The Instructors at Vital Ways

Your Guides on the Path

Joining our Holistic Herbalist Training Program allows for a one of a kind opportunities to study with some of the most respected and experienced herbalists and instructors in the country.

Our instructors and guest instructors include: Christopher Smaka, Elise Krohn, Paul Bergner, Jillian Stansbury, Nome Mcbride, Hanna Jordan, Talia Hammond, Kathryn Kloos, and Aran Osborn.

Christopher Smaka

Director, Co-Founder, Instructor, Clinician, Clinical Faculty

Christopher has always had a strong connection to plants and the natural world. For his earliest health and nature education, he is very grateful for his father and their countless hours spent in the fields, woods, rivers, and mountains of upstate New York, and his mother for giving him his earliest training in nutrition.

Since then Chris has been blessed to continue his education with amazing health experts throughout this country, and on his journeys in India, Nepal, and China.

Chris is a Holistic Clinical Herbalist, practitioner, educator, and researcher who integrates modern research with traditional wisdom.

Chris’s primary current inspirations and research are in Traditional Herbalism, Functional Medicine, Evolutionary/Ancestral health, Neurohacking, and Holistic Lifestyle Optimization.

Chris’s passion is to empower others to learn the most effective ways of bringing forth their deep healing potential with a holistic approach that includes medicinal herbs, vital food, mind-body practices, and lifestyle optimization.

His specialization is auto-immunity, inflammatory diseases of the GI tract, and optimized health.

Hanna Jordan

LCSW, Educator, Founder, Clinical Faculty, Mind-Body Curriculum Director

Hanna is a licensed psychotherapist, herbalist, educator, and licensed Heartmath trainer. She has been supporting clients on their healing journeys since 2004.

Her passion is supporting and guiding people to align with their deepest potential and fulfillment in life, health, work, relationships, and spirituality. She is a licensed psychotherapist specializing in stress management, overcoming limiting emotional patterns, and healing trauma. She uses mindfulness practices, complemented by heart-mind connection.

She is deeply inspired and influenced by the connections between the ancient healing traditions from around the world, integrated with cutting-edge advances in neuroscience, epigenetics, the gut-brain connection and the healing power of plants.

She particularly enjoys bringing passion, humor, and inspiration to empower people to take charge of their health to become active architects in the creative unfolding of their lives. She envisions a future in which herbal education continues to evolve in its ability to embrace the wisdom of many and diverse healing traditions – a future in which the herbal literacy of ‘the people’ is once again restored.

Hanna is also a licensed Heartmath and teaches stress resilience, heart-brain coherence to increase optimal performance, immune and hormonal health, intuition, creativity, and focus.

Paul Bergner

Registered Herbalist AHG , Instructor, Clinical Faculty

Director of North American Institute of Medical Herbalism

Paul has studied and practiced natural medicine since 1973, with formal studies in naturopathy, medical herbalism, clinical nutrition, traditional Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, flower essences, yoga therapy, and bodywork, including undergraduate studies in pre-medicine and psychology, and 50 semester hours of doctoral level medical studies at National College of Naturopathic Medicine. He has edited the Medical Herbalism journal since its founding in 1989, and has written seven books on medical herbalism, nutrition, Chinese medicine, ethnobotany, and naturopathic medicine. He has also edited periodicals on clinical nutrition and naturopathic medicine.

Paul has taught clinical herbalism and clinical nutrition since 1989. He has mentored students in residencies at teaching clinics at schools in Boulder, CO from 1996 to the present, training more than 260 students through these programs. He has also taught clinical nutrition academically at both the undergraduate university and master’s level. He is a frequent speaker at conferences on herbalism and natural medicine in North America and internationally, and is a professional member of the American Herbalists Guild.

Jillian Stansbury

ND, AHG Instructor

Dr. Jillian Stansbury is a naturopathic physician, and herbalist who has practiced in SW Washington for over 25 years specializing in women’s health, mental emotional health, and chronic disease. She holds undergraduate degrees in Medical Illustration and Medical Assisting and graduated with honors in both programs. Dr. Stansbury was also a long time Chair of the Botanical Medicine Program at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine and remains on the faculty teaching Botanical Medicine and Natural Products Chemistry.

