Our Teachers

Core Instructors

Emily Ruff


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. Emily is an instructor in the Herbal Academy Advanced Herbal Training Course. 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.

See Emily’s classes at this link.

Maggie O’Halloran

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Maggie 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. 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 ultimately received a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Masters in Educational Leadership.

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 with Playworks. 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 Emily Ruff and The Florida School of Holistic Living. Since then she has found inspiration from teachers like Rosemary Gladstar and David Winston. 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


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.

Debbie Krause

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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.

Ellen Kamhi

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Ellen Kamhi, Ph.D., RN, AHG, AHN-BC is a wildcrafting intuitive herbalist and is adept at radionics and dowsing. She is a mentor with AHG (American Herbalist Guild) and takes herbalists through the process of becoming AHG(RH) certified. Ellen teaches in conventional educational settings, mainstream medical schools, and universities, as well as with master traditional healers from a variety of cultures. “It has been my honor to have studied with indigenous and master herbalists, such as JAMBA of the MAROONS in Jamaica, Michael Moore and Mimi Kemp in Bisbee Arizona, SONIA in Santa Cruz Mexico, Dr. Bernard Jensen, and a vast array of advanced herbalists.”

As a leader in the herbal nutraceutical industry, Dr. Kamhi is recognized as a consultant specializing in regulatory issues, formulation and product education. She is a professional member of the American Herbalist Guild (AHG(RH)), nationally board certified as a holistic nurse (AHN-BC), and is a medical school instructor in botanical pharmacology, and author of many books, including The Natural Medicine Chest. She offers online/on-ground CE approved Herbal Certification Programs and leads www.EcotoursForCures.com to experience shamanic healing traditions in indigenous areas of the world. 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.

See Ellen’s classes at this link.

Stephen Kane

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Community Herbalist Stephen Kane graduated with a MaED in Education and a concentration in Biology, he is a passionate educator of all things of the natural world. Stephen is currently a Garden Educator at Bok Tower Gardens and continues to teach children and adults about the natural world. He lives on Lake Wales Ridge with his wife and two children.

In his youth, Stephen Kane was an instructor for a wilderness survival school where knowledge, connection, and dependence on plants could mean the difference between life and death. For Stephen, that connection grew to an understanding of the power of that connection.

Christina Lynch

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Christina Lynch is a growing community herbalist who desires to share her knowledge and passions with those around her. She is a first-generation American, with her lineage deriving from Barbados. Taking great desire to reconnect to the earth, continuing the spiritual and physical connections with the earth as her ancestors once did, her intent is to assist others in starting or continuing their journeys in becoming one with themselves. She is currently the Vice President of Accounting & Finance for The Gabor Agency in Tallahassee, Florida. She has her Master’s degree in Human Resources and Employment Relations from Penn State University and her bachelor’s degrees in Accounting, Finance, and Human Resource Management from Florida State University. She has 13 years of professional experience in corporate accounting, human resource management, risk management, business plan development, and strategic planning. She has also assisted numerous small businesses to improve administrative operations, develop and maintain bookkeeping practices, and provide training support through her consulting firm, Trydent Consulting, and the Small Business Development Center. Christina is an avid tea lover, recovering foodie, and cultural explorer.

Shay DeGrandis


Shay Degrandis is an artist, community herbalist, kitchen medicine maker, accidental comedian, plant walker, ancestor talker, celebrant and animist working in the Orlando area. A recent graduate of the Florida School of Holistic Living Community Herbalist Program, she conducts local plant walks and teaches courses on learning how to incorporate the healing benefits of plants in our daily foods. Her workshops center on communing with plants and calming our nervous systems through the creative drawing process. In her former life, she received her BFA from Florida International University (via New World School of the Arts), her MFA from the University of Maryland, College Park, and went on to study Art History at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she worked for 20 years. Between 2016 and 2019, she trained with The Death Midwife, Angie Buchanan; was certified with the Celebrant Foundation and Institute; attended the Orphan Wisdom School with Stephen Jenkinson, and worked as a hospice volunteer. Her previous training as a story-teller, death doula, home funeral guide and celebrant informs her work as a community herbalist. Shay’s approach to herbalism focuses on compassionate listening, being present, and delving into the client’s story to support their physical, emotional, and spiritual health in a holistic way. As an animist, she is passionate about the interconnectivity between the plants, the earth, our ancestors and each other. Her practice focuses on stress, anxiety, heartbreak, ancestral tending and grief care through nutritional and herbal support, mindfulness, and creativity.

