Emily Ruff, Executive Director of the Florida School of Holistic Living, and founder of the Florida Herbal Conference, 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 which 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 has formed the Herbal Action Network to continue weaving the web of compassionate herbalism into community engagement. Her most recent work has taken her to Cannonball, North Dakota where she served with the Standing Rock Medic & Healer Council.
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.
Follow Emily’s herbal adventures and find an archive of her published work at this website.
“I am humbled to hold space for our community to develop deeper relationships with each other and with nature. I am honored and delighted to pass forward the teachings that have been shared with me, honoring our elders and all our relations, in service to the planet.”
Events and venues around the country have welcomed Emily’s teachings, including:
Winter Park Public Library
Orange County Public Library
University of Central Florida
Valencia Community College
Florida Native Plant Society
Central Florida Veg Fest
Central Florida Earth Day
Winter Park Harvest Festival
Winter Park Garden Club
National Gardening School (2013, 2014)
Mead Botanical Garden (various events 2010-present)
Florida Federation of Garden Clubs Annual Meeting (2014)
Medicines from the Edge (2015)
Florida Wildflower Symposium (2015)
Sage Mountain Herbal Retreat Center (Ecstasy of Teaching Herbal Teacher Training – 2014, 2015)
New England Women’s Herbal Conference (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
Southeast Women’s Herbal Conference (2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017)
International Herb Symposium (2015, 2017)
Heartwood Gathering, Canada (keynote) (2017)
Plants Beyond Limits, University of Central Florida (keynote) (2017)