Tonic Herbalism: Pathway to Healing Anxiety and Depression



These days its quite common for people to head to their local health food store in search of remedies for depression.  One of the leading sellers is St. John’s Wort, a good herb that is unlikely to single handedly solve cases of depression, especially when taken in capsules with small amounts of old herb that are unlikely to have a lot of potency.    In places like China and India there is a long history of helping people with depression by offering tonic strengthening herbs, often in tea form or as part of their daily diet.

Tonic herbalism is a deeply important form of healing emotional distress that addresses underlying root issues such as malnourishment and poor stress responses in the body.  In the modern world we are often deeply undernourished due to a poor diet filled with processed foods, caffeine and sugar consumption and a stressful lifestyle that gives us little time to rest and replenish ourselves.  Tonic herbalism is only really helpful for people with depression if it is paired with making dietary and lifestyle changes that support increased wellness.


So what is tonic herbalism and how can you incorporate it into your life?


Tonic herbalism is about using the highest quality most nutrient dense and strengthening herbs found on the planet for strengthening your system so that you feel less depressed and anxious and have fuller vitality and emotional balance in your life.  The key difference between tonic herbalism and most forms of herbalism is dosage.  Tonic herbalism promotes much larger doses of herbs than most people are normally accustomed to. That means that often each formula calls for 1-3 ounces of herb or about 30-90 grams.  Compare that to tincture dosages that are often just 1-2 grams a dose or most teas that suggest no more than 5 grams of an herb.


These are big doses of herbs and that means some of the herbs taste stronger and for some people that is a turn off.  Think of it as an acquired taste and enjoy the incredible benefits of incorporating tonic herbalism into your daily life.


Start by purchasing whole tonic herbs that you can include in your everyday teas, soups and stews.  Below is a partial list of some of the best herbs to have on hand.  The prices and the links are to Mt. Rose herbs (No affiliation- their quality is just top notch.)



Tonic Herbs






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Schizandra-  Strengthens energy, powerful anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, improves libido, improves cognitive skills, concentration,endurance, liver protective

4 oz.  $6.25 






Ashwaghanda-  strengthens immune system, improves memory, reduces anxiety, lowers cholesterol, anti-inflammatory. strengthens libido.

4 oz.  4.50$



Nettle leaf-  Deeply nutrient rich with high levels of iron, calcium, B vitamins and potassium along withhigh levels of chlorophyl.  Easily assimilable vitamins and minerals when taken in tea form.

4 oz. – 4.25$





Astragalus-  Strengthens immune system, digestion, improves absorption and assimilation, improves energy, vitality, gentle, restorative

4 oz.  – 5.50$



Burdock-  High in immune enhancing inulin polysacharides that strengthen nutrient absorption, controls blood sugars and improve gut bacterial health.  Also high in nutrients and improves digestive and hepatic metabolism

4 oz.-  5.00$




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Goji Berries- strengthen immune system, improve energy levels, reduces high blood pressure and cholesterol levels, anti-tumoral, anti-oxidant

4 oz. 7.50$ 






Fo-ti-  Rejuvenates nerves, brain cells, endocrine glands, strengthens immune system, reduces high blood pressure, improves libido, anti-tumoral properties.  Caution for those with liver problems.

4 oz.- 4.50$



Eleuthero-  gentle strengthening tonic, improves ability to adapt to stress, improves energy, concentration, enhances immune function, libido, anti-tumoral, hypotensive, reduces nervous fatigue.

4 oz.-  4.50$




Codonopsis-  “Poor mans Ginseng”, useful for reducing stomach pain and ulcers, lowering blood prerssure, improves digestive metabolism, enhances immune function, anti-tumoral, reduces anxiety and depression.

4 oz-  10$






Licorice-  nice sweet anti-inflammatory, helps with digestion, ulcers, leaky gut, pain relief, sore throats, adrenal fatigue and  improves immune function.