Naomi Bourassa

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Naomi Bourassa, LMT, MSW (she/her) is a Licensed Massage Therapist, Yoga Instructor, Herbalist, and Registered Clinical Social Worker Intern in Orlando, FL. Naomi has been a licensed massage therapist since 2004, accumulating continuing education in several modalities including Thai Massage, Myofascial Release, Neuromuscular Therapy, Reiki, Aromatherapy and Reflexology. She provides an integrative approach to each session, offering education and self-care tools to each client depending upon their individual needs. Naomi became a certified yoga teacher in 2010. She focuses on the basics and assists her students in cultivating body awareness. Naomi strives to offer yoga that is safe, inclusive and accessible to individuals of varying abilities. Naomi is passionate about offering trauma-sensitive yoga to allow her students to explore movement at their own pace. As a yoga student, Naomi has learned to respect her own boundaries and wishes to provide a safe space for her yoga students to establish and practice their personal boundaries to feel empowered and free. Naomi graduated from the Community Herbalist program with the Florida School of Holistic Living in 2014. While she does not actively practice community herbalism, she loves to dabble with gardening and herbal medicine for her friends and family. She especially enjoys working with herbs to support the nervous system.

Jaime Pawelek


Jaime Pawelek is a native bee taxonomist and researcher, as well as a gardener, herbalist and environmental educator. She graduated in 2008 with a B.S. in Conservation and Resources Studies from UC Berkeley. At UC Berkeley she worked with Dr. Gordon Frankie in the Urban Bee Lab for over 5 years as the project manager for the labs’ CA statewide survey as well as the labs’ primary taxonomist identifying bee collections from CA and Costa Rica and has co-authored many scientific publications. Jaime is also a private consultant and owns Wild Bee Garden Design where she identifies bee collections for various researchers around the country, designs pollinator-friendly gardens and teaches workshops on native bee biology, ecology and identification. Jaime also attended herb school at Gathering Thyme in San Rafael, CA from 2016 to 2019 and managed the schools’ herb gardens, taught gardening classes, and led herb walks. She also worked for several years as an organic gardener for multiple private family estates in Marin County growing food and cut flowers, planting for pollinators and providing environmental education to school children. Jaime is passionate about environmental education and was a Co-PI on an NSF grant (2022) that provided research experience to undergraduates from underrepresented groups at the community college level.

Julie Ward

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Julie Ward helps others transition to health using a new approach to food and “habit hacks” that help her clients overcome obstacles. As the founder of Fresh Food Alchemy, Julie’s presentations focus on how foods can boost energy, joy and focus. After overcoming her own depression, mood and digestive issues using plant-based wisdom, she brings 25 years of first-hand experience to the table, helping health educators and clients understand that optimal health is possible, and healthy food can taste great!

Julie is a 100% plant-based certified ACE health coach with a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition. She loves creating new ways to make “healthy” tasty, fun and healing!

Militza Maury

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Militza Maury is an herbalist, natural skincare educator, and author of the book Natural Homemade Skincare. She teaches a holistic approach to the skin, using herbal skin care practices as a tool for whole-body wellness. Militza learned the art & skill of skincare making from traditional makers and healers in Indonesia. She has taught workshops throughout Asia and writes, Little Green Dot, where she shares her “whole food” skincare recipes and philosophy.

