7 Best Herbs For
Supporting Lymph Drainage
Dr. Todd Watts
Dr. Jay Davidson
What do puffy eyes, swollen ankles, and a stuffed-up head have in common?
All of these symptoms indicate the presence of stagnant lymph. Instead of dynamic lymph on the move clearing out the bad stuff, it just sits.
In other words, toxins and waste products are stuck, clogging up their only exit ways from your body.
When it comes to the overall health of your body, stagnation breeds sickness. And this sickness could lead to the puffiness, swelling, and congestion known as lymphedema.
A natural lymphatic detox will help unclog your lymphatic system and get your lymph flowing again, flushing out all the lousy gunk.
Enhancing the drainage recovery process outlined below, with natural draining lymphatic support, will reset your body for optimum health.
Here's the scoop on what causes lymph blocks and what you can do naturally to de-stagnate your lymphatic system.
The Unsung Hero of Optimal Health: Your Lymphatic System
Why is the Lymphatic System Important?
When was the last time you had a lymph test?
Probably never because such a test doesn't exist.
You'll see lots of tests about lymphoma, and there will be information on blood tests measuring lymphocytes (immune cells that the lymphatic system makes). (1)
However, the fact that there is no direct test of your lymphatic system does not mean it's not important.
And it in no way means your lymph system doesn't exist.
Without a properly functioning (although largely invisible) lymphatic system, you'd drown in your own waste products.
Worst case scenario if lymph remains put?
You could develop chronically bloated extremities bursting with lymph leading to other serious health complications. (2)
What Is Lymph?
Lymph is analogous to blood in that they're both liquids circulating in your body.
But the similarity stops there.
Unlike red blood's circular, pumped (by the heart) movement, clear-to-white lymph moves just one way: out. To make matters worse, lymph has no organ pump. (3)
You definitely need to be proactive when it comes to lymph management. (6)
Also unlike blood, lymph is mostly water (95%) with the fancy name of interstitial fluid. This is the water all around and between your cells filled with some immune cells, protein, fats and other big, sultry-sounding (and looking) substances. Lymph also contains water from blood plasma. (7)
Lymph is your body's liquid trash can, to put it mildly. It picks up waste products formed from all the chemical reactions needed to keep you alive, ushering them out of your body. (7)
Granted, you're stacked with lymph hardware:
- Lymph nodes - serve as checkpoints for mostly dead or dying immune cells that have already done their job fighting infection or are in the heat of doing so (11)
- Lymph organs (tonsils, thymus, and spleen) - act as immune cell factories (9)
- Lymph vessels - weave throughout almost all of your tissues and organs (12)
Given that about 80% of the immune system resides in the gut, it should come as no surprise that the gastrointestinal (GI) tract also contains some lymphatic tissue, making it part of the lymphatic system, too. (13, 14)
As lymph makes its way to the collection centers (nodes) the vessels carrying it merge. Then they become part of a more extensive, denser network of vessels that eventually morph into lymphatic ducts. This is just like small streams emptying into larger ones and finally winding up in a river. (15)
Then the ducts deposit lymph into veins for its last hurrah until its final exit through your bladder, bowel, and sweat.
What are the Functions of the Lymphatic System?
Ignored and underrated by medicine and science for far too long, your lymphatic system is now known to have several critically essential roles to play in keeping you healthy. (3)
Researchers exploring this “white blood” (as Hippocrates once described it), discovered that it: (16)
- Absorbs lipids (fatty substances) and fat-soluble vitamins (vitamins A, D and E) from your GI tract and sends them off on their merry way into your bloodstream and beyond (to your cells)
- Detoxifies against microbes and other toxic substances
- Returns some excess protein molecules and fluid back to circulation
Given how vital these functions are, it makes sense to keep lymph flowing so that you live toxin-free. But sometimes things don't go as planned.
What Causes Blockages in the Lymphatic System?
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When they signal lymph blockages, one or more of these culprits could be responsible: (17)
- Cellulitis (inflammation of cells)
- Microbial infection
- Parasitic infection
- Radiation therapy
- Removal of a lymph node
You may have experienced one or more of these in your life resulting in lymphatic blockages.
Note: Many of the examples could indicate a health problem unrelated to your lymphatic system so always check with your healthcare provider.
Why Drain the Lymphatic System?
Besides the congested head, puffy eyes, and swollen ankles that signal lymphatic dysfunction, there are more signs and symptoms of lymph blockages that may not be as obvious as fluid buildup but can be severe lymph-related issues just the same:
- Bloated stomach or extremities (18)
- Brain fog (19)
- Cellulite (20)
- Chronic headaches (21)
- Chronic sinus infections (22)
- Constipation (23)
- Eczema (24, 25)
- Excessive sweating (25, 26, 27)
- Mucus and phlegm production (28, 29)
- Painful and hard swellings (especially in armpits, groin area, and neck) (30, 31)
- Sluggishness (31)
- Stiff or painful joints (32)
Key Takeaway: If you have one or more of these signs of lymphatic blockage, you can’t eliminate toxins. It’s really as simple as that.