In addition to her medical practice and teaching position, Dr. Stansbury also writes and serves as a consultant and medical editor for numerous professional journals and organizations, plus teaches natural products chemistry and herbal medicine around the country and abroad.

Dr. Stansbury is an ethnobotanist and outdoor enthusiast and leads Ethnobotany field courses in the Andes and Manu region of the Peruvian Amazon each July. She has built a humble home in Cuzco and hosts studies in cultural anthropology, oral history collection, ethnobotany, and the mystical and healing traditions with four different tribal communities. She is presently documenting and organizing traditional ethnobotanical wisdom in order to give it back to the various tribes when the time is right.

Elise Krohn

M.Ed. Instructor, Roots Program Academic Co-director

Elise Krohn, M.Ed. is an educator, author, herbalist, and native foods specialist in Olympia, WA. She is committed to cultivating healing relationships between people, plants, place and cultural traditions. During her 20 years of experience teaching in Native American tribal communities, she has worked with elders and cultural specialists to create successful community gardens, food sovereignty resources, a program on healing addiction, and curricula on chronic disease prevention. Through leading ‘train the trainers’ workshops, Elise also has over 10 years of experience as a clinical herbalist, and has authored four books and numerous articles on this and related topics. She is the Wild Foods and Medicines Program director at Garden Raised Bounty (GRuB). Her blog can be found at

Nome McBride


Nome McBride is an herbalist, musician, educator, and ceremonialist. He lives in the Columbia Gorge with his son where they enjoy the beautiful Pacific NW. Nome is the Co-Founder and owner of American Herbal Dispensary, Inc. and the formulator of its product line, Pharmacopia Herbals Nome has been teaching throughout the region for many years at conferences, private herbal schools, colleges, and universities. His products have supplied the finest herb retailers, manufacturers, and natural physicians in the country for over 10 years. Besides overseeing the product line, he guides people deep into the Peruvian Amazon at his retreat center Los Cielos. Nome is honored to share the sacred medicine of the healing powers of nature wherever he goes.

Talia Hammond


Talia’s love of herbalism and plants has been passed down to her ancestrally and she was raised on a farm in Iowa built by her great great grandfather, and spent her childhood summers snapping beans and pulling weeds. After years of holistic herbal and nutritional self study, she attended Vital Ways Institute in Portland, Oregon where she continued to expand and enrich her knowledge. Talia & her husband own and operate a 12.5 acre certified organic herb farm and a vegetable CSA in the beautiful Columbia Gorge, in Washington. In addition to being active in holistic health, farming, and herbalism, Talia is a passionate winemaker at Aniche Winemakers.

Kathryn Kloos

ND Adjunct Faculty

Dr. Kathryn Kloos is a naturopathic physician, herbalist, educator and ceremonialist dedicated to helping people born with uteruses and ovaries access their innate healing power within. She has a busy naturopathic practice in Portland, Oregon where she works with medicinal herbs, nutrition, Arvigo Techniques of Maya Abdominal massage and pelvic floor therapy. Kathryn has a passion for helping patients find physical and emotional balance from conditions such as chronic pelvic pain, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, infertility and pelvic floor imbalance. Kathryn utilizes multiple modalities, including herbalism, that accentuate and transcend her naturopathic training. At home, Kathryn enjoys walks in the forest, gardening, ceremony, and spending time with her two sons and her husband, herbalist Scott Kloos.

Aran Osborne

MS, Adjunct Faculty

Aran is a queer, transgender, and two-spirit(ed) being, of Irish, English and Anishinabek decent, currently living in Coast Salish and Duwamish traditional territories. A mechanical engineer by trade, Aran has been working with plant medicine through the teachings of his elders and ancestors for many years. He came to Vital Ways Institute to expand his knowledge and love of herbal medicine in the hopes of serving and giving back to his communities. He has worked with a variety of people with diverse health goals, and his passion and primary focus is supporting trans people through all forms of transition and in all aspects of physical, spiritual and mental health. Aran sees a specific need for herbal and holistic support in trans communities and seeks to contribute to the body of knowledge specific to trans health care. Aran is honored to be an adjunct instructor and member of the holistic herbal community at Vital Ways.

We are located in the very lively NE Alberta Arts district at 2714 NE Alberta street, surrounded by food, art galleries, cute unique shops, coffee houses and true Portland culture.

Phone: 503.914.7908