Your lymphatic system runs throughout your body in much the same way as your circulatory system. It works to fight off infection, and isolate pathogens from the rest of your body. As a result, places throughout your lymphatic system, known as your lymph nodes, can become sore and inflamed as part of an immune response.
Most the time, if you notice your lymph nodes swelling it’s an indication that your immune system is working properly to fight an infection. Occasionally, if your lymphatic system is overtaxed, it can use a little help to clear out the inflammation and return to a healthy state.
Conventionally, lymphadenitis, or enlargement of the lymph nodes, is treated with antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medication. Both of these options can have negative impacts on the rest of your system as well as unintended side effects. Antibiotics are great as a last resort for infection, but for minor lymphatic issues, it’s best to treat yourself naturally if you can to avoid killing off the beneficial bacteria in your system along with the pathogens.
#1. Apple Cider Vinegar
Cider vinegar is a natural probiotic that also has anti-bacterial that help fight infection properties. Though it may seem counter intuitive, cider vinegar works by promoting the good bacteria in your system while at the same time helping to fight the source of infection.
Holistic health practitioners prescribe apple cider vinegar as a lymphatic tonic, to help promote lymphatic drainage, and for general bodily detoxification. You can take a tablespoon or two in a glass of water or juice 2-3 times a day.
Cider vinegar is also commonly taken along with raw honey, which also has antibacterial properties and can multiply the effects of the vinegar. A common holistic remedy based on cider vinegar, known as an oxymel, combines one-part immune boosting herb, one-part cider vinegar and one-part raw honey. Taken together, this can help boost your immune system and flush the inflammation from your lymphatic system.
#2. Cold Compress vs. Hot Compress
Ice packs and cold compresses help to reduce local inflammation and are a great option for isolated lymphatic issues. Apply a cold compress, or ice pack wrapped in a towel for 15 to 20 minutes at a time a few times per day to help reduce swelling. Similarly, elevating the affected area can also help drain the excess fluid.
Heat is also great pain reliever, and using a hot compress on painful and/or swollen lymph nodes can work wonders, and as long as you have access to hot water (doesn’t have to be a lot) and a flannel or piece of fabric, you can make your own. Simply soak the flannel in hot water (not boiling for obvious reasons), squeeze out the excess water, and hold it over the affected area for several minutes. The heat will increase blood flow, which in turn will ease the swelling and pain.
Clinically shown to have potent antibacterial properties, oregano essential oil is a powerful natural infection fighter. For a DIY home made version in a pinch, try oregano tea made with the oregano in your spice cabinet. It’ll work better if the oregano is as fresh as possible.
You can also make an oregano infused oil to keep on hand by packing a jar full of dried oregano and then covering with a natural edible oil such as olive oil. Strain out the leaves and use the oregano oil in your cooking or take it directly by the spoonful.
Purchasing ready-made oregano essential oil and taking it internally diluted with a little bit of water is also an option.
#4. Vitamin C
An all-natural immune system booster, vitamin c helps the body help itself in times of stress, infection or systemic inflammation. You can either take prepared vitamin C capsules, or take a more holistic approach and focus on eating vitamin C rich foods such as citrus, kale and strawberries.
Gently massaging lymph nodes can help stimulate the movement of lymph and reduce local inflammation. Getting the lymph flowing through individual swollen nodes can help relieve pain and promote healing. Gentle self-massage for 5-10 minutes at a time at the site of inflammation is generally effective.
For severe, whole body lymphatic issues, there is a specialized form of massage therapy, known as lymphatic drainage massage. Nurses are sometimes trained in it to treat lymphedema in patients and it’s recognized as a clinical treatment even through mainstream medical channels when other methods are not effective. Seek out a local practitioner for a professional session, or do your research and try a few lymphatic drainage massage strokes on yourself.
#6. Peppermint Oil
No home should be without a few essential oils, and in times of shortage, they are invaluable. Peppermint oil massaged onto the lymph nodes works in several ways – it’s a natural analgesic (painkiller), and is also anti-bacterial. Massaging the nodes will also increase circulation and decrease swelling, so combining the two is doubly effective. Essential oils should always be diluted in a carrier oil, and if you use castor oil (in conjunction with another vegetable-based oil as castor oil is a bit thick) you will benefit from its anti-inflammatory properties as well. This is how to make your own peppermint oil.
If you have cayenne pepper in your kitchen, the chances are that you will also have turmeric. This golden powder contains both anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, which fight against the infection which could be causing the swollen lymph nodes. Turmeric and honey can be mixed in equal parts and applied to the affected area for 10 minutes, twice daily, until symptoms subside. Alternatively, ½ tsp in a cup of warm water makes an effective solution for gargling three times a day. Turmeric powder can also be mixed with milk, along with pepper, and brought to the boil, before drinking with honey to taste.
Related: How to Make Your Own Turmeric Drops
#8. Raw Garlic
Naturally antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal, garlic helps the body fight off infection while at the same time promoting circulation. Raw garlic works best, and finely chopping or crushing the cloves helps to release the enzymes responsible that will help your body the most. There are prepared chopped garlic formulations you can buy in jars, but fresh is best because it’ll have the most potent enzymatic properties.
#9. Honey and Lemon
One of nature’s medicines, honey can be used for a plethora of conditions, but one of its best uses is for the symptoms of sore throats and swollen lymph nodes. Drinking hot tea with a tablespoon of honey is not only relaxing (tea is a relaxant), but the honey will work on reducing the swelling. Alternatively, 2 tbsps. of honey along with a good squeeze of lemon juice can be added to warm water and drunk twice a day – while the honey reduces the swelling, the lemon boosts the immune system, and is also anti-bacterial. Another way of using lemons is to cut the fruit in half, sprinkle salt and pepper onto one half, and then licking it! If you don’t really fancy that, squeeze the lemon juice into warm water and gargle.
#10. Castor Oil
Castor oil contains anti-inflammatory compounds that help reduce inflammation when rubbed into the skin. Gently massage the area with a small amount of castor oil a few times per day. Avoid taking castor oil internally, as it can cause intense digestive upset.
#11. Salt Water Gargles
If the swollen lymphs are mainly in your neck and throat, gargling with salt water can help ease the inflammation. Just 1/2 teaspoon of salt dissolved in one cup warm water can be enough to stimulate your lymphatic system to reduce the inflammation around your neck and throat. Try gargling with a salt water solution several times per day.
#12. Herbal Teas
A number of herbal teas can stimulate your immune system and/or reduce inflammation. These include mullein, echinacea, cleavers, elderberry, calendula, and peppermint. Take a few tablespoons of fresh or dried herb, finely chopped, and cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Steep for 10-15 minutes and drink plain or with honey 3 to 4 times per day.
#13. Tea Bags
We all know that a cup of tea makes everything better, right? And that includes swollen lymph nodes. Soak a tea bag in hot water for a few minutes, and then apply to the affected area up to 3 times daily to reduce swelling and pain. The tea bags can be new or used, so no need for waste – just use the ones you have made tea with.
#14. Coconut Oil
No longer an exotic ingredient, coconut oil can be found in many kitchens and bathroom cabinets. Coconut oil is anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-bacterial, and is especially effective in relieving swollen lymph nodes in the armpit. Massage the oil over the affected area, to treat the swelling from the outside, and/or take a tablespoon of extra-virgin coconut oil every day to work from the inside.
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