Anatomy and Physiology: Aromatherapy for the Lymph System

Your lymphatic system works closely with your circulatory system and performs three important roles: it helps to maintain correct fluid balance in body tissues by draining excess fluids; it absorbs fat and fat-soluble substances from the digestive tract; and it aids the body's defence systems by filtering foreign substances such as micro-organisms from lymph fluid. Lymph organs also produce cells, such as lymphocytes, that destroy foreign substances.

Stagnant Lymphatics

It's easy to see why, when your lymphatic system is not working well, you'd suffer from certain ailments. Unlike blood, which is pumped around the body by the heart, lymph relies on the pressure exerted by the normal activity of surrounding muscles. When lymph flow becomes stagnant this leads to a build-up of waste, toxins and excess fluids in your body.

Essential Oils for your Lymphatic System

Your lymphatic system works closely with your circulatory system. Therefore, essential oils that stimulate the circulatory system will also stimulate the lymphatics.

  • Stimulants: Rosemary and eucalyptus stimulate a poor circulation. It is the blue gum variety of eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus) that should be used. Two other useful circulatory stimulants are ginger (Zingiber officinale) and black pepper (Piper nigrum). But do be aware that black pepper irritates the skin in used in high quantities. Oils with diuretic properties accelerate lymph flow.
  • Diuretics: Geranium, lemon, patchouli, sweet fennel and juniper speed up the flow of lymph. Essential oils that help to fight infection support the role your lymphatic system in immunity. Most of them also help to stimulate the production of white blood cells.
  • Infection fighters: Bergamot, chamomile, lavender, rosemary, lemon, sandalwood, thyme and tea tree are among the oils which are known to have anti-infectious properties.

Treating the Lymphatic System

Here you are shown some common diseases of the lymphatic system and which essential oils to use as a remedy.

Water Retention

Oedema, or water retention, is a condition that sees the swelling of certain parts of the body, most commonly the ankles or legs but also the hands, feet and around the eyes. It is a build-up of excess water in the skin or body tissues, which your lymphatic system has failed to drain. There can be a number of causes. Poor kidney function, varicose veins, poor diet (a high intake of salt and sugar) or digestion, an injury to the area, an allergic reaction, the contraceptive pill or pregnancy. People who are prone to oedema should take daily exercise such as a brisk walk and elevate their legs while at rest.

The following oils are helpful to oedema to use in a bath or as a massage blend. Do not massage if the cause is varicose veins or an injury. Blend juniper, geranium an rosemary for a bath or massage oil with diuretic, lymph stimulating and detoxifying effects.

aromatherapy bathing

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Chronic fatigue syndrome, or, as it is now known and acknowledged by doctors, myalgic encephalmyelitis or post viral fatigue syndrome, is a severe, debilitating disease that leaves the sufferer unable to carry out day to day functions for a long period of time. It can last for six months or more. The exact cause of chronic fatigue syndrome has not been determined, though some theories suggest that it may be triggered by viral conditions such as glandular fever. Symptoms include utter fatigue that cannot be resolved my rest, an inability to focus and depression. Use lymph-supporting oils that also uplift and restore your energy and spirit such as rosemary, bergamot, lemon and other citrus oils.

Sufferers also experience joint and muscle pain, sore throats and slight fevers and tender lymph nodes in the neck and armpits. Relieve muscular pain with ginger oil and burn anti-infectious oils for mild fevers. For tender lymph nodes bathe with diuretics such as geranium or patchouli oils.

Toxic Build-up

Your lymphatic system helps eliminate toxins and waste from your body. When it is sluggish this leads to a build-up of toxic waste, which can result in cellulite, skin conditions, catarrh, headaches and migraine. You should use stimulating essential oils to get lymph moving, combined with oils to remedy the unpleasant symptoms.

Cellulite often occurs in the thigh, hip and buttocks as a result of toxic waste and fluid retention. Use lymphatic massage with detoxifying and diuretic oils - geranium, rosemary, juniper and patchouli.

Congested and spotty skin is often a sign of poor elimination of toxins. Use detoxifying oils gentle enough for the face such as geranium, juniper and patchouli, and oils to fight the infection such as bergamot, lavender, sandalwood and tea tree.

Steam inhalation

Inhalations of blue gum eucalyptus can help catarrh, while vaporising lavender or rosemary oils can help to clear headaches and migraines.

Localised Infections

There are many conditions that can impair the efficiency of your lymphatic system, such as a bad bout of glandular fever. When your lymphatic system has been compromised this can lead to recurrent infections such as sore throats, tonsillitis, colds and flu. You can use oils in compresses, baths, vaporisation and inhalations to help strengthen and support its role in your body's immunity.

Essential oils that help fight infection include tea tree and thyme. Certain species of thyme irritate the skin and mucous membranes. The safest variety to use is common thyme (Thymus vulgaris), but you should still patch test the oil before applying and avoid using on young children or people with sensitive skins. Other useful oils for infections are bergamot, lemon, lavender and sandalwood.