Daniel Koenigkann

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Daniel has been brewing Kombucha since 2011. He built his business out of a passion and love for brewing great-tasting, raw, organic Kombucha. Prior to this, he was an Engineer in the Medical Industry and decided to leave his career to start the business because he truly believes in the benefits of this healthy elixir. He grew his business organically starting in his own kitchen, and today his products can be found throughout Central Florida and beyond. When not in his brewery, Daniel can be found supporting rhythm at the FSHL moon circles, relaxing among the plants, or planning travel experiences.

Caitlin McMullen

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Caitlin McMullen is an herbalist living in Sarasota, FL. She has been a student of plants since childhood, with an interest in herbalism beginning in college. She has completed Community Herbalist training with the Florida School of Holistic Living and studied with many teachers from around the country. She has a background in movement arts such as gymnastics, Tai Chi, and contemporary and improvisational dance, and these inform her approach to herbalism as an embodied practice. Caitlin tends the land where she and her partner and children live, nurturing both cultivated and wild herbs, living in accordance with the seasons as much as possible. She practices bioregional herbalism as a path of personal and community wellness and a means of interconnection with all our human and more than human communities.

Johana Castillo

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Johana was born and raised in Colombia and is the sole person behind Mama Tortuga.org, a multicultural, conscious, and mindful bilingual website for parents that want to raise global citizens. She is raising two multicultural and multilingual children with her Honduran partner in South Florida, speaking and learning various languages. Lover of nature, culture, and languages, backyard gardener, has a background of anthropology and nursing studies. Has served as a parent advocate in her local school board, and had participated in several community mindful events around Florida (Florida Herbal Conference, Dia de los Muertos Lake Worth Beach, Spanish Conversational Groups and Spanish Nature Playgroups) and in North Carolina (Firefly Gathering). She has collaborated with different websites (Multicultural Kids Blogs, Spanish Mama, Raising World Children, Barefoot cards, etc) and projects around her city of West Palm Beach, Florida and till this day keeps supporting community building efforts in her community through advocacy, education and gardening. She believes that “we need to be the change we want to see in the world” and that our mission as parents and educators is to empower others to offer their unique gifts for the common good of all in their community. She offers classes, speak at conferences and support and organize events that are mindful, eco-conscious and look to bring justice and awareness to our multicultural connections and relationships. She is the organizer of Moon Talk for Teenage Girls and Moon Talks for Women classes in West Palm Beach FL.

Wilnise Francois

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Wilnise Francois is a Haitian-American Licensed Nurse and Herbalist that has worked in the allopathic modality of healing for over a decade. Working alongside physicians and caretakers alike facilitating wellness to those across the life span. Her role as an herbalist expanded with the personal need and integration of herbal medicines from her coveted traditional Haitian practices and studies in Western herbalism. As a student herbalist, she is working to revolutionize the cultural affinity of our plant friends through our relationships with the earth and stars. Her aim is to integrate the very love our herbs show us and implement that essence into our daily lives; creating a lifestyle of health and wellness.

Tamara Niedermann


Tamara Niedermann, owner and creator of The Kindred Feminine. She has always known she is at her best when she is in support of the people around her and it’s that desire for deep relationships that has guided Tamara’s journey to birth work, herbalism, and supporting the birthing and bleeding people in her community.
The kindred feminine serves all birthing and bleeding people through education; teaching body literacy, contraception, or conception through the fertility awareness method, and pregnancy and childbirth education; walking alongside people in their conception journeys, and in their pregnancies and their births; creating medicine through processing placentas and herbal offerings.

Tamara identifies as a bisexual cis woman of color who uses the pronouns she, hers, and her. She is a newlywed in her early thirties, and the daughter of an immigrant single mother. Tamara acknowledges that Black, Indigenous, People of color (BIPOC) have much worse reproductive outcomes than their white counterparts. Tamara is an advocate for all menstruating and birthing people no matter their race, sexuality, gender, or size. She is a birth keeper, a body literacy educator, and an herbalist. Tamara finds her sense of purpose making placenta and herbal medicine, and holding space for those who she has the privilege of serving.

Grace and peace and many blessings on you.

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