detox your lymph nodes lymphatic system

A complicated network of fluid-filled nodes, vessels, glands and organs, the lymphatic system touches almost every part of the body. Although we may not feel or see it, it’s one of the most important (and often forgotten) systems of the human body. Just like the liver, kidneys, and mouth, it’s important to give the lymph the attention it deserves.

The lymphatic system’s main function is to cleanse toxins and protect against harmful invaders. It works by carrying our body’s waste away from the tissues and into the bloodstream. It tackles toxins that are introduced to the body from both external means (food, air, personal care products, water) as well as internal ones (damaged proteins and cellular/metabolic waste), making it a key detoxification pathway. Once the toxins enter the bloodstream, they are purified through the largest lymphatic tissue in the body, the spleen. The spleen is our main immune defense, fighting infection, holding a reserve of red and white blood cells and destroying worn-out red blood cells in the body.

Through lymph nodes and the lymphatic network, your immune cells can travel around fighting pathogens, such as bacteria and mold, and preventing disease and infection. This is why keeping your lymphatic system functioning properly is directly related to the overall health of the body: a stronger lymphatic system means a more resilient and reactive immune response and defense.

The problem is that, unlike blood, lymph does not have a pump. It relies on the relaxation and the contraction of the muscles and joints to move it. Your lymphatic system can easily become stagnant, especially when it becomes overwhelmed with toxic debris. This not only leads impaired immunity and disease, but the development of cellulite, edema (fluid retention), chronic pain and fatty deposits. A sluggish lymphatic flow can also be a root cause of chronic sinusitis; swollen glands, ankles and eyes; eczema; arthritis; upper respiratory, sinus and ear infections; throat problems; colds; tonsillitis; bronchitis and pneumonia.

The good news is that keeping the lymph moving doesn’t take much – just a few daily exercises, plenty of water, and the inclusion of raw foods and herbs. When the lymph is working well, we stay healthy; and if we’re ill, it helps us to regain our health again. It is never too early to practice prevention, especially when it keeps our skin youthful and cellulite-free!

10 Ways To Detox your Lymph


Rebounding is one of the easiest ways to pump the lymph. Rebounding is the practice of jumping on a trampoline (yes, remember when we did this for fun!?) for ten to thirty minutes. This passively moves the lymph while stimulating the circulation of blood throughout the body. Numerous studies have proven its efficacy, and have even shown it to improve muscle tone.

TCM Pick: Let’s Bounce! The Benefits of Rebounding

Inversion Table

An inversion table is a padded table that allows one to invert upside down while strapped in by the feet. The inversion process decompresses the joints of the body and stimulates the lymphatic and circulatory system. This brings blood and oxygen to the tissues, which helps to clear the muscles of toxic build-up. By inverting, gravity works with, not against, the body, encouraging the movement of the lymph. It also improves spinal health by rehydrating the discs, reducing pressure on the nerves and relaxing tense muscles.

TCM Pick: Body Champ Inversion Table

Lemon Water

Lymph is about 95% water, making water essential for its health. Stay hydrated by drinking half your weight in ounces of water a day. Without adequate water, lymphatic fluid cannot flow properly. And one of the most common causes of lymph congestion is dehydration. Water, and only water, can adequately rehydrate the body, but if you want to expedite the process, add lemon to your water. Lemon is an alkaline fruit that helps to mineralize the body and lymph. Try sipping on warm lemon water throughout the day, but don’t forget your straw! This protects the teeth’s enamel from the lemon.

TCM Pick: Pressed Juicery’s Lemon H20 and Glass Dharma Drinking Straw


Enzymes are produced by the body to break down food substances and to expedite countless metabolic processes. They are also utilized by the body to clear toxic-waste buildup in the lymph and blood, making their supplementation a key way to improve lymphatic health. Using proteolytic enzymes between meals can help to “digest” or breakdown organic debris in the circulatory and lymph systems, increasing lymphatic flow. They also help to ease the burden of allergy-like compounds, freeing the immune fractions traveling in the lymph system for other work.

TCM Pick: Wobenzym capsules


We all love a good massage, and here’s just one more reason why. Lymphatic massage is a special form of massage that specifically targets the flow of lymph in the body. It uses a specific amount of pressure and rhythmic circular movements to stimulate the lymph, encouraging its movement towards the heart for the drainage of fluid and waste. Lymphatic massage has shown in studies to push up to 78 percent of stagnant lymph back into circulation. This mobilizes toxins for clearance, lessening the burden on the lymphatic system.


