Last month, I taught an online class called 'Herbal Practices for Winter Wellness' where I emphasized the importance of supporting your lymphatic health and how it is intimately tied to your immune system and circulatory system. Since we're in the thick of winter, I'd like to share a few herbal self-care rituals that can help reinvigorate your vitality, warm the body, and support lymphatic movement.
Calendula (Calendula officinalis, Asteraceae), also known as Pot Marigold, is one of those herbs that wear many hats. In addition to supporting the lymph, it is anti-inflammatory, a vulnerary that heals tissues both internally (ie gut lining) and externally (ie cut and scrapes), a pelvic decongestant, a mild liver supporting herb, an alterative (supports the body's detox process), rich in lutein and carotenoids ... I could go on! Its beautiful, sticky flower heads (including the calyx) are used primarily in herbal medicine preparations.
Energetically, Calendula is considered a warming and dry herb and indicated for damp and cold tissue states.
Going back to the lymph, Calendula is a considered a "lymphatic decongestant." This means that it helps to move congested fluid in the lymphatic system. You want lymph fluid to continuously flow unobstructed as it is a major component of your immune system (it carries pathogen-fighting white blood cells such as B-cells and T-cells), while also being a component of your detox system (transports metabolic waste to detox organs) and serving as a nutrient-delivery system.
Decongested or stagnant lymph can present as swollen lymph nodes, fatigue, sluggishness, skin issues (acne, eczema, etc.), arthritis, immunodeficiency, and a general lack of vitality in the body. Stagnant lymph can be caused by lack of physical movement (your lymph fluid is pumped throughout your body via physical movement of your skeletal system), dehydration, tension and stress, and shallow breathing.
Okay, so what about using herbal body oiling, you ask? Herbal body oiling (known as abhyanga in Ayurveda) has emotional, physical, and energetic benefits. It is traditionally used as a form of deep tissue detoxification, helping to move stuck metabolic waste through the lymphatic system and increase blood flow. On the emotional and physical level, it stimulates deep tissues such as the muscle and fascia which results in deep relaxation and pain reduction, leading to an increased feeling of well-being and in some cases a movement and release of stagnant emotions whether it be grief, sadness, anger, etc. Herbal body oiling is a wonderful self-care ritual I love to do after a shower or bath before going to bed. I find I fall asleep very quickly and wake up feeling refreshed and vital the next morning.
How to make a lymphatic Calendula-infused oil:
- Fill a pint jar about 2/3 of the way up with dried Calendula blossoms.
- Add organic extra virgin olive oil or jojoba oil until blossoms are entirely covered in oil.
- Cover with a lid and let infuse for 4-6 weeks.
- Strain into a glass container, such as a UV light-protected amber boston round bottle.
- Store oil away from sunlight to prevent rancidity.
Optional: Add essential oils of your choice for added medicinal and aromatherapeutic effect.
Apply oil liberally to skin, focusing on self-massaging extremities, head, face, back, and abdomen.
Altman, R. (2017, February 25). The lymphatic system. Wonder Botanica. https://wonderbotanica.com/newsletter-archive/lymphatic-system
Bergner, P., & Ganora, L. (2017). Integrative Herbalism Course Notes - Lymphatic System [Slides]. Google. https://clinicalherbalism.com/
Hare, J. (2020, October 21). The Science of Abhyanga. The Damn Doctor. https://www.thedamndoctor.com/blog/2020/10/21/the-science-of-abhyanga
Popham, S. (n.d.). Calendula (Calendula officinalis). Herb Rally. https://www.herbrally.com/monographs/calendula-sp
Whelan, R. (n.d.). Calendula. Richard Whelan Medical Herbalist. https://www.rjwhelan.co.nz/herbs%20A-Z/calendula.html