Lymphatic System and Herbal Allies

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The Lymphatic System and Herbal Allies

I have been fascinated with the lymphatic system for a few years now; like, really fascinated. Did you know that this system is the largest circulatory system in your body? Did you know that the health of one’s lymphatic system can affect the condition of one’s blood? I have learned (and keep learning) so much about this system, how to nourish it, how to honor it, how to keep it moving.

I would like to feature the work of one of my greatest teachers, Rebecca Altman with King’s Road Apothecary and Cauldrons and Crockpots. You can sign up for her email newsletter Here. Do eet. You will love her.

http://www.cauldronsandcrockpots.com/2014/08/on-water/
The Lymphatic System
More on the Lymphatic System

On an herbal note:

These are the herbal allies I have explored while working with the lymphatic system, and I have to say I love them all.

  • Local herbs: Chickweed, Cleavers, Calendula, Red Clover, Poke (low dose or a few berries at a time), Plantain, Bee Balm (for a little tasty gut support)
  • Herbs from other sources: Red Root, Ocotillo, Alder, Echinacea with Astragalus (reduces swelling and congestion in the lymphatic system)
  • Liver loving support: Burdock Root, Dandelion, Milk Thistle Seed, Yellow Dock

Calendula, red clover plantain, rose and bee balm make a FANTASTIC lymph support tea.

Lymphatic Support Suggestions:

Please please please do not “Detox”. Please. I mean it. Your body is made to detox on its own. Consider nourishment and supportive measures instead. Here are some lymph loving suggestions (beyond herbal consumption):

  • Eat mostly local foods that are available in season.
  • Consume home made bone broth (lots).
  • Learn lymphatic massage techniques, get an awesome lymphatic oil from Kings Road Apothecary or myself and give yourself a wonderful massage.
  • Dry brushing is awesome to stimulate circulation, remove dead skin cells and stimulate the lymph.
  • Move yer ass!
  • Do some deep breathing.
  • Keep your body well hydrated with WATER. <– plain-good-for-you water. If you don’t like the taste of plain water, that’s too bad. Drink it anyway. Your body loves it.
  • Lymphatic breast massage is also very important, ladies; especially if you wear a bra more than a few hours a day.

Extra Resources:

The New Era of the Lymphatic System

7Song: An Herbalist’s View of Immunity and the Lymphatic System

Love Your Lymph

Ashland Acupuncture: Lymphatic System Healing

Kiva Rose: River Medicine: Alder’s Transformation of Lymph, Blood and the Human Ecology

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Cardiovascular System and Herbal Allies

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHawthorn berries by Kristine Brown

The cardiovascular system, or circulatory system consists of the heart, blood, blood vessels, arteries, veins and capillaries; it’s the organs and tissues that circulate blood and lymph through the body. Here’s a great, easy to understand explanation of the circulatory system from KidsHealth.org. Heart and Circulatory System.

 

Some of my favorite herbal allies for this system are hawthorn, motherwort, rose, and red clover, and I am currently exploring rhodiola, astragalus and reishi.

Motherwort

Motherwort

Gentle nervines also are beneficial when issues with the heart and with blood pressure are  created (or made worse) by stress. Here I use milky oats (tinctured fresh), oat straw, passionflower and mimosa (for lightening the heart).

holy basil Julie James

Holy basil by Julie James

I also like to use holy basil as a nervine; in his book Adaptogens, David Winston states that he uses holy basil to enhance cerebral circulation and memory (along with rosemary, bacopa and ginko) ← I add gotu kola and a bit of peppermint to this particular blend.

oats Kristine Brown

Oats by Kristine Brown

Other great herbs/spices for the circulatory system include garlic, cayenne, yarrow, burdock and dandelion.

What else can you do to nourish and care for your cardiovascular system?

1. Reduce the stress in your life. Sometimes that action can feel more stressful than leaving your relationships and your limited boundaries as they are, but I can say from experience that, when you learn to take care of your emotional self in a healthy way, the stress in your life can lower dramatically.

2. Move your body. Not only does that strengthen and tone your cardiovascular system, but it also helps your lymphatic system (among other systems).

3. Eat nourishing foods. I’ve recently become a big fan of fermented and cultured foods. For real. I can’t believe how my digestive system has changed for the better. While this blog post is not about the digestive system, the better your body can assimilate nutrients, the better each system of your body can be nourished by your food intake.

Here are some links you may find interesting:

On Hawthorn, Stress and the Heart by Rebecca Altman

Herbs for the Heart by Christopher Hobbs

Caring for the Heart the Natural Way by Sage Consulting and Apothecary

Have you been to Jim McDonald’s site herbcraft.org? Here’s his section of links on the cardiovascular system. Be sure to visit the rest of his website; it’s a valuable resource.

Nervous System, Stress and Herbal Allies

Mimosa

I just love to work with the nervous system; this system receives information and sensory stimulation, it processes it (properly, we hope) and then responds to the stimuli in some way. Imagine all the ways our minds and nerves can sense and explore the world.

Much of my life’s work revolves around the central nervous system; I am a certified Integrative CranioSacral therapist, herbalist and shamanic practitioner, and I specialize in bringing the central nervous system and the unconscious mind into a state of balance and nourishment so that my client’s body can more easily self correct.