Many herbs have proven to be effective in improving lymphatic health, whether in their ability to increase lymphatic flow and drainage or in expediting the clearance of toxic substances. Red clover is a popular herb for the lymph, increasing flow, which helps to detoxify the body and reduce inflammation. Cleavers is another herb to try. Also known as clivers or goosegrass, it has been used for centuries and considered one of the best tonics to stimulate and help drain the lymphatic system. Coming from the Ayurvedic tradition is manjistha. Manjistha is an herb that is primarily utilized for its ability to de-stagnate lymph. It does this by detoxifying the tissue and supporting lymph flow. Finally, bupleurum and rehmannia are herbal tonics known to treat lymphatic conditions in traditional Chinese medicine. These herbs are famous in Asia for maintaining the cleanliness of the lymphatic system and thus for naturally removing toxins from deep within the body on an on-going basis.

TCM Pick: Organic Lymph Tincture by Terra Firma Botanicals

Dry Brushing

Dry skin brushing is a favorite TCM practice. It’s a technique commonly utilized in Ayurveda for assisting in lymphatic flow and boosting circulation. You simply take a dry brush with coarse bristle and brush the skin towards the heart. This stimulates the sweat glands, opens pores, and gets rid of dead skin cells. It also encourages the movement of lymph and blood in underlying organs and tissues of the body, which helps clear built-up toxins. As a result, it can be beneficial in improving skin conditions and reducing cellulite.

TCM Pick: Kingsley Natural Bristle Body Brush

Eat Raw Foods

Incorporating raw foods into the diet is an easy way to keep the lymphatic system healthy on an ongoing basis. Raw foods offer high levels of naturally occurring enzymes that break down toxic buildups and promote the clearance of harmful substances in the body. Eating foods raw, in particular fruits and vegetables, is also a great way to boost the water levels in the body. Finally, raw foods are primarily alkaline, which help neutralize harmful pathogens, lessening the burden on the lymph.

TCM Pick: Raw Fall Harvest Soup

Go Wireless

Just like tight-fitting clothes, underwire bras can impede normal lymphatic flow. One of the largest clusters of lymph nodes is located in the armpit and upper chest area, and those nodes act as a source of drainage for the breast, arm, and upper chest. If a bra is too tight, or if the underwire is too restrictive (for most of us this is the case), the lymph is constricted, preventing normal drainage. Some researchers believe that over a period of time this can cause long-term impairment of the lymphatic function, and may contribute to an array of conditions including fibrocystic breast tissue, swollen lymph nodes and breast cancer.

TCM Pick: Cotton Wireless Bra by Victoria’s Secret

Practice Yoga

Yoga works in multiple ways to increase the flow of the lymph, relieving congestion and encouraging its detoxification. To start, inversions such as handstands, headstands and shoulder stands, and even placing the legs up the wall, reverse the effect of gravity. Much like the inversion table, this helps to drain the lymph towards the heart, escalating the rate in which it’s cleaned and filtered. Twists are also a great way to stimulate lymphatic flow. Through the practice of twisting the abdomen, the organs and muscles are squeezed, forcing the lymph out of the tissues. Finally, the natural dynamic flow through the yoga poses cause the muscles in the body to contract and relax, which is the primary way lymph moves through the body. This allows for a free flow of lymph, which prevents its stagnation and accumulation of toxins.

TCM Pick: A 5 Minute Yoga Detox By YogaWorks

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  1. I am a medical anthropologist breast cancer researcher, and co-author of Dressed To Kill: The Link Between Breast Cancer and Bras. It is not just underwired bras that are the problem. Any bra that leaves red marks or indentations is too tight and can be interfering with lymphatic circulation. Bra-free is the best, and women should try being bra-free for 30 days to see for themselves how much healthier they feel without the constriction. Bras also cause breasts to droop, as the natural suspensory ligaments within the breasts atrophy and weaken due to the artificial support. Women who eliminate the bra discover that their breasts tone and lift within a few months. For more, see my website KillerCulture dot com.

    • Thank you Sydney for adding that! Great tip.

      Lauren Felts CN | 03.02.2015 | Reply
    • Bra-free is the best 😀

      Senka | 04.12.2015 | Reply
    • Sydney, I am 68 years old, and my breast size is 40C. My breasts hurt if I got through the day w/o some type of support to hold them. If I take an aerobics class or if I am out doing a fast walk, my breasts are flopping up and down. So uncomfortable and embarassing. Can you give me the name of a bra that I can wear, since I have these issues. If I had smaller breasts, I would not be asking. Thank you for any suggestions. Angie Perry, Greensