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Herbs, Massage & Magic: Supporting Lymphatic Health


Herbs soaking in a glass jar
Hey friends!

This week I had an opportunity to approach the lymphatic system through a new lens. As most of you already know, I have been a massage therapist for a long time. Believe it or not, I also went to school for nursing AND medical billing. How many times have I taken Anatomy and Physiology?! Ha!


The lymphatic system has always been one of my faves. It’s an incredible waste removal system. A crucial component of our body's immune and detoxification processes, and yet it often goes overlooked. Or at the very least, underappreciated.


I’m so glad to be seeing that awareness surrounding the lymphatic system has been growing in popularity!


The lymphatic system plays a vital role in maintaining our overall health by transporting lymph—a fluid containing white blood cells, proteins, and waste products—through a network of vessels and nodes. This system helps to fight off infections, remove toxins, and maintain fluid balance in the body.


BUT, the lymphatic system, unlike the cardiovascular system, doesn’t have its own pump. So, typically, I would address the lymphatic system through the lens of massage, with warming oils and movement. 


Lymphatic massage is a gentle but extremely powerful massage technique that can really get things moving!


Today however,  I want to share what I have learned (so far) about how to support lymphatic health using herbs. Specifically focusing on a tincture we crafted from three powerful plants: 


  • Cleavers

  • Violet

  • Calendula


Herbal Allies for Lymphatic Health


Cleavers
Cleavers

Cleavers ~ Galium aparine


Cleavers, also known by other names such as goosegrass, sticky Willy, catchweed, stickyweed, clivers, or bedstraw, are a common weed around these parts. 


Cleavers are annual weeds that typically grow in moist, shaded areas, such as woodlands, hedges, and along riverbanks and can be ethically foraged in spring and early summer. They can become invasive in certain environments and are considered a nuisance weed in gardens and agricultural fields.


So do their neighboring plant friends a favor and forage away!


Apparently the name bedstraw, was given due to the fact that it makes such a lush bed of greenery that the forest critters like to sleep on it. Aww <3 People even used to stuff their mattresses with it. This puppy grows thiccc! 

Cleavers in bloom
Cleavers in bloom

Cleavers are easily identifiable by the narrow, lance-shaped leaves, arranged in whorls of  6-8 around the stem. There are tiny hook-like hairs along the entire plant that create that “sticky” property. 


Cleavers produce tiny, white to greenish, star shaped flowers that bloom later in the season and once it fruits, you can actually gather the fruits, grind, and roast them as a coffee substitute! I have yet to try that one…

 

Traditionally used for its diuretic, detoxifying and lymphatic stimulating properties. Cleavers support lymphatic health by promoting lymphatic drainage and reducing inflammation.


Violet ~ Viola spp.


For me this plant evokes feelings of joy, light, and vitality.


Violets are best harvested in the spring. These flowers begin to emerge in March and can be found in wooded areas, meadows, and often in your own yard! 

Violets in a stump
Violets

You can consume the leaves and flowers, but the root is toxic in excess. Be sure to leave some for the bees, as violets are early spring plants that pollinators rely on!


Violets have been historically intertwined with mythology and symbolism. The violet was an emblematic flower for Aphrodite and her son Priapus, the deity of gardens and generation. 


In the course of researching for this blog, I found many, sometimes contradictory representations. Violets can represent both sex and modesty? …my nerd brain must know more!


Fun fact: In the Victorian era, France purportedly harvested six tons of violet blossoms annually for perfume production!


In addition to their beauty, violets have a long history of medicinal use and are considered a staple of Western herbalism, offering a wealth of health benefits. 


The flowers and leaves have long been used for respiratory ailments. Relieving congestion and coughing from illnesses like bronchitis, promoting lymphatic drainage, and reduced swelling. 


Violets, with their beautiful flowers and delicate fragrance, also support lymphatic function, contributing to overall health and vitality. Nutritionally, violets are a powerhouse, boasting high levels of Vitamin A and C. 


