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TAKE CARE OF YOUR LYMPHATIC SYSTEM

The lymphatic system is a vital part of the immune system. It acts as the body’s ‘sewerage system’ to eliminate waste and toxins from cells and control the flow of bacteria fighting immune cells throughout the body. It includes nodes, vessels, ducts and organs such as the thymus, bone marrow, spleen, tonsils, appendix and Peyer patches in the small intestine that produce and process specialised white blood cells that fight infection and cancer. Keeping the lymphatic system healthy is crucial for detoxification, immunity and overall health.

While there are many variables to keep in mind when it comes to maintaining a healthy lymphatic system, such as diet, exercise and sleep patterns, the essential step to sustaining lymph health is promoting lymphatic drainage. When the lymphatic system becomes congested lymph nodes swell, and lymphatic drainage becomes sluggish, which greatly impacts immune system surveillance and the removal of waste products (by-products of metabolism) from body tissues and the circulation.

Lymphatic herbs are a special type of alterative, which is a herb that supports the elimination pathways of the body. Lymphatic herbs move congested lymph by improving the flow of lymphatic fluid or increasing lymphatic drainage (detoxification). Thus these herbs play a vital role in helping the body fight infection and relieve inflammation, swollen glands and oedema (i.e. an accumulation of interstitial fluids), while supporting the health of the body as a whole. They can be used to shrink swollen lymph glands and benign cysts.

Some lymphatic herbs are:

Calendula (Calendula officinalis): Calendula is a gentle lymphatic drainage remedy which is used for stagnant lymph conditions such as swollen glands, breast cysts, pelvic cysts and intestinal bloating. Matthew Wood says it is specific for “those places where the sun don’t shine,” such as the armpits, the nodes along the neck and the groin region. Sajah Popham, author of Evolutionary Herbalism and founder of The School of Evolutionary Herbalism in America, says calendula is beneficial in cases where the acute cough, cold, flu or infection has passed but there is a lingering after effect of the sickness, where the person does not feel better, perhaps with low grade fever and lymphatic congestion.

Clivers (Galium aparine): Legendary medical herbalist David Hoffman says clivers “is perhaps the best tonic to the lymphatic system available.” As a prime cleansing remedy clivers aids in the elimination of waste by gently moving the lymph. It is therefore one of the most important remedies for swollen lymph glands including tonsils or swollen glands in the armpits, breasts and groin.

Poke root (Phytolacca americana): Poke root (pictured above) is a powerful, low dose plant which is an excellent remedy for the lymphatic system where it relieves lymphatic congestion, swollen lymph glands and swollen, congested breasts, breast lumps and cysts. Hoffman says poke root is especially useful for mastitis, internally and as a poultice. It is also useful in tonsillitis, laryngitis, glandular fever, respiratory infections and mumps.

Wild indigo (Baptisia tinctoria): Systemically wild indigo may be helpful in the treatment of enlarged and inflamed lymph glands. It is a herb to be considered wherever there is a focused infection such as infections and catarrh in the ear, nose and throat. This makes it useful for laryngitis and tonsillitis.

Christine Gozlan
B.H.Sc Naturopathy
Dip. Herbal Medicine
Dip. Nutrition