Lymphatic drainage is essential in our body’s ability to remove waste from throughout the body and maintain a healthy immune response. Lymph is a fluid that is made from interstitial fluids that collect between the cells. In our bodies, interstitial fluid is not static; rather it pulsates like a gentle ocean wave washing over cells and taking away metabolic waste. The Lymphatic system is often referred to as the ‘back alleyway’ of our bodies because of its important role in removing waste through a myriad of small vessels that span miles in our bodies.
In Chinese medicine, lymphatic congestion is viewed as Phlegm-Damp congestion, and herbs that drain Dampness are indicated. There are herbs and essential oils that target the lymph nodes directly and stimulate lymph fluid drainage. These herbs tend to be Cool in nature according to TCM, and should not be used consistently for more than a few months.
Lymph Nodes Explained
Lymph nodes produce lymphocytes, which are white blood cells that fight infection; this is one of the reasons that maintaining a healthy lymphatic system is so closely related to maintaining a healthy immune response. Most of us have felt our lymph nodes swell on the onset of a virus which occurs when the lymph nodes increase production of white blood cells to combat infections.
The lymphatic system does not contain its own pump, and relies on the compression from muscles and other modes to circulate lymph fluid and congestion that may occur in the soft lymph node structures themselves. This is one of the reasons that physical activity is so important in maintaining lymphatic circulation. Additionally, blood circulation throughout the body helps to stimulate lymph flow as well.
Self-Lymphatic Drainage Massage
In addition to exercise, the lymph nodes and surrounding areas can be gently massaged with Lymph Cream that contains pure essential oils that stimulate lymphatic drainage such as lemongrass, clary sage, basil, grapefruit, fennel, cypress, and cedarwood . In Chinese medicine, we typically use a clockwise circular motion to stimulate drainage and this can easily be done by individuals with gentle pressure and circular movements around the neck, armpits, groin area, and center of the chest and abdomen.
Lymph Node Removal or Damage
One of the more common reasons for lymphatic congestion is surgical trauma and removal of the lymph nodes; this often occurs in cases of breast cancer and mastectomy. Radiation treatments related to breast cancer can also compromise the lymph system, and there are many other traumatic events that can lead to lymph stagnation. This is when herbal support that includes herbs that help to stimulate lymph drainage is critically important to prevent buildup of toxins in the lymph nodes.
Leg Lymphedema and Chinese Herbs
Lymphedema of the legs is most common in the elderly and is typically related to poor blood circulation, as the blood pumping through the veins helps to move the lymph. Increasing blood circulation through exercise and herbal therapy is critical in preventing further debilitating conditions including skin ulceration and functional deterioration of the limbs.
Lymph Node Infections and Inflammation
If toxins are not properly drained from the lymph nodes they can accumulate and cause an infection. This type of condition should be attended to through your local health care provider such as your licensed acupuncturist who is also trained in herbalism. They will likely prescribe herbs that clear Fire-Toxins such as indigo.
Diseases of many of the organs can have an impact on surrounding lymph nodes. HIV infection, tuberculosis, and cancers can impact the entire lymphatic system. It becomes very clear that a healthy lymphatic system is crucial for our overall health and can have an impact on our immune system functions. It becomes even more evident when considering that the lymphatic system also includes the tonsils, adenoids, spleen, and thymus.