Updated: Jul 10
The lymphatic system is a complex network of fluid-filled nodes, vessels, ducts, and glands (including the spleen, thymus, and tonsils) — that work together to immerse our cells and carry our body’s cellular waste away from the tissues. The lymph system has two main jobs- draining and defense. It filters toxins that enter the body through external sources, such as foods or air pollution through nodes. Additionally, it cleanses the blood of internally produced toxins (endotoxins) resulting from normal metabolic processes in the body. These toxins include cellular waste, microbes, viruses, and bacteria.
The Lymphatic system (also lovingly referred to as the “river of life” by many herbalists) is the only system in our body that needs touch and physical movement to function and flow properly, as it does not contain a pumping mechanism. When active and healthy, the lymph keeps our immune system functioning to fight off harmful pathogens, bacteria, infections, and disease. The two systems are intricately connected.
Unlike other systems, the immune system does not have a specific organ associated with it and is dependent on the functioning of other body components. We must encourage proper circulation and drainage to achieve optimal function and prevent stagnation. Lymph fluid can not move itself! We can do this by simply getting up and moving- walking, yoga, inversions, and stretching are all simple ways to engage lymphatic movement and draining. Other techniques include body oiling and self-massage or using a scraping tool called a Gua Sha to move stuck lymphatic fluid manually.
Signs of Lymphatic Stagnation
water retention + edema
chronic sinusitis, sore throats, colds, and ear issues
slow healing of cuts +wounds
prone to infections
inability to lose weight
Lymphagogue- Moves lymph fluid through the lymphatic system.
red clover blossoms
violet leaf + flower
The digestive system is particularly vulnerable to stress, especially when it becomes chronic, and the lymphatic system is closely intertwined with the gastrointestinal tract. The largest collection of lymphatic vessels in the body, known as the gut-associated lymphatic tissues (GALT), surround the gastrointestinal tract.
“Human immunity is a vital component of the interface between the individual and the world. The role of the human immune system is not simply to resist the dangers present in the environment. Rather, it is part of the complex and beautiful dance of elements flowing back and forth between the human body and the rest of the world. Seen within the context of ecology, both human and environmental, immunity is about harmony.”
- DAVID HOFFMAN
Let's look beyond the conventional treatment of antibiotic and drug use for systemic issues and infection and instead shift perspectives to look at herbs to support the immune system's innate response and ability to protect our bodies from pathogens. We can better manage our health year-round and avoid a health crisis.
Groves, Maria Noël. Body into Balance: An Herbal Guide to Holistic Self-Care. Storey Publishing, 2016.
Waller, Pip. Holistic Anatomy - an Integrative Guide to the Human Body. North Atlantic Books, 2010.