Depression and Anxiety- Healing Starts in the Kitchen



Its late summer moving into fall here in Portland.  The skies are turning darker.  The trees are embracing the dying time.  The chlorophyl that gives leaves their rich green color is breaking down as deep auburn and yellow hues take over.  Its getting close to the time to start the first fire, to lay the first logs in the stove and heat myself from douglas fir and maple. The ritual of the dying leaves and gathering wood for heat and cooking has been going on for tens of thousands of years.  The deep summer hot days and cold nights remind us to take stock, to get ready and prepare.


IMG_5147 - Version 2

My wood stove is kin to the fire place hearth and the open air fires that have been the center of life for humans in northern country for millennia. The hearth is not only where we can stay warm but also where our meals are cooked and herbal medicine has been prepared historically.  This is where we make symbiotic connection to plants-  where we transmute them from leaves, roots, flowers into nourishing sustenance- elixirs to soothe and strengthen, stimulate and repair.  The stove, hearth and kitchen are the alchemical vessels for transformation.


In the modern world we have left that realm and consider the kitchen a place to quickly get a meal, prepared as fast as possible except for the occasional “fancy meal.”  We definitely don’t think of it as the prime medical station, the holy ground for healing our pain and anxiety, our exhaustion and depression.  But the kitchen and the plants that are stocked in the cupboards are there to help us to change- literally. They are there to transform us biochemically and energetically, to remold us if we are ready.


When I talk to my clients I try and gently remind them of this holy relationship to the hearth and the kitchen, the essential importance of tending the fire.  Before meditating, before going to the gym, before buying the self-help books,  our first priority should be the fire, hearth and kitchen.


Whatever the ailment, whatever the sorrow-  plants in the form of vegetables, fruits, grains and meat that came from plant eating animals-  have a way of bringing us through the pain.   When we eat healing broths, soups, and take in nourishing herbal infusions, we are symbiotically interweaving with the plant world and inviting plants to be our medicine.  We have increasingly lost contact with the importance of this sacred rite, this holy ritual of merging body and botany.



To make tonic herb infused chicken bone broth:


Chicken bone broth with tonic herbs  is an incredible base for making soups and is a core kitchen medicine for healing physical and emotional complaints.  Broth made in this way will build “Jing”, a Chinese term for our essential reserve of energy.  When we are overworked, stressed and eating a poor diet with not enough sleep we use up this essential jing.  Deeply nourishing broth made from the marrow of bones and tonic herbs repairs this essential debt.    Here is a recipe for making up some of this healing elixir.



Cook up a whole organic chicken and then take the leftover bones and and place them in a cook pot with some nourishing herbs and fill the pot with filtered water to just over the top of  the chicken bones.



Goji Berries

Goji Berries


6 astragalus sticks (immune system and energy tonic)

12 Shitaki mushrooms (immunomodulating and cancer fighting)

two tablespoons of Goji berries (rich in antioxidants, strengthens the immune system)

A couple ounces of codonopsis herb (strengthens vitality, digestion, immunity).



You can buy all these herbs from the bulk herbs and spices section of Mountain Rose Herbs where you can be sure they are sourced from organic farms.


Let this broth come to a boil and then simmer for several hours.    Then afterwards, remove the broth and discard the bones and herbs.  Freeze this as stock and make delicious soup from the base.



Turmeric Chicken Vegetable Soup:IMG_2055 - Version 2


4 Carrots

1 medium onion

1 medium beet

1 small squash

10 green beans

2 cloves garlic


1 tablespoon of coconut oil


1 tablespoon of turmeric (whole if possible)

4 bay leaves

Sea salt and pepper to taste


2 cups chopped up chicken.


Chop up the vegetables and sautee them in a pan with coconut oil  Add spices until lightly sautéed and then add vegetables with the chicken to a pot.  Then fill up the pot with chicken broth until its just over the top of the meat and vegetables.  Warm up and simmer for 40 minutes.  Add more sea salt to taste.   Enjoy!




IMG_4615This article written by Jon Keyes, Licensed Professional Counselor and  herbalist.  For more articles like this, please go to


You can also find me at the Facebook group Herbs for Mental Health.

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  1. Jennifer Marino says:

    Dear Jon,

    My name is Jennifer and I am a health supportive chef, focusing on plant-based foods as well as traditional Chinese therapeutic foods (5 Element). I have done healing dinners with Michael Baker of Blue Voice Enterprises, which is a social exchange collective (he is the one who told me about you). I have cooked for Heather Schrock’s clients of Amenda Clinic, which is the only wellness clinic dedicated to mental healthcare.

    I am passionate about food and herbs-as medicine, particularly in the treatment of mental health, particularly in post-traumatic growth. For 4 years, I managed a gluten free
    Eating and breaking bread with others has healing capacities beyond almost anything we are able to quantify. The kitchen has helped me move qi and emotions and has been a path to relief. I have combined my culinary passion and experience and background in mental healthcare, to prepare and teach others to heal, through cooking and eating. Regarding the activity of cooking, through a therapy known as behavioral activation, clients can receive a boost in positive activity, which increases goal-oriented behavior and curbs procrastination and passivity. I have taught these skills to clients and counselors in a community mental healthcare setting, celebrating the therapeutic effects of food as well as promoting wellness in the workplace. I fought hard to gain resources to have a nutritionist hired within this setting. So far, I have lost.
    It has been rewarding supporting the support structures, helping those who care and counsel, including nurses, caregivers and counselors, helping them protect their vital energy, as well as overcome compassion fatigue and to carefully explore the textures of their own suffering, through food-as-medicine.

    One of my pet projects has been collaborating with acupuncturists to cook foods rooted in traditional Chinese medicine. I have tried to cook for their clients, specifically focusing on elimination diet as well as eating according to the 5 elements. Many naturopaths’ clients are shy to commit and dedicate themselves to receiving these services and I want to get your feedback as to how I can get more involved in becoming a part of a wellness team as a health coach and client-specific tcm chef, focusing on mental health.

    I am at a transitional point in my career and you and I have much in common. It would be helpful to have a conversation, with you, around these topics.

    In gratitude,
    Jennifer Marino

    • Lee Collins says:


      Would you please send me an email; I read your post and am interested in your work.

      Lee Collins

  2. hearthside says:

    Hey thanks for your good words Jennifer- let me contact you by email…:)

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