- Environmental chemical residues and heavy metals that entered your body (probably from food, water, air or consumer products) are trapped with no escape plan in sight.
- Foreign bodies like bacteria, mold, and parasites remain engulfed by immune cells with nowhere to go.
- Old and used immune cells fester in your lymph.
- Toxic byproducts of normal cell growth and reproduction stay trapped in cells.
If your lymph is blocked, you need to remedy the situation fast and get the lymph flowing again, so it'll carry the toxins right out of your body.
If not, permanent swelling could be in your future.
Worse, secondary complications like chronic wounds or ulcers may rear their ugly heads. (38)
Fortunately, there are many steps you can take now and every day to keep your lymph draining well and prevent lymph clogs head on.
The best thing about these steps? They're all natural.
How to Help Your Lymph System Drain Naturally?
The best way to clear your lymphatic system naturally is with a Lymph Detox.
These five natural ways support the body's natural ability to detox your lymph:
- Deep breathing: When practiced during mindfulness meditations, deep breathing gets your entire rib cage in on it so you're not just removing gaseous carbon dioxide waste products from your lungs. You're also squeezing the lymph from even the tiniest interstitial spaces and pushing it toward its exit ducts. (39)
- Drink plenty of clean water: Lymph is mostly water. All of life's chemistry happens in water. Dehydration makes it very hard for your cells to function. Recommended is half your body weight in ounces per day. Spread it out during the day to keep your metabolic machinery humming smoothly and consistently. (40)
- Lymph massage: A manual lymphatic drainage (MLD) massage is a safe treatment technique with potential health benefits that can help you reduce lymphedema. You can perform this yourself, or you can go to a massage therapist. The idea of this gentle massage is to encourage movement of the lymph fluids around the body to ease the swelling in your tissues. Dry brushing is also a natural massage technique that also helps move the lymph as well since it exfoliates the skin by increasing blood circulation. (41, 42, 43)
- Natural herbs: Supporting the body with certain natural herbs can also help the lymphatic system drain effectively. Different herbs have been studied for lymphedema treatment from traditional to modern use. Research shows that herbal medicine can be worthy of consideration to improve lymphedema, especially for mitigating symptoms and side-effects. However, there needs to be more research with conclusive data to explain herbs effectiveness. (44)
- Physical activity: Studies show how big a difference movement makes in lymphatic function. This doesn’t have to be intense. You don't have to be a marathon runner or triathlete either. Walking and stretching are great ways to get the lymph moving from muscle contraction. Tidying up your home or yard counts, too. (4, 45)
Bonus: Add a squirt of lemon juice + rind to the water as an all-around lymph detoxer. Sip on it throughout the day. It'll get your bile (and therefore, digestion) moving, too.
Speaking of fruit...
Here are the best foods for lymphatic drainage.
Best Foods for Lymphatic Drainage
Anti-inflammatory foods that won't put your body into attack mode equals fewer immune cells to flush away in lymph.
Here are some that naturally help lymph drain:
- Healthy fats (in nuts, seeds, olive oil) helps you fight inflammation, strengthen vascular tissue, and aid in the removal of fat-soluble wastes. (46)
- High-fiber foods add bulk that keeps waste products and toxins bound and flowing in your lymph as well as in the large intestines. (47)
- Leafy greens (like collards, kale) contain bioflavonoids, which have beneficial effects on your blood. (47)
- Lower-sugar foods (especially low-to-no fructose) keep your inflammation (which leads to swelling) in check. Avocados and berries are fruits that assist the lymph. Avoid high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that's basically in all processed food. (48)
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) bypass your lymph because they're small enough and don't need bile for transport. If you have an already challenged lymph system, you can ease their lymph by consuming MCTs in coconut oil (which also contain some long-chain fatty acids that'll need some extra processing in the lymph for transport). (49)
7 Best Herbs for Supporting Lymph Drainage
Certain plant-based ingredients can provide lymphatic support. Let’s look closer at their properties and benefits for lymph movement. Plus, discover a supplement that includes all seven of these herbs.