Incorporating them into a nutritive tea alongside other nutrient-dense herbs like Nettles and Alfalfa enhances their benefits, particularly for digestive health due to their demulcent properties. 


Violet bloom
Violet bloom

Violets are rich in salicylic acid, very similar to aspirin’s pain relieving properties, providing natural relief from things like headaches. Used externally, they have a cooling nature that makes them ideal for soothing skin irritation and reducing inflammation.


Infused oils and essential oils derived from violet leaves can be utilized for breast health maintenance, offering adjunct support for conditions like breast cancer and cysts.


Violets are both medicinal and edible! Young leaves can be enjoyed in salads, while the slightly sweet flowers are traditionally candied for decorative purposes. Their delicate flavor elevates a variety of dishes, from sauces to ice cream, offering a light and distinctive floral note.


Many of the over 100 species of violets are native to North America. Today, scientists are looking more in depth at the antimicrobial properties of violets, which further highlights its therapeutic uses.


Calendula ~ Calendula officinalis

Caledula
Calendula ~ Alpha

Calendula is such a cheerful sunny plant! And in my opinion, the star of the show out of these three.


Calendula, also known as Mary-Bud, Mary-Gold, Pot Marigold, and Poor Man’s Saffron.


Fun Fact: Saffron was a very expensive coloring agent which is how Calendula got the name “Poor Man’s Saffron.


Not to be confused with ornamental marigolds. Ornamental marigolds have many overlapping petals and highly dissected leaves.. They live in the same (Asteraceae or Aster) sunflower family, but are not interchangeable with calendula. (See photo for comparison)


Ornamental Marigolds
Ornamental Marigolds

Calendula has been cultivated for centuries and has a rich historical background. It was an essential part of gardens in 5th Century France and has been cultivated in England since the 1200s.


Introduced to the New World by European settlers, calendula was used as both a coloring agent in foods (Poor Man’s Saffron)  and in medicinal applications, such as stopping bleeding and promoting wound healing during the Civil War era. 


Easy to grow from seed, calendulas thrive in sunny locations and can be harvested throughout the growing season which is typically from spring to midsummer here in western Washington. 


Collect leaves and flowers once they fully open, in mid-afternoon on a sunny day. The resin content is then the highest, which strengthens the medicinal and magical properties of the herb. You can use calendula fresh or dried. 


Once the heads begin to look aged, dead-head them and compost them instead of using them. This will encourage the plant to produce more blooms throughout the season too.


Calendula is so versatile, and today it is used both internally and externally for a wide variety of purposes both preventative and curative.


The reason for this is due to its,


List of actions in the body


  • Antibacterial

  • Antiviral

  • Antioxidant

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • An emmenagogue (can be used to stimulate menses) 

  • A cholagogue (stimulates gallbladder function) 

  • A vulnerary (promotes wound healing)

  • A lymphagogue (promotes movement of the lymph)


With this list, you can see why it's a favorite go-to herb for all that ails you!


Partially closed calendula
Note the green underside, these are the bracts

The medicinal part of the plant is the whole flower head. The petals alone are yummy in a salad and beautiful as a garnish, but the magic is in the resinous bracts, the green at the base of the flower head. 


The stickiness of the resin on the bracts is a good indicator of its medicinal strength. 


Common Medicinal Uses


  • Calendula tea is commonly used to ease peptic ulcers, GERD, and inflammatory bowel disease.

  • It can be combined with licorice, slippery elm, and meadowsweet in treating GERD.

  • Calendula aids in healing gastric and intestinal inflammation through its vulnerary, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties.

  • In the case of peptic ulcers, it can be taken concurrently with antibiotic therapy and continued for two weeks after treatment.

  • Calendula stimulates the lymphatic system and relieves stagnation, treating swollen lymph nodes from respiratory infections, localized infections, and tonsillitis.

  • It helps build immunity by stimulating the lymphatic system.

  • Calendula is a favorite wintertime tea for its uplifting effect, historically used for grief and sadness alongside other cheering flowers like rose, mimosa, and lavender.

