Lymph nodes swollen (Lymphatic swelling)  (Lymphedema)

Our Pages

- Herbal Medicine
- The Clinic
- Richard Whelan

- Alphabetically

- By Group
- Alphabetical

- Clinic Hours
Clinic Location

- Ancient wisdom in the modern world


Finding a good herbalist

Much of what's written in this article is entirely suitable for a person to work through themselves but, especially if things are quite bad, or you just know that you need further help, then there may be a great deal of benefit to you to go to whatever lengths necessary to find a good herbalist to guide you on to a safe and strong treatment program. There's a short write-up to suggest how you might go about finding such a person here

Lymphatic health

Lymph glands are like most things in our bodies in the sense that we never give them a moment's thought unless there is something actually wrong with them!

Whatever it is that may be causing problems in this area, what follows are some natural strategies that have been seen to significantly help improve lymphatic function.

lymphatic system


Immune health

Firstly, if there is any kind of problem that involves chronically swollen lymph nodes, then it is likely that the immune system needs a helping hand.

Immune health is such a vital area that this website includes a detailed article on the subject including steps to help determine what areas may be causing a problem as well as what to do about it.

Rather than replicate that information here, I suggest taking some time to study that article in full, with the understanding that what follows are some herbs and exercises that more specifically target lymphatic health. The article on immune health is found here

immune system



As well as its intimate connection with immune health, the lymphatic system is also vital to removing debris from the tiny spaces between cells within the body and in many cases the main issue behind a chronically congested lymphatic system is a pressing need for internal cleansing.

An accumulation of toxicity in the body is a major contributor to many chronic illnesses and a consistent understanding throughout all the old systems of medicine is that, when needed, helping the body to cleanse can be the most important first step towards activating the healing process.

If you have a reason to believe that your system is likely to need cleansing, e.g. any kind of history of poor skin, bowel or kidney health, or if you simply feel that a build-up of congestion in general has had an adverse effect on your lymphatic health, then taking certain herbs and eating a cleansing diet may be the best thing you can do to help your lymph system. A detailed and practical article on detoxification is found here

sources of toxicity


Exercise and Massage

The blood vessels have the heart to both push, and thereby also pull back, the blood in a constant loop. The lymphatic vessels have no such pump, even though the spread in a network of ever smaller vessels throughout the body, just as the blood vessels do. So then, without a pump at its centre, how does the lymph fluid move?

Lymph moves because we move, without movement there will inevitably be lymphatic congestion and swelling. If you have been exploring this area you will likely have already come across the practice of lymphatic massage, which is an excellent option if it is available.

For the most part, the best way to move the lymph is through movement. Any kind of exercise will help, for example walking or swimming are excellent however there is one movement that, by far, achieves lymphatic drainage better than anything, namely bouncing up and down!

If you have a chronic condition then, if it is at all possible, procure something called a mini-trampoline, and start using it. Start with just a few minutes, jogging on the spot before you graduate to actual bouncing. It will get your heart rate up, but it is extremely gentle on the joints. Even if you are advanced in years or are suffering from very poor health, this is a safe, gentle, and effective exercise for lymphatic health.

an example of a mini-trampoline


Herbs for the Lymphatic System


Calendula will be the first on the list of many herbalist's list of lymphatic remedies, including this one. It is supremely gentle and anyone from any age or background with any kind of problem can take it.

There is some harmless speculation about it, but we really don't know how Calendula has such potent healing effects on body tissues or why it so often helps a person who is suffering from lymphatic congestion. What matters is that it works and that it is taken in a strong enough dose, and for long enough, to sufficiently give its healing effects, more here

Calendula officinalis


Red Clover

Red clover, especially the blossoms but also the leaf, is another herb that may be relied upon to improve lymphatic health and tissue drainage. Like Calendula it can be safely taken by anyone although some more widespread, systemic cleansing actions may be expected from it and some people will be wise to use it in the context of a wider cleansing program as mentioned above and again linked to here