4 oz.-  4.50$



Oatstraw-  Highly nutrient rich herb strong in vitamins A, numerous B vitamins, vitamin C and many minerals including high amounts of calcium.  Helps restore the nervous system after it has been depleted.  For someone who is “tired and wired.”

4 oz-  4.50$



Red Clover-  Gentle herb high in phytoestrogens helpful for hot flashes, PMS and menopause and also very high in vitamins and minerals and isofalvones that help protect bone health.  Anti-tumoral.

4 oz.  – 4.50$ 


OK so how do you use these herbs once you have them in your pantry?  Here are a few recipes for some great healing tonic drinks:







Berry Tonic:  Schizandra, Goji Berries, Eleuthero.

Take 1/2 ounce (approx 2 tbsp.) each of these herbs and add them to a pot with a quart of water.  Boil the water and then allow to steep for 45 minutes.  Then strain out the herb and drink.  Improves hepatic function, eyesight, cognition, immunity and enhances libido.



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Mineral Infusion nourishing tonic:  Nettles, Oatstraw or Red Clover.

Take one of these herbs and add a full cup of the herb (one ounce) to a quart jar.  Then add hot water to the top and let it steep overnight.  The longer it steeps, the greater amount of nutrients extracted into the water.  In the morning, strain out the herb and drink the tea throughout the day.







Calming Ashwaghanda milk: 

Take 1/2 ounce (2 tbsp.) of ashwaghanda and add a cup of water and bring it to a boil and then let it simmer for 30 minutes.  Then strain out the herb and add a half cup of milk to the tea.  Warm up gently and then sip a couple hours before bed time.  Great for strengthening vitality, improving sleep quality, and reducing insomnia.



Longevity Formula:  Astragalus, codonopsis, schizandra, fo-ti and licorice.

This is a strong tonic combination that is deeply strengthening, blood building, immune enhancing, anti-inflammatory, strengthening to digestive metabolism and decreases depression and anxiety.

Take a half ounce (2 tbsp.) of each and just a teaspoon of licorice and place in pot with a quart of water.  Bring to a boil and let it simmer for 45 minutes.  Then strain out the herb and drink.



Stomach healing formula:  Codonopsis, ginger and licorice.

A lot of our poor energy is related to poor digestion and inflammation in the gut.   This formula will help heal the gut and also improve your energy and vitality.  Take an ounce of codonopsis (1/4 cup) with a teaspoon of ginger and a teaspoon of licorice.  Add to a pint of water and then bring to a boil.  Simmer for 30 minutes and then decant herb and drink.


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Super Tonic Herb infused Bone Broth-  Astragalus, codonopsis, seaweed, shitake and maitake mushrooms.

Add a half ounce (2 tbsp) of astragalus, a half ounce (2 tbsp.) of codonopsis, a small amount of seaweed, and 5-10 shitake and maitake mushrooms while you are making bone broth.  This will deeply strengthen your broth stock and improve immune function, vitality and reduce nervous system exhaustion.  Add this stock to nourishing soups with plenty of vegetables.






Deep Blood strengthener:   Astragalus, fo-ti, burdock, with licorice

For those who are feeling weak, feeble with signs of paleness, exhaustion and fatigue.  Take one ounce (8 sticks) astragalus, one ounce (1/4 cup) fo-ti, one one ounce (1/4 cup) burdock with a teaspoon of licorice.  Add to a quart  of water and bring to a boil and then let it simmer for 45 minutes.  Strain herb and drink.





The modern world is deeply stressful and we are often malnourished due to poor diet, toxic chemicals and drugs, lack of sleep and poor lifestyle choices.  While trying to improve these areas of our life, it can be key to add herbs that are strengthening and nourishing.  This is a brief guide to some formulas that can help improve vitality, reduce depression and anxiety  and strengthen the whole system so that one can live optimally.





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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    I’d really love to be a part of group where I can get advice from other knowledgeable people that share
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  2. Tonic Herbalism: Pathway to Healing Anxiety and Depression

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