The smell of pine, joy, and winter energy is in the air - and so are stuffy noses and waking up with a scratchy throat. Although your first thought may be to take care of your immune system, we’d like to share a little secret that may lend some extra support and boost your winter health routine: focus on lymphatic health!
What is the Lymphatic System?
The lymphatic system is a series of small fluid-filled vessels that travel parallel to the vascular system. The fluid, or “lymph,” is excreted by almost every organ in the body and contains cellular byproducts or foreign bugs that need to be eliminated. The lymphatic vessels scoop up the lymph that has intentionally seeped out of the blood vessels and screen it for invaders or metabolic waste.
Throughout the lymphatic system are hundreds of lymph nodes, or filtering centers that do the dirty work of cleansing the lymph. These nodes are also home to immune cells that immediately take action if they find bacteria or a virus. After the lymph is filtered it drains back into the circulatory system bringing with it any excess protein molecules that were overlooked. The lymphatic system also absorbs fat-soluble vitamins from the gastrointestinal tract and transports oxygen, nutrients, and hydration to the bloodstream and cells.
Along with the essential role the lymphatic system plays in supporting the immune response, this system also sets the skin up for success. If lymphatic health is suffering, the toxins and bacteria that were supposed to be cleared out may end up being secreted by the skin causing breakouts and irritation. This may also block moisture and nutrients from nourishing the skin leading to a lack of elasticity and deeper grooves on the skin’s surface.
3 Herbs for Lymphatic Health
While some herbs have an affinity for supporting immune cells directly, there’s a specific class of herb that boosts lymphatic health and have an elevating effect on other systems. These herbs are called “lymphagogue” or “lymphatic herbs” and they promote seamless lymphatic flow, detoxification, and drainage. With a little love from these herbs, the immune system will feel invigorated and your skin will be on its way to having a healthy glow.
Burdock root (Arctium lappa)
Burdock is a time-tested herb commonly referred to as a “blood purifier.” While this description isn’t totally incorrect, burdock's supportive actions are rooted in cleansing the lymphatic system. Burdock’s gentle effects lend a hand to the lymphatic system by helping clear out metabolic clutter and toxins. As the body returns to balance, it’s often observed that burdock soothes and calms skin conditions that may have emerged from internal disharmony. Burdock root can be enjoyed chopped up in soups or roasted with seasoning.
Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale)
The wonders of dandelion are always enchanting us! Dandelion leaf has a special affinity for the liver and kidneys, encouraging the flawless flow of lymph. The characteristic bitter taste of dandelion leaf speeds up the digestive process, setting the stage for more efficient elimination of toxins, waste, and bugs and its cooling energy focuses on hot areas in the body, intentionally dislodging congestion. Dandelion leaves can be added to salads or taken as a tea to strengthen lymphatic health.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
Another sunny herb to add to the lymphatic health family is beautiful, vivacious calendula! This sweet, unassuming flower is a lymphatic powerhouse. Apart from its ability to support external wounds, it also revs up lymphatic flow and boosts detoxification, which in turn supports the immune system. Calendula also enhances lymphatic health by breaking up stagnation and congestion, ensuring lymph can be properly filtered and moved with ease. Sipping a cup of calendula tea is one of the best ways to nurture the lymphatic system with this bright herb. (Learn more about calendula in our blog post, The Magic of Calendula.)
You can find these divine herbs - and other lymph-loving botanicals - in our bright and earthy Make & Mary Inner Beauty Tincture!
Alternative Lifestyle Practices to Support Lymphatic Health
Working with herbs is an ancient practice that supports lymphatic health; however, there are other lifestyle rituals that can go along with botanical supplementation. One of our favorite enriching practices that boosts lymphatic drainage is a gua sha facial massage.
Gua sha is a therapeutic Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) method that dates back thousands of years. When people fell ill, hard objects, like stones or coins, were used on the body and face to help the lymphatic system drain and alleviate decongestion. The motion of the hard object over the system’s vessels acts like the bodily movements (breathing and pumping of the heart) that support lymphatic flow.
Fast forward to the present day, and we work with special gua sha stones that are specifically designed to promote lymph drainage around the face and neck. The gentle pressure of the stone’s gliding rhythm on the skin not only supports lymphatic health but also boosts blood movement and collagen production for a firm, rosy finish. Check out this informative tutorial to learn more!
It’s important to wash your hands and complete your skincare routine before you start your massage, and be sure to add a bit of oil to your skin or gua sha tool before you begin. We find that our Make & Mary Face & Body Serum and Gua Sha Facial Lifting Tool are the perfect combo to get started on gua sha facial massages. The gua sha stones are available in three different types of stone so you can choose which properties best fit your intentions.
If you’re interested in elevating your lymphatic health through other simple lifestyle practices, you can also engage in the following supportive techniques.
- Drink Water
- Practice Deep Breathing
- Practice Contrast Hydrotherapy
- Practice Dry-Brushing your Skin
Strong lymphatic health is necessary for our bodies to eliminate unwanted debris and bugs that cause roadblocks and weigh down important functioning. The lymphatic system can be supported by a variety of herbs and lifestyle methods that have withstood the test of time!