  • It can be combined with lemon balm and lemon verbena for additional benefits.

 

Fun Magical Uses


  • Calendula is an important herb in light, fire, and sun magic.

  • It gives strength to spells and enchantments.

  • As a sun herb, it brings confidence and respect.

  • Adding it to the bath before important meetings or wearing it as perfume enhances its effects.

  • Seeds sown at the doorstep can solve misunderstandings and encourage affection between lovers.

  • Calendula petals are commonly used in marriage ceremonies to bestow luck upon the newlyweds and protect them from envy.

  • Calendula flowers are used in divination, prophecy, and dream magic.

  • They can be burned at the altar or kept in a bag under the pillow to access psychic powers, aid in lucid dreaming, and perceive auras.

  • Fey creatures are often drawn to calendula, and fresh flowers are a valuable offering in deals with them.

  • Mixed with rosewater, hollyhock, hazel, and thyme, calendula flowers make an ointment that allows one to see invisible creatures and look through illusions and fey glamours.


Precautions and Contraindications


Do not use calendula internally during pregnancy. Remember, it is an emmenagogue and can be used to stimulate menses. 


Also, since calendula is in the aster family, it might cause a reaction with people who are highly sensitive to plants like ragweed and chamomile; this possibility is rare, but sensitive individuals should proceed with caution when taking calendula for the first time. 


Rare incidences of allergic contact dermatitis have occurred with the topical use of calendula.


Crafting the Lymphatic Support Tincture


To create this lymphatic support tincture, you'll need equal parts of fresh cleavers, violet, and calendula. 


If you'd like, rinse the herbs thoroughly to remove dirt or debris. Chop and combine the herbs in a glass jar, filling it about 3/4 of the way. Be careful not to pack them too tightly. My mentor says "make it like a fairy bed".


Cover them with alcohol, such as vodka or brandy, filling the jar to the brim. Seal the jar tightly and let it sit for 4-6 weeks, shaking it occasionally. 


After the infusion period, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth, squeezing the herbs to extract all the liquid. Store the tincture in a dark glass bottle. I recommend a bottle with a dropper cap for easier dosing.


Don't forget to label your bottle with the name, date, and ingredients. Store it in a cool dark place away from heat and sunlight.


The recommended dosage for adults (around 150 lbs) is 1-2 dropperfuls, 2-3 times daily. Always follow recommended dosage guidelines or consult with a pro for more personalized advice.


The Benefits of Lymphatic Drainage Massage


In addition to herbal support, lymphatic drainage massage can further enhance lymphatic function and overall well-being. 


This specialized massage technique involves gentle, rhythmic movements that stimulate lymphatic flow and promote the removal of toxins and waste products from the body. 


The benefits of lymphatic massage include enhanced immune function, reduced swelling and inflammation, and relief from conditions such as lymphedema and cellulite. 


It's essential to seek out a qualified massage therapist trained in lymphatic drainage techniques to ensure safe and effective treatment.


Conclusion


Supporting our lymphatic system is essential for maintaining optimal health and well-being. 


By incorporating herbal remedies like the lymphatic support tincture and lymphatic drainage massage into our wellness routines, we can promote lymphatic health and enhance our body's natural detoxification processes. 


Whether foraging for herbs in the wild or seeking professional massage therapy, let's take proactive steps to nurture our lymphatic system and support our overall vitality.


Stay magical, my friends!


~ Melody


Sources I used for this blog post:


As before, I’ve added photos of each plant here, but I would highly recommend finding a good resource for identification of any plants you plan to forage and consume. Never consume a plant that you are not 100% confident in your identification of, and always avoid foraging where poisons like pesticides or weed killers may have been sprayed.


*It's important to note that while herbs are generally considered safe for most people when consumed in moderate amounts, individuals with certain medical conditions or those taking medications should consult with a healthcare professional before using them therapeutically. Additionally, pregnant women should exercise caution and seek medical advice before using herbal supplements, as their safety during pregnancy has not been extensively studied.


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