Become a Skilled Holistic Herbalist
In this 8 month, 1-weekend per month program

 Begins May,  2021


The Roots Holistic Herbalist Training program teaches you how to be a holistic herbalist and use the healing power of plants to heal yourself and your loved ones.  You’ll learn  traditional and modern use of medicinal plants, wild plant identification, essentials of nutrition, stress management, herbal formulation, medicine making and tongue and pulse analysis. 

The Roots Holistic Herbalist Certificate program is a complete Community Herbalist Training.

The comprehensive holistic herbal skills and wisdom that you gain at Vital Ways Institute are a complete method of healing, and can be the foundation for Advanced study in the second year of the clinical herbalist’s program.  The training you receive is based on an integration of Traditional Herbal Wisdom, with the cutting edge of modern herbal research.

Vital Ways Institute is a multi-year Holistic Herbalism School and Education Center, Free Community Clinic and Apothecary in Portland, Oregon, that has trained over 750 people over the past 10 years.  We have programs of study ranging from 1-4 years for people of all skill levels, from beginners to advanced practitioners.  

Our accomplished and highly experienced faculty are passionate about herbalism, holistic health and guiding you to become an herbal healer. Our programs have flexible schedules to fit modern people’s busy lives, are priced to fit most budgets and we have a vibrant and inspiring online and in-person student community.

Vital Ways Herbalism Training

“This class changed me from the inside-out. I never dreamed I could make such progress so quickly. I achieved permanent results and gained knowledge that will last me a lifetime. “

Vital Ways Institute Health Coaching Certification

“I received an amazing education at Vital Ways that gave me new perspectives, and abilities with herbs and mental-emotional healing. Chris and the rest of the educators have the deepest integrity for healing and led the way with their commitment and passion for holistic health. I couldn’t be more thankful that I found, and was able to attend this program.”


Specific Topics of Study:


Christopher Smaka

Christopher Smaka is the owner and director of the Vital Ways Center for Holistic Herbalism, a 1-3 year Holistic Clinical Herbalist School, Community Free Clinic, and The Herbal Apothecary, a community based herb store. He has been fortunate to study herbalism and holistic health since 1995 with amazing educators in the US and on in his travels in India, China and Nepal. In his clinical practice, Chris combines traditional herbalism with modern advancements in holistic health, from nutrition, functional medicine and mind-body medicine to provide a comprehensive approach to healing. In his spare time, he is most likely to be found in the woods with his Siberian husky, sitting on a bed of moss, stooped over a patch of colorful fungi, field lens in hand.

Elise Krohn

Elise Krohn, M.Ed. is an educator, author, herbalist, and native foods specialist living in the Northwest. During her 15 years of experience teaching in tribal communities, she has worked with elders and cultural specialists to develop community gardens, food sovereignty resources, a program on healing addiction, and curricula on chronic disease prevention. She also has over 10 years of experience as a clinical herbalist, and has authored two books and numerous articles on herbal medicine and wild foods. Elise is currently a Fellow in Ethnobotany and Ethnonutrition at the Center for World Indigenous Studies. 

Vital Ways Instructors Health Coach Certification

2021 Schedule

Class Dates and Times

One Saturday and Sunday per month 

10:00AM – 5:00PM

May 22,23

June 12, 13

July 17,18

August 14,15

September   18,19

October 16,17

November 13,14

December 4,5


None-This program is for people with no prior experience, and for those with experience looking to broaden and deepen their holistic herbalist skills.


$2100 includes all supplies and materials

“My time at Vital Ways deepened my understanding of holistic health and nutrition, and taught me how to use medicinal plants in a powerful way. It also gave me a sense of connection and fostered deep personal growth that I didn’t expect. It was a truly transformative journey, that I am eternally grateful for.”

Vital Ways School of Holistic Nutrition and Clinical Nutrition Health Coaching Certification

Vital Ways is a Proud Member School of the American Herbalist Guild, the only professional organization of Herbalists in the United States.  All of our students can become student members of the Guild and all of our coursework counts towards the requirements for professional membership which confers upon its members the ability to use AHG after their names.

Yes, that’s exactly what Vital Ways teaches. We educate people on how to use medicinal plants for healing, in a holistic way, that includes natural living, nutrition, and mental emotional health.

Yes, The Roots Holistic Herbalist Training Program was created specifically for people with less time and who don’t want to invest a lot of resources. It has a flexible, part time, once monthly weekend schedule, is very reasonably priced, and still teaches comprehensive and thorough holistic herbalism.


We created our classes to be a diverse, engaging and balanced educational experience so that our students were constantly learning, and evolving their abilities and skills. Our dynamic classes engage our herbal students in many different activities to ensure that learning is maximized, and students are never bored. We place significant emphasis on learning things first hand so that our herbal students acquire a significant amount of real world experience with herbs, nutrition, tongue and pulse evaluation, medicine making, and more.



We spend 25% of our time in the field, in the beautiful forests, fields and mountains. In addition, we take regular breaks from our classroom activities to go on local herb forays in the city or to nearby parks.


We completely agree that holistic health’s lack of oversight has created an environment where it can be hard to know what to trust. We take the responsibility of providing trustworthy, efficacious and safe holistic health information extremely seriously. Our faculty only teach things that we’ve learned and vetted from our own in depth research, and training, and our extensive clinical experiences. Our student’s safety, and that of those they help, is always top priority. To that end, we feature herbal safety classes including toxic plant ID, pharmaceuticals-herb interactions, and research methodologies.



Between classes students continue to grow and develop their skills on their own schedule with a guided homework assignment that reinforces what was learned in class and prepares them for the upcoming class. In addition, for those with extra time, there are many opportunities to do more, by participating in our online message board, attending events at the school, apprenticing in the Apothecary, and having a clinic appointment. Students also regularly organize study groups, go on plant walks outside of class, and get together for medicine making gatherings or library usage at the school. Though all that is necessary is covered in class and in homework, there are lots of opportunities for more involvement for those interested.

Our vibrant and inspiring school community is a great place to meet and connect with amazing like-minded people. Many friendships are fostered and connections are made in the school that continue to last after graduation. We believe that support and inspiration from connection to like-minded health conscious individuals is another of the transformative aspects of Vital Ways. For people wanting to develop friendships and benefit from community there are ample opportunities in the school, center and apothecary.


Both programs cover very similar content but the Roots program is more affordable, has fewer days in class, and has fewer instructors. Both programs offer students a dynamic, and extensive introduction to all the fundamental aspects of holistic herbalism.

At Vital Ways, we’ve seen that proper nutrition is an essential part of holistic health. Herbalists trained at Vital Ways are given an extensive nutrition skillset and toolkit, that is based on the most useful and latest information that has been tested in our clinics and practices.


Yes! About ¼ of Roots Program students go into the Advanced Herbalist Training Program, to deepen their holistic herbalism skills. And after the Advanced Course, they can become a Clinical Herbalist Student Practitioner in the Free Clinic.



Our Location

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