Cleavers, along with Calendula and the last herb mentioned here, Poke root, are often taught as the primary 'lymphatic trio'. The three herbs that most directly impact on lymphatic health or congestion. It is certainly a potent cleansing ally and, as it has a markedly cooling nature, it is especially good for people from the hotter side of the constitutional spectrum when cleansing is required. More about it here

Echinacea root

Echinacea is an extremely important herb in herbal medicine for its widespread benefits to the immune system. It is also thought of as a potent 'alterative' or blood-cleansing remedy and, as repeated clinical experience has shown, there can be no doubt that it can be of benefit to people who are suffering from chronic lymphatic congestion. Echinacea has warming properties of its own, so may be used to bring balance in a formula with Cleavers if there is any concern for that herb being too cooling. In many instances of a chronic health problem that involved the lymph, Echinacea should be considered indispensable - more here

Poke root

Poke root is the strongest of the lymphatic herbs, but it must be used with great care and respect. Really it should be used with the guidance by a person who is familiar with the herb and who is experienced in the use of the particular extract that are using. The reason for this last point is that different preparations of Poke root may considerably vary in their strength and the level required for it to work is not so very far under the level that will cause toxicity. Only very small amounts of Poke root should be used and only when the severity of the condition warrants it, more about it here

Phytolacca decandra (Poke root)

Lymphatic Cleansing Formula

In practice, for a person with chronically swollen lymph glands we might come up with something that looked like this:

Lymphatic formula

Calendula flowers 50mls
Red Clover blossoms 50mls
Cleavers 40mls
Echinacea root 40mls
Licorice root 20mls
(optional Poke root 2-5mls)

We make our own tinctures from organic dried herbs, so it might be important that you understand that the optimal dose range will vary with different preparations made by different companies or practitioners,

Licorice is there to help bring the other herbs together, to make the medicine more palatable, and for its own considerable tonic benefits. The above liquid extracts can be combined into a formula to make 210mls. This will easily fit into a 200ml amber pharm round bottle. Dosage is a crucial key to the success of herbal medicine, too little won't help and too much can overdo what the body can use to its best potential. The dose of this formula for an adult might be around 4 or 5 mls twice a day but honestly it could be half or even double that much depending on the person; how robust they were, how urgent was their need, how long-standing was their problem etc.

Echinacea angustifolia

Lymphatic tea

Calendula flowers
Red Clover blossoms

equal parts - e.g. 30 grams of each

Most cases I work with are chronic and, as the treatment is required for sustained periods of time, I like the ease, convenience and strength of a tincture formula. Plus, it is much easier to add the Echinacea and poke root to them if needed. However, some people prefer teas, or they need a more economical option, or we want to use a very strong treatment over a shorter time frame, which is something teas can be very good at when they are used in sufficient doses.

The above 3 herbs will make a potent and reasonably palatable lymphatic tea. I would suggest equal parts of each of these herbs in a mix but the amount to take could vary from as little as approximately a tsp of each herb (i.e. 3 heaped tsps combined) up to 3 or even 4 times that much for an acute need (i.e. 9-12 tsps in a larger infusion)

Steeping the herbs for a good 10-12 minutes in freshly boiled water in a covered vessel will extract the medicinal benefits. Such a tea could be drunk once a day over a longer period for a chronic problem that was not causing too much trouble, or up to 3 or even 4 times a day for an acute lymphatic condition that needed urgent attention.

As with so many aspects of herbal medicine, much of the success of the treatment lies in the art of the dose. An open mind, a willingness to experiment and, above all, a readiness to listen to the body's feedback, can be essential to getting it right.

Trifolium pratense (Red Clover)


Constitutional Health Note

Finally, you might benefit from learning about your constitution to know what kind of foods, herbs, exercises etc. will work especially well for your health in general.

Constitutional health is an old and fascinating way of understanding our differences. There's a brief introduction here and a more detailed section on working out which constitution you are here

Please understand that I cannot personally advise you without seeing you in my clinic.
This living 'book' is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!



© 2011 R.J.Whelan Ltd