The lymphatic system runs alongside the circulatory system and carries waste products and various types of immune cells. You can imagine it as somewhat of a residence and launching pad for your immune system. For something that's not mentioned much- it's rather important. Congested lymph can cause headaches, skin problems, joint stiffness and pain, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, underarms and other places, sinus congestion, high cholesterol and eventually can lead to cancer and other serious diseases.
It's time to get to know your lymph glands. Right now, put your fingers on your neck and feel around for them. They are right beneath your jaw bones. How do they feel? Can you feel little nuggets there? Do they hurt? Are they seemingly non-existent? Is the whole area lacking in feeling but a little tight? This is a great place to check in with yourself, and notice how it changes. Even if you're not yet in a full blown cold, you can check out the subtle happenings in your lymphatic system. Look for more of these tricks on tuning in.
You'll notice when you get sick, the lymph nodes in your neck will often become swollen and sore. They are processing all of the waste created by the battle your immune system is waging against whatever villainous pathogen has proliferated in there. This includes dead immune cells, chemicals made by immune cells to kill off invaders, chemicals from invaders, dead pathogens. Then you add all the other things that end up in there on a regular basis like environmental toxins, unused fats and so on... it makes for a Tijuana river kind of situation. Serious bioremediation needed.
I know its time to cleanse my lymph when I get cloudy, the lymph nodes in my neck feel like balls of yarn, my joints feel like I'm 100 and my face is suddenly full of active volcanoes. Perhaps I've been eating nothing but beans, potatoes and cookies and laying around on my computer.
My Cold and Flu Formula has red root (Ceanothus americana) in it, a powerful lymphatic mobilizer, which means it gets things moving. It's great for a cold and flu formula because when fighting a cod, waste products end up in the lymph, and if not cleaned out properly can hold back the whole setup. I get out my red root (also incredible in tea form) in these situations of lymph stagnation whether I have a cold or not.
Another lymph cleanser are cleavers (Galium aparine), which is the weed that always sticks to you when you're walking through a meadow. The seeds are little balls that are impossible to get rid of on your socks. Cleavers are best fresh. This is something you can juice in the spring before they flower, or add to smoothies. I made a cleavers tincture this spring that I have been using to keep that congested feeling out of my neck that seems to be prevalent as we fight the mold battle in our house. From my experience, if mold is a problem (which it invariably is if you live in the NW this time of year) it's incredibly important to be supporting your immune system and lymph in some way with herbs. You'll feel way less tired and achy.
Drinking a lot of water is a great way to cleanse lymph. Also, massaging your body towards your heart helps get it moving (there are no muscles that push your lymph along, so giving it outside help is great). Finally, when in the shower, alternating between hot and cold water is great for circulation of blood and lymph.
Pay close attention to how you're feeling this time of year. The less you let things stagnate, the better you'll feel throughout the winter. Stay active and positive rather than letting yourself sit for long periods. Invest in good winter clothing and go outside even though its frosty or pouring. Then, come home to a warming cup of tea. Even drinking just hot water in the morning can get your body moving in the cold.