering the wilderness and digging in the sandy soils of Florida with her grandfather, a tobacco farmer turned urban gardener, and her father, a botany and astronomy professor. Her journey into herbalism continued through apprenticeships in Guatemala under the tutelage of local healers on the southern coast of Lake Atitlan, in the mountains of Vermont at the feet of Rosemary Gladstar, and in the Central Florida apothecary Leaves & Roots with herbalists Carolyn Whitford and George D’Arcy. Emily’s academic studies include Ethnobotany, Philosophy, and Women’s Studies at the University of Central Florida and Curanderismo with the University of New Mexico. She is a Bach Flower Registered Practitioner.
Emily’s dedication to preserving bioregional medicinal plant traditions and ecosystems led her to become active in the organization United Plant Savers. Inspired by a need for greater connection among her regional community, she founded the Florida Herbal Conference event in 2012, an event that continues to sell out annually. In past years, she served multiple terms as president of the Herb Society of Central Florida and as co-founder of Homegrown Local Food Cooperative. Most recently, in response to the tragic shooting at Pulse Nightclub, Emily founded the Orlando Grief Care Project. From the community relationships cultivated through the national response to this tragedy, Emily formed the Herbal Action Network to continue weaving the web of compassionate herbalism into community engagement. Sharing her time between Florida and Vermont, she currently serves as director of the Sage Mountain Botanical Sanctuary.
Emily’s classes have been described as “heart-filled,” “enriching,” and “empowering,” creating a bridge between the teachings of our ancestors and the technologies of our modern world. Emily can be found in joy cooking, practicing yoga, writing, photographing flora, creating music with family and friends, and digging her fingers in the dirt. The plants continue to be her greatest teachers.
Maggie O’Halloran, Education Director, is an herbalist and educator in Central Florida. She comes from a large family where chaos was the norm. She always found peace outside watching things grow or climbing magnolia trees. One of her older brothers was considered hyperactive and had a hard time staying in school. Because of the impact food had on his behavior they had no sugar in the house, including ketchup! She learned in her mother’s kitchen that the things you put in your mouth impact your mind and your body.
In the early 90’s she first found her own inspiration to view health from a holistic perspective while working as a teacher assistant at a mental health hospital for children. From that experience, she decided that there had to be a better way to help kids beyond medicating them to a zombie state with pharmaceuticals. She started college studying education and psychology and ultimately received a bachelor’s degree in Human Development.
In 1999 she took her love of plants to Oakland, California where she worked with inner city elementary students and teachers, learning and teaching about violence prevention and anger management through physical education and body awareness. She explored working with food, exercise, breathing, and communication skills. She continued to study plants and their medicine by sharing with friends.
In 2006 she moved to Florida to find a slower pace in life. Though her love of teaching hasn’t waned, she took the opportunity to focus on deepening her plant knowledge in a more intentional way with herb walks with Emily Ruff. Since then she has found inspiration from teachers like Phyllis Light, Rosemary Gladstar, David Winston to name a few and mostly Emily Ruff. Finishing the community herbalist program in May of 2015. She continues her passion for helping people find peace by sharing her knowledge with whomever will listen. She enjoys working with friends, family, and strangers seeking a more holistic way to be healthy.
These days she can be found hiking on trails, tending her garden, creating something good for you in her kitchen, teaching in her community about plant medicine, and learning from her six-year-old herbalist and his friends.
Shannon Alycia is a Mother, Folk Herbalist and light-worker. As a healer, her passion in life has become empowering others by helping them learn how to be responsible for their personal health and well-being. With such a busy life and being mindful of the fact the she is human and not immune to the external stressors in our world, Shannon decided to implement yoga into her daily routine. After attending yoga regularly, she was pleased with how yoga helped her off the mat in every aspect of her life. Having crossed paths with a wonderful teacher by the name of Tymi Howard and feeling blessed to be a part of the beautifully spirited community of like-minded individuals she helped grow, she was in Love! Shannon soon decided she wanted to deepen her practice and began teacher training the following summer. Shannon has been teaching yoga ever since and is truly humbled by the opportunity and experience. Allowing yoga to take a key role in her life has been essential as it has opened doors to new positive opportunities, new friends, and most importantly opened her heart! Shannon wants to share her passion and love for yoga with others, knowing it will have many positive effects in their lives as well.
Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN, AHN-BC, AHG, The Natural Nurse® has been involved in Natural Medicine since 1973, when she directed a program in Ethnobotany at Cochise College in Douglas, Arizona. Dr. Kamhi attended Rutgers and Cornell Universities, sat on the Panel of Traditional Medicine at Columbia Presbyterian Medical School, and is a Medical School Instructor, teaching Botanical Pharmacology. She was nominated for the March of Dimes, Woman of Distinction 2004 and received the J.G Gallimore award for research in science.
Dr. Kamhi is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild (AHG), and is nationally board certified as an Advanced Holistic Nurse (AHN-BC). Ellen Kamhi is the author of many books, including Cycles of Life, Herbs for Women, The Natural Guide to Great Sex, WEIGHT LOSS-the Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide, and co-authored with Dr. Eugene Zampieron, The Natural Medicine Chest and Arthritis, The Alternative Medicine Definitive Guide. She hosts radio shows daily, including on Gary Nulls Progressive Radio Network, and is regularly quoted in numerous mainstream media including Marie Clare, Globe, Latina, Self, Woman’s World, Prevention, Cosmopolitan and Glamour.
She is on the Peer Review Editorial Board of several journals/organizations, including: Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, Natural Medicine Journal, Natural Standard Database.
Debbie Krause is a Central Florida herbalist with a passion for plants, healing and medicine-making. She graduated with a degree in Environmental Studies from Rollins College’s Hamilton Holt School in 1994 and has had a passion for nature and a connection to nature ever since. One of her greatest joys is wandering through the woods here in Florida or up in the mountains of North Carolina.
Debbie began her formal herbal training at the Florida School of Holistic Living and completed the Community Herbalist training under Emily Ruff’s skilled guidance. She has continued her training with a variety of esteemed herbalists including Kim Ellis, Margi Flint, Jody Noe, Phyllis Light, 7Song, Thomas Easley, Michael Cottingham, John Gallagher, Rosalee de la Foret, Sam Coffman and Steven Horne.
Debbie believes that learning never ends and is thankful for every opportunity to learn about herbs, wilderness, and healing. She appreciates every teacher who has crossed her path and believes that “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.”
While Debbie appreciates every aspect of herbalism, she has a true passion for medicine-making. You can often find her in the kitchen working with fresh roots, creating tinctures and formulas or making her well-known “Deb’s Super Salve” first-aid salve and lip balm. She takes a lighthearted approach and loves the fun, messy nature of herbalism and the cast of characters that has become a core part of her life. She also enjoys teaching others how to take their own health and the health of their families, communities and environment into their own hands.
Stephen Kane is a passionate teacher, with a master’s degree in education he spent many years inside the classroom. He currently works at Bok Tower Gardens as a Garden Educator. His lifelong love of plants has taken him many interesting places as he continues to answer the call of the plants. His passion is ethnobotany, especially man’s call from the natural world to be in balance with the earth. He is a earth-skills practitioner learning and teaching others valuable lessons of survival living. He is blessed to learn from Emily Ruff and all the amazing teachers at the Florida School of Holistic living where he completed the community herbalist program. Stephen shares his life with his wife Sara and we are most proud of our two children who continue to teach and inspire us.