The lymphatic system can be though of as the drainage system of the body – a series of vessels that runs alongside the veins and arteries, bringing wastes back to the large vessels from the periphery of the body. Remember when you have a virus and your lymph nodes get swollen? That shows that they’re working hard to clear infection and inflammation. The lymph nodes are like the train stations, and the lymph vessels are the tracks. Where the circulatory system (veins, arteries and capillaries) has the heart to pump blood around, the lymphatic system does not have such a pump. It is dependent on physical movement and muscular contraction to move it through the body – that is why if you’re immobile in hospital they put those weird squeezy things on your legs. Since the lymphatic system is an important part of immune health and detoxification, it is good to give it a helping hand where possible. Here are four ways to boost the lymphatic system:-
- Lymph Drainage Massage
Lymphatic drainage massage is a specific type of body work that uses broad sweeping movements to help shuttle the lymphatic fluid towards the heart. It is a good detoxification helper, and is very effective while still being relatively gentle. People who are chronically ill and/or highly sensitive may experience some detox-type reactions after lymphatic drainage massage, but an experienced therapist would be able to modify the treatments, at least in the beginning. It is a very relaxing therapy. Strokes are typically towards the heart, except for the chest area, where strokes are towards the armpits to the lymph nodes there. Lymphatic drainage massage is particularly helpful for women who may have had lymph nodes removed due to breast cancer, and have subsequent swelling in their arm. It is also good for any health condition where detoxification is important.
- Dry Skin Brushing
Dry skin brushing is a really simply modality that can be practiced at home. Using a special boar-hair brush that has very soft bristles, one “brushes” the skin before or after a shower (I prefer before). Again, the brushes want to be in the direction of the heart, other than the chest where brushes would go towards the armpits. Some people get a little skin itching or tingling at first, but that typically doesn’t last more than a few days as the skin gets used to being brushed. Getting into this habit every day just gives the lymph a little helping hand.
Using a rebounder is another lymphatic stimulant. The physical rebounding movement helps not only muscle contraction – but simply helps to move the fluid throughout the body. It is a low-impact exercise, using a special round trampoline. Rebounding can also be rehabilative and restorative for people trying to recondition themselves after illness. Typically one uses a rebounder for 10-15 minutes every day for optimal lymphatic health.
There are several herbal remedies that have an affinity for the lymphatic system, so while this is not so much of an every day thing (unless one has a chronic illness that stresses the lymph system), it can be good during times of acute stress and need. Herbs that are particularly good for the lymphatic system are cleavers (Gallium aparine), burdock (Arctium lappa), poke root (Phytolacca americana) and red root (Ceanothus americanus). Often you can find tonics that contain a blend of these types of herbs – we have one under our RestorMedicine label (see here).
The lymphatic system often gets forgotten – but it is so important for immune health, detoxification and circulation. These simple modalities can be great for your health and only take a few minutes a day.