Rivers Run Through Us
Alternative approaches to a healthy lymphatic
system for a healthy you.
by Athena Wolf
Understanding how we are protected by the body's lymphatic system can help us prevent illness. Let's follow the flow of the lymph, look at the warning signals, explore ways to heal our lymph system ourselves, and see some of the plant medicines that can be helpful.
The lymphatic system consists of bone marrow, thymus, lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, spleen, adenoids and tonsils. These guardians of our health make up the immune system. Most lymph nodes are found in your head, neck, armpits and groin area. Swollen lymph nodes can be an indication your body is fighting off an infection or a sign of an immune disorder. It is a sign that the lymph system has not been successful in bringing your body into balance.
Bacteria, viruses, parasites and funguses can overwhelm the lymph system and cause it to slow down. Faulty lymph drainage can then lead to tumors in the lymph nodes or breasts. So we want to take action if we notice an abnormal lymph node.
Free lymph therapy
To keep the lymph fluid flowing, regular exercise works better than anything. It is not only effective — but free. Like the rio abajo rio, the river under the river, the capillaries of the blood also help the lymph to move. Flowing of lymph fluid must happen through muscular movement, breathing, and the pulse beating in nearby blood vessels. The movement of the feet also stimulates lymph flow; this is why walking (especially hiking over rough surfaces) is the best exercise you can do.
Sometimes we become sedentary or the lymph quits moving for other reasons. This is when we need to consider other ways to get our immune system functioning again.
Vigorously brushing your skin is another way to help stagnant lymphatic fluid get moving. Take a coarse washcloth, a dry loofah or a natural-bristle brush and rub your skin vigorously, in small circles, from the ends of your arms and legs, toward your heart. This is simple, energizing, takes only a couple of minutes, and feels great. Another way to stimulate lymph flow is by doing a specific massage on your hands and feet.
Plant medicine can contribute to lymph health as well. Some of the herbs that have been used to help the lymph system include mullein, red clover, barberry root bark, boldo leaves, buckthorn bark, burdock root, chickweed, dandelion root, echinacea, licorice root, parsley, sarsaparilla and poke. Poke can become toxic to the system and should be used only in small doses for a short period of time.
An assist from yoga
In the science of yoga there are several exercises for stimulating the thymus. A healthy thymus is apparent when a person has physical stamina, and manifests mentally as courage, enthusiasm and confidence. According to the yogic philosophy, however, this works both ways — continued hopelessness can actually damage the thymus. So your mental state can be influenced by the thymus and can also influence the health of that organ over time.
Lymph is basically the fluid and protein that has been squeezed out of the blood. Drained from the tissues in microscopic vessels called lymph capillaries, it is food for the brain, and also what secretions emitted during sexual intercourse are made of. The more refined lymph fluid (ojas) that you can save for your brain, the more powerful your spiritual focus and concentration can be. Sexual moderation allows us to reserve energy for healing and powerful meditation.
Athena Wolf lives in the tall pines of the Mimbres and practices Curanderismo and Ayurveda at the Red Hat Healing Center in Silver City. See www.curanderahealing.com to learn more.