Your lymphatic system is incredibly important to your overall health. Yet for some reason, it often gets overlooked and the focus stays on other systems: digestion, liver, brain, etc.
The truth of the matter is that if your lymphatic system is 'clogged' or sluggish, you could experience a whole host of issues like immune dysfunction, unexplained aches and pains, poor metabolism, and swollen lymph nodes.
To support healthy lymph flow, a combination of exercise and other healthy habits are key, but herbs also provide powerful support and help to get things moving.
Here's more about the critical role your lymphatic system plays in your body and the top herbs for lymphatic drainage.
What Does Your Lymphatic System Do?
Your lymphatic system is a complex network of vessels, glands, nodes, and tissues. In some ways, it can be thought of as a drainage system because it helps to maintain fluid balance and is key to carrying toxins and waste out of cells.
By helping with toxin removal, the lymph network is extremely important to skin health, since an accumulation of toxins can be the root cause of skin eruptions (and many other health issues).
The lymphatic system is also critical for immune function. It carries a specific type of white blood cells known as lymphocytes that help your body fight off infection.
In fact, tiny capillaries connect nearly your entire body to the lymphatic system. Only a few areas, like bone marrow and the central nervous system, are not connected.
As you can tell, if your lymphatic system isn't functioning properly, it can cause all sorts of problems. And the key to lymphatic health is flow. Stagnant, sluggish lymph can lead to toxin buildup and multiple health issues.
This is where herbs come in- to stimulate lymphatic drainage, help lymph flow freely, and promote cleansing.
Top Herbs for Lymphatic Drainage & Flow
Red clover is a detoxifying herb that is known as a blood purifier. It has a particularly strong action on the lymphatic system, helping to improve flow and drainage. For this reason, it also supports skin health through toxin removal.
In addition to lymphatic support, red clover contains plant compounds that help with hormone balance and can ease menopause symptoms.
Burdock root is another powerful cleansing herb that purifies the blood, stimulates circulation, and promotes lymphatic flow. Like red clover, burdock is highly beneficial for skin issues because it cleans out toxins and helps to cool inflammation.
Cleavers is a common plant that grows along the ground with leaves and seeds that like to cling to passersby. This herb appears early in the season, just in time for a spring cleanse that stimulates lymphatic circulation. It's related to sweet woodruff, which also provides lymphatic support.
For extra 'green power', eat cleavers fresh in the spring if it grows near you. Or you can use the dried leaves to make a tea or tincture.
Calendula is one of the best herbs for lymphatic drainage because it contains bitter compounds and antioxidants that stimulate detoxification. Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar recommends calendula as a top choice for swollen lymph nodes and decongesting the lymph network. (Rosemary Gladstar. Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide, pg. 113)
You can use calendula flowers on their own to make a tea (be warned, it's very bitter), and it also combines well with other herbs like red clover and burdock.
Echinacea is typically thought of as an immune-boosting herb, but it also stimulates lymphatic flow and helps clear out congestion. In fact, this may be one of the reasons echinacea helps your body deal with infections- by promoting the movement of white blood cells.
Astragalus is another immune-enhancing herb that also promotes lymphatic drainage. It's frequently used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as a 'life-force strengthener' and helps to lessen congestion in the whole body.
You can use astragalus root to make a tea or as part of an herbal broth/soup as TCM practitioners often recommend. It works especially well alongside echinacea as an immune-boosting, lymph-cleansing combo.
Goldenseal has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and is frequently used both internally and topically to protect the body and skin from infection. It also contains bitter compounds that stimulate and cleanse the digestive tract and promote lymphatic circulation.
Because goldenseal is frequently over-harvested in the wild, be careful where you buy it from and look for a supplier focused on sustainable harvesting methods. This herb is very bitter and is typically used in small amounts as an extract rather than as a tea.
Pokeroot is generally considered a weed but also doubles as one of the most powerful herbs for lymphatic drainage. In fact, it's so powerful that taking too much of it as a tea or tincture can be toxic.
However, you can use pokeroot topically as a salve or infused oil and massage it into lymph nodes and any congested areas. Under consultation with a qualified herbal practitioner, you can also take small amounts of a pokeroot tincture or decoction.
As always, be aware that certain herbs may be contraindicated during pregnancy or breastfeeding or with certain medical issues. Some may also interact with specific medications. Be sure to do your research before adding in a new herb.
Other Ways to Promote Lymphatic Drainage
Herbs aren't the only way to get your lymphatic system moving. Here are a few key natural practices to go alongside herbal support:
- Move your body by getting exercise. This is probably the #1 way to support lymphatic drainage, even more so that using herbs. Even stretching or raising your feet above your head (like in the 'legs up a wall' yoga pose) helps with lymph flow.
- Drink lots of water. Lymph, after all, is all about fluid, so being dehydrated will slow down the flow.
- Eat more whole foods. Whole foods, particularly fruit and vegetables, are rich in plant compounds that stimulate lymphatic flow and drainage. Processed foods, on the other hand, can hinder lymph flow.
- Use warmth and massage. Both heat and massage are ways to stimulate circulation, which means better lymphatic drainage. You can use warm compresses, a foot soak, or a full bath. A massage or self-massage can be made more effective by using an oil infused with lymph-supporting herbs.
Support Your Lymphatic System with Herbs
Don't ignore your lymphatic system like so many people do! By regularly practicing healthy habits and using herbs for lymphatic drainage, you can encourage proper lymph flow, immune function, and waste removal.
With a healthy lymphatic system, your whole body will feel and function better.
Disclaimer: This post is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute medical advice and should not be substituted for medical advice. Please consult your health care provider, herbalist, midwife, or naturopathic physician before taking herbs, supplements, etc. Here's the link to our full disclaimer.