Some of my favorite herbs for the nervous system are below; please note that this is not an exhaustive list. These are some of the herbs I love to work with:

Lemon Balm (not to be used if you have hypothyroid issues)

Oat straw and milky oat tops (freshly tinctured is how I love them)

Wild roses!

 

Skullcap (fresh plant material in tincture form)

Marsh mallow root (not a nervine, but so valuable in my blends)

Passiflora (passionflower vine… I am so in love with this plant)

Kava (ohmygawd you have to try this one)

Mimosa tree (leaves, stems and flowers. Truly my Happiness Tree)

Tulip Poplar

I also love to work with Pedicularis, Vervain, St. John’s Wort, Solomon’s Seal, Turmeric, Cottonwood bud and Tulip Poplar for pain (in muscle salve form, but some of these I blend into an elixir).

Other ways to nourish the nervous system:

Get some bodywork. Massage therapy, Reiki, CranioSacral therapy, Shamanic work when you need a healing treatment… there are so many ways to affect your nervous system via bodywork or via body/mind healing.

Take an herbal bath. *psst. Rosemary is extremely healing here*

Watch how much stimulants you consume. Coffee, chocolate, caffeinated teas, etc. If you are already revved up, these medicinals can make things worse if you are wanting to relax.

Pay attention to your body’s signals. If you are “dropping” at 2 in the afternoon, that’s a sign that you need rest. It’s not a sign that you need caffeinated drink.

Get rest. Like, lots of it. Really. If you don’t have time, eventually your body will make time and you won’t have a choice in the matter.

Get educated about emotional shock and how everyone experiences it. And get this book (or ask the library to order it for you) Overcoming Shock: Healing the Traumatized Mind and Heart

Note: Depression and extreme episodes of sadness do not necessarily mean you need nervine stimulants to “boost” you; I feel that nourishing the nervous system is vital in these cases. Strengthen and tone your nervous system so that your body and mind can better handle stresses that come your way.

I understand that stimulants can be good for some people under some conditions; however I have found in my practice and in my personal emotional journeys that the world has enough stimulation in it. My focus is more on relaxing and tonic nervines.

Do you have nervous system challenges? If so, consider working with someone who is qualified to help you address them from a holistic perspective.

Immune System, Root Medicine, Mushrooms and Elder Medicine

 

Happy almost winter, my friends! Many of you are already in the middle of your winter, and some are still in the “in between” time of the seasons. I know that several of my readers have an entirely different “season” or weather pattern going on right now; I love how our places dictate our seasons more than the calendar does. Noticing your particular season based on “place” helps to anchor you more intimately to it.

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This turning point on the Wheel of the Year, I tend to focus on my immune system, nourishing my body with root crops, bone broths, medicinal mushrooms, etc., and really focusing on keeping myself healthy with herbal teas and tinctures/elixirs.

I do several things to really keep myself feeling as healthy as possible this time of year.

1. I don’t overwork my body or my brain.

2. I sleep as often and as long and as deeply as I can, especially if I don’t feel well.

3. I stay warm. I don’t let my torso and kidney area get cold, so cutsie little tops that expose the tummy when I stretch are tucked away for the season. I have been known to sit with a shawl tied around my waist just to keep me feeling snug and warm. I also keep my neck covered when I am out in the cold wind.

4. I drink lots of bone broth. You know, the good broth that is full of garlic and onions and spices and medicinal mushrooms, and is cooked down for about 3 days. Yeah. That stuff.

elderberry-bsp

5. I chug elderberry like there’s no tomorrow, from October to March. Instead of making syrups (which I love), I make elixir (which I love more), and I take it daily.

6. I drink lots of water, and I limit any stimulants (herbal nervines, caffeine, etc.)… and I keep sweets to a minimum. Did you know that sugar can inhibit your immune system? So if you feel yourself coming down with something or you feel drained, as if your body is actively fighting off a bug, stay away from the sugar and keep your immune system as strong as possible.

I have seen some really cool blog posts on these topics and I want to share a few of them with you as well. The information in these blogs are awesome, but do yourself a favor: if you don’t already grow your own herbs, or if you don’t already have a trusted source for your herbs and spices, please go to Mountain Rose Herbs to make your purchase. I love their products, I love how ethical they are, and I love how they help support causes and reach out to herbalists.

The Healthy Home Economist has some good information on the Top 10 Ways to Boost the Immune System Naturally.

An absolutely Fabulous monologue on Elder is here: The Ultimate Guide to Elderberry Medicine by Rosalee de la Forȇt. (includes wonderful recipes at the bottom of the article)

I am still learning all about medicinal mushrooms. The amazing Juliet Blankespoor with the Chestnut School of Herbal Medicine has this post on Herbs for the Immune System, in which she touches on mushrooms and gives awesome info on herbal allies for the immune system. You will also want to read her blog post on Herbal Infusions and Decoctions.

“The mushroom biologist talks about the antimicrobial properties of fungi, how they can be used as potent insecticides, and how they may help boost the human immune system.”

 

If you know of any great blog posts or websites that discuss any of the above, please add them in the comments section!