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//What is Vital Ways?

What is Vital Ways?


It is a School,

1-4 years long, where students gather for 1 weekend per month, for 8 or 9 months, to learn a holistic healing method that integrates Traditional and Modern Herbalism, Body-Positive Individualized Nutrition and the Cutting Edge of Modern Holistic Lifestyle Medicine.   The classes are taught by passionate, highly experienced educators that are nationally renowned for their approaches to healing and their efficacy as educators.


Each program can be taken as a stand-alone course, or as part of our Holistic Clinical Practitioner Sequence, culminating in a Practicum where Student Clinicians serve the public in our Community 100% Free Clinic and each program has an optional Health Coaching Certificate Add-on which includes mentorship and business training.


Classes at Vital Ways integrate Traditional Healing Wisdom from ancient healers, with the most modern interdisciplinary holistic health information from science and clinical practice.  With this synergy of knowledge and wisdom, students develop the skills to be able to address complex presentations effectively.  Our classes are diverse, dynamic, and experiential to ensure that each student is guided and empowered to understand holistic herbal healing both intellectually and experientially.


At Vital Ways, students learn an entire method of practice that focuses on nutrition, herbalism, and holistic lifestyle.   The holistic curriculum at Vital Ways emphasizes not just addressing symptoms but also on resolving root causes and facilitating vibrant health for the whole person, mind, body and spirit. Since a person’s health is influenced by numerous things including history, food, and lifestyle, we teach students how to guide others to be healthy by working with each of these.


Our focus at Vital Ways is to guide students to learn the essential skills, knowledge and experience necessary to help themselves, their loved ones and the community heal by going beyond treatment and intervention approaches to understanding whole person healing.

It is a Public Apothecary.

Our public apothecary provides information, guidance, herbs and supplements to the community.   Our apprentices in our Apothecary are students, who have the ability to gain valuable skills helping the public.  We often hear back from patrons, even years later, telling us that what they learned in our Apothecary from our student apprentices changed their lives.

The apprentices help others as they gain Health Coaching hours which count for national certification.

Our mission at the Apothecary, which is shared by the entire program, is to help others achieve their vibrant health goals.  As our Apothecary is a part of our center and so is not dependent on sales to be sustained, we’re very fortunate to be able to transcend retail store pressure and instead focus on fulfilling the Center mission by offering education and guidance to patrons. In fact, when assisting the community, we are just as likely to share valuable health information and resources for free rather than sell them any products.  In addition, each person staffing the Apothecary is well trained in holistic herbalism, and a practitioner or advanced student.  The Apothecary is also a training environment, a place where newer students of the program can apprentice to further hone their skills.


It is a Free Community Clinic

Our 3rd and 4th year students are Community Free Clinic Student Practitioners. Under the guidance of our clinic faculty, clinic students help those in the community who are seeking guidance to address chronic health conditions.  The work being done in our Free Clinic by our Clinic Practicum students has served as an important healing resource for many people who would otherwise go without effective health care.  We believe that offering 100% free chronic condition care to the community is an honor, a privilege, and a responsibility.  We are very proud of our 3rd and 4th year students who have done such amazing work through their dedication and commitment to effective holistic health care and the community.


Vital Ways is also a Public Education Center

that offers multiple short-term public classes on subjects ranging from Holistic Approaches to Stress and Adaptogens, to Holistic Herbal Approaches to IBS, to Detoxification, Nutrition and Mushroom and Plant Field Walks. Classes are offered throughout the year, and each class, except the walks, can be taken not just in-person, but online, and recorded for future viewing. To hear about classes being offered, you can join our monthly newsletter list here: https://www.portlandherbalschool.com/mailing-list/

Lastly, Vital Ways is a Community

of like-minded faculty, students, staff, alumni, and patrons who gather in multiple ways including classes, events and informally to share effective holistic healing, inspiration, support and laughs.   With our shared view of health as a positive state of vibrancy, not just an absence of symptoms, we have a perspective and interests that in modern times can be socially isolating.  So, having the support of a like-minded group of inspiring people who are on a similar path, is an invaluable benefit that helps us all as we strive to achieve a healthy mind, body and spirit.


With our extensive class offerings, programming, clinic, apothecary and community, we have multiple ways to get involved. If you feel called to learn more, or become a part of our vibrant community we welcome you to  join us in any of our offerings.  And we welcome collaborations too, so if you think that that you offer, a class or product or skill  that you think might be a harmonious fit to what we’re doing, then please reach out, we’d love to hear from you.

Until we see you next, we wish you clarity and success on your path to healing.

Vital Ways Director and Your Friend on the Path,

Christopher Smaka



About the Author:

Christopher is the Founder and Director of Vital Ways Institute and has been a lover of nature since birth, and a researcher of nature since 1986. He believes that humans have incredibly potential to be healthy and thrive even in the modern world. The main causes for disease and health, are found in a concept he developed, called the Vital 5, History,Nutrition, Lifestyle, Environment and Mindset.