1. Astragalus Root
Used medicinally in Ancient China for thousands of years, astragalus is a great lymph detox booster. (52)
Astragalus would remedy lymphatic drainage issues when the Ancient Chinese used it as an expectorant (to facilitate mucus and phlegm elimination) and as a diuretic (to flush out lymph buildup through the kidneys). (53)
Astragalus is also used to help diarrhea and upper respiratory infections, both of which may signal lymph drainage problems. (54)
As an added plus, this root contains saponins which play an essential role in its expectorant function. Saponins are also known to: (55)
- Encourage a healthy immune response
- Support the removal of unwanted elements from the digestive tract
- Help protect blood vessels
- Support balanced cholesterol levels
2. Burdock Root
A staple of many Asian kitchens for thousands of years, burdock root is chock full of medicinal qualities, especially ones for lymph detox. It's a great detoxifier that, as a diuretic, flushes toxins out of the body. (56, 57)
- Supporting healthy blood pressure levels
- Encouraging healthy liver function
- Helping the body perform it’s natural cleansing processes
- Promoting blood sugar balance
- Helping to minimize swelling and/or puffiness
For a lymph detox, include burdock root to relieve any spleen and tonsil swelling or infection. In other words, burdock root recharges the lymph organs. (61)
The large chuchuhuasi canopy tree calls the deepest recesses of the South American Amazon basin its home. Indigenous peoples have depended on the therapeutic qualities of this tree's bark for thousands of years. (62, 63)
Chuchuhuasi is a Peruvian word for “trembling back,” referring to the tree bark's use to soothe back pain and arthritis. (64)
As a lymph drainage support, chuchuhuasi is used to help ease the effects of: (65)
- Gastrointestinal problems, including ulcers
- Sore throat
There are many tree “cousins” to chuchuhuasi that also have similar anti-inflammatory properties. They help alleviate a wide variety of stomach and skin problems. (66)
Tingenone is the chemical believed to be responsible for many of the beneficial health effects of chuchuhuasi bark. (67)
Also known as soursop or pawpaw, among many other names, the tropical rainforest tree graviola is a staple in the go-to natural medicine chest in many cultures, including those in Africa, Southeast Asia, and South America.
It has held its star position for thousands of years because it reliably and safely performs in so many health-promoting ways. (68)
- Supports the removal of unwanted elements from the digestive tract
- Encourages a healthy immune response
- Provides antioxidants, which help cleanse and protect the lymphatic system
All of the graviola tree — leaves, fruit, bark, roots, and seeds — are used for one or more of these reasons.
5. Sheep Sorrel
Sheep sorrel is both an herb and a leafy green. The broad, fresh leaves add tangy tartness to soups, sauces, and stews, making sorrel a prized culinary ingredient in many world cultures. (71)
When dried and added to teas or taken as a supplement, the tannins in sheep sorrel start to work. Tannins are chemicals that have many lymph-supporting characteristics, including: (72)
- Encouraging a healthy immune response
- Keeping unwanted elements out of your system
- Providing antioxidants to help cleanse and protect the lymphatic system
The astringent property of tannins to dry up liquids makes sheep sorrel perfect for supporting a large number of lymph-related issues. (73)
6. Slippery Elm Bark
Slippery elm bark hails from a native North American tree, the slippery (or red) elm. (74)
The inner bark contains astringent tannins as does sheep sorrel. So slippery elm bark can assist with lymph detox in many of the same ways that sheep sorrel does. (73)
People with respiratory issues, such as sinusitis or lung congestion, may especially benefit. (75)
Slippery elm bark also provides a soft fiber called mucilage. When combined with water already present in the body, it can help soothe inflamed tissues or mucous membranes by forming a jelly-like protective coating. (76, 77)
In this manner, slippery elm bark soothes sore throats. Similarly, it could alleviate the discomfort caused by ulcers. (78)
7. Turkey Rhubarb
Turkey rhubarb is a prime mover of lymphatics. Used in Ancient China for thousands of years primarily as a laxative, extensive scientific research in the last fifteen years reveals that turkey rhubarb has several additional properties: (79, 80)
- Encourages a healthy immune response
- Contains antioxidants, which help cleanse and protect the lymphatic system
- Supports bacterial balance in the gut
Turkey rhubarb contains anthraquinones, usually associated with bright-colored textile dyes, that possess compounds which help move the intestinal muscles. Anthraquinones also have antibacterial and antiviral properties that help protect the cells in the intestines. (81, 82)
Adding any of these plant ingredients to your routine will provide your body with the lymphatic drainage support it needs. If you’re looking for a convenient way to get all of these herbs in your system at once, we recommend trying Lymphatic Complete.
Lymphatic Complete includes 7 top herbs you should have in your arsenal for helping encourage your body to drain excess lymph.
The Bottom Line
Everybody needs a little help now and then. Your lymphatic system is no exception.
Because of the vital work, your lymphatic system performs 24/7, it's worth exploring all avenues of lymph support. This is true even if you're:
- Drinking plenty of water every day to provide the liquid needed for your natural lymph detox to happen
- Exercising regularly to squeeze and push toxin-laden lymph out of your body
Once you understand what your lymphatic system is doing for you, it's easy to see how lymphatic drainage is essential. When your pipes get clogged, it's vital to deblock the plumbing as quickly as possible.
Nutrition, physical activity, natural plant ingredients, and lots of water are critical to success. They're all part of a natural lymph detox. You can improve your chances of keeping your lymph flowing all the time by flushing out harmful toxins naturally with these methods.