The lymphatic system in naturopathy
The human lymphatic system transports fluid, the nutrients it contains and various other important substances such as immune cells through the human body. At the same time, with the help of the lymph nodes, it cleanses this fluid, for example from pollutants and dead cells. The lymphatic system thus takes on important tasks, for example within the immune system and in the nutrient supply to the cells. The structure, functions and functioning of the lymphatic system are similar to the system of the blood vessels that carry the blood through the body.
All general information on structure and function can be found in our article "The human lymphatic system". In the following, we examine the tasks of the lymphatic system and its special position from the perspective of naturopathy, some of which differ from or complement the conventional medical perspective.
- You can find a brief overview of the lymphatic system in naturopathy in this overview.
- description: From a naturopathic point of view, the lymphatic system is mainly viewed as a drainage system for poisons, pathogens, dead or degenerate cells and others. It cleanses the lymphatic fluid and triggers important immune system reactions. Diseases that are associated with disorders of the lymphatic system from a naturopathic perspective include weakened immune system, skin problems, hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis), diabetes mellitus and gout.
- Diagnosis: Mainly iris diagnosis, anamnesis
- Naturopathic treatment options: Above all rejection procedures (for example cupping, Baunscheidt therapy, leech therapy, cantharid plasters), phytotherapy, homeopathy, manual therapies such as lymphatic drainage and osteopathy, TCM
- Active support for the lymphatic system: Balanced diet, possibly supplemented with probiotics, plenty of water and herbal tea, enough exercise, enough sleep and relaxation, deep breathing, avoiding restrictive clothing, (brush) massages
- Note: Problems in the lymphatic system can indicate serious illnesses. Therefore, a solid diagnostic clarification should be carried out before measures to stimulate or relieve the lymphatic system are taken.
The lymphatic system in naturopathy
In naturopathy, the human lymphatic system is primarily seen as an important drainage system. Because it is able to intercept, for example, pollutants, bacteria, parasites and dead or degenerate cells, to clean them, to make them harmless and to excrete them.
From this perspective, it is also of therapeutic importance for the treatment of various physical disorders that conventional medicine does not directly associate with the lymphatic system. This includes a weakened immune system, skin problems and hardening of the arteries (arteriosclerosis) as well as gout and diabetes mellitus.
In the best case, by supporting the lymphatic system in its work, you can prevent many diseases or positively influence existing health problems.
Lymphatic constitution: diagnosis and significance
Many naturopathic therapists use iris diagnosis to get information about disorders within the lymphatic system. Iris diagnosis divides people into different constitution types. If, according to this form of diagnosis, there is a so-called lymphatic constitution type, this provides important information for the treatment.
A lymphatic constitutional type is understood to mean a person in whom certain stimuli trigger more violent ("excessive") reactions of the lymphatic system and the immune system than would normally be the case.
It also takes into account the assumption that the lymphatic system is functionally very closely connected to the autonomic nervous system (vegetative nervous system, vegetative or VNS for short) and the hormonal system (endocrine system). Accordingly, the lymphatic person responds to many stresses more nervously and mentally than people of other constitutional types. There may be increased sensitivity to all internal and external stimuli. This includes pain, noise or weather influences.
If, according to iris diagnosis, a person belongs to the lymphatic constitutional type, he tends to recurring and / or chronic respiratory infections such as colds, sinus infections or bronchitis. Frequent swelling of the lymph nodes on the neck and polyps can also occur. In addition, there may also be susceptibility to inflammatory diseases in the intestine and in the area of the kidneys, bladder and genital organs. Skin problems are also observed more frequently.
From a naturopathic point of view, a holistic treatment approach in the case of a lymphatic constitution type should include measures to relieve the lymphatic system as well as compensatory measures for the psyche. Support should also be given to the kidneys, skin and lungs.
In addition to the iris diagnosis, swelling caused by water retention (edema), chronic headaches, rapid fatigue or problems with concentration can also indicate that the lymphatic system needs support. However, since there may also be other, sometimes serious, causes behind it, careful diagnostic clarification is advisable.
Naturopathic treatment of the lymphatic system
A naturopathic treatment is supposed to relieve the lymphatic system and uses various means, which can only be mentioned here as examples. Classic derivation and discharge methods (also called diversion methods) such as cupping, Baunscheidt therapy, leech therapy and in particular the sticking of cantharid plasters have an activating effect and stimulate the lymphatic flow.
Important: Cantharid plasters are controversial due to the possible side effects and should only be used with extreme caution. A cantharid plaster may only be used under professional supervision and after consultation with a doctor! Possible side effects include burn reactions, poorly healing wounds, scarring and pigment shifts. With a strong overdose, symptoms of poisoning can occur, which in the worst case can be fatal.
Medicinal plants are also available to stimulate the lymphatic system, for example the stone clover or horse chestnut.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) in particular involves the spleen as an organ for the distribution of fluids in the body. The spleen is to be supported with special herbs and acupuncture. Prepared thymus preparations are used to stimulate the immune system and, for example, to counteract general weakness in the body's defenses and excessive allergic reactions.
Homeopathy also has medicines that should have a regulating effect on the lymphatic system according to the symptoms of body and mind described. Vitamins, trace elements and enzymes are also used. However, the selection of a suitable homeopathic remedy as well as dietary supplements always belongs to an expert.
Manual treatment of the lymphatic system
Anatomically and palpatorically (i.e. when palpating), the lymphatic system is the softest structure of the vessels that transport fluids in the human body. The venous and arterial system, on the other hand, is considered the hardest structure. The pressure during manual or mechanical treatment is also adapted to these different fabric qualities. The softness of the lymphatic system is usually taken into account with a very gentle, painless treatment.
Manual and mechanical procedures are well suited to support lymphatic flow. These include lymphatic drainage and osteopathy.
Manual lymphatic drainage is designed to support the flow of lymph in the body. It was developed by Dr. Emil Vodder developed. The natural transport mechanism of the lymphatic fluid in the body is stimulated and promoted using four basic handles.
In conventional medicine, lymphatic drainage is used primarily for edema (water retention) of various causes. An example of this is the accompanying therapy after a tumor treatment. If, for example, the lymph nodes of an arm are removed as a result of a breast amputation, lymph drainage can then help if edema develops in the arm.
In natural medicine, lymphatic drainage is also recommended for chronic inflammation of the sinuses (sinusitis), bronchitis, diseases of the musculoskeletal system and the skin. These areas of application are based on observations (empirical medicine), but have not yet been supported by scientific studies.
Important: There are various contraindications to lymphatic drainage (contraindications). Please clarify in advance with your family doctor whether this form of application is suitable for you.
Lymphatic drainage should not be used for:
- Bronchial asthma,
- increased body temperature,
- Heart failure,
- low blood pressure (hypotension),
- Overactive or underactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism or hypothyroidism),
- Thrombosis or tendency to thrombosis
- or wound rose (erysipelas).
Some of these contraindications may still allow lymphatic drainage. However, this must be decided by a doctor in individual cases.
Osteopathy is another manual therapy that can have a positive effect on the lymphatic system. Our article "What is osteopathy?" Explains all important information about osteopathy.
It also applies to this treatment method that the concrete effect for the specified diseases has so far been based on observations (empirical medicine). However, there are already some scientific studies on the basic effect of osteopathy on processes within the lymphatic system, which show, for example, that the number of certain immune cells in the lymphatic fluid increases after osteopathic treatment.
Note: Even osteopathy should only be used after consulting a doctor and clarifying possible contraindications.
Stimulate the lymphatic system: you can do that yourself
If you want to preventively support and stimulate your lymphatic system, there are many simple options.
Lymph is a fluid, the transport of which works, among other things, through muscle activity. By drinking plenty of water every day, getting enough exercise and making sure that you breathe deeply and regularly, you are already doing a lot of good for your lymphatic system. A balanced diet and enough sleep also help to support or relieve the lymphatic system.
Since there are close relationships between the lymphatic system and the digestive tract, the use of probiotics should also have a positive effect. Massages (e.g. dry brushing) and saunas can also support the lymphatic system. Avoid clothing that constricts you, as this could restrict lymphatic flow.
To check whether the measures are effective, you can calmly write down your general condition before you start and then check daily whether positive changes can be observed. (tf, jvs, kh)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Jeanette Viñals Stein, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Richard Nickel, August Schummer, Eugen Seiferle: circulatory system, skin and skin organs, Thieme Verlag 2005
- K.-H.G. Müller, E. Kaiserling: Lymphatic System Lymphatic Tissue: Diagnostics with Imaging Techniques, Springer Verlag 2013
- German Cancer Society: The Lymphatic System - Anatomy and Function (accessed 2019), krebsgesellschaft.de
- Schünke, Michael et al .: Lymphatic system and glands; in: General Anatomy, Chapter 7, Thieme Verlag 2018
- Helmut Deinzer: From tonsilitis to lymphoma, German alternative practitioner magazine 2014
- Bierbach, Elvira (ed.): Naturopathic practice today. Textbook and atlas. Elsevier GmbH, Urban & Fischer Verlag, Munich, 4th edition 2009
- Schweitzer, Rudolf: Cardiovascular system. The Naturopathic Academy. Elsevier GmbH, Urban & Fischer Verlag, Munich, 1st edition 2012
- Chikly, Bruno: Manual techniques addressing the lymphatic system: Origins and development; in: The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, Vol. 105, pages 457-464, 2005, JAOA
- Jackson, K., Steele, T., Dugan, E. et al .: Effect of lymphatic and splenic pump techniques on the antibody response to hepatitis B vaccine: A pilot study; in: The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, Vol. 98, page 155-160, 1998, JAOA
- Mesina, Julian, Hampton, D., Evans, R. et al .: Transient basophilia following the application of lymphatic pump techniques: A pilot study; in: The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, Vol. 98, pages 91-104, 1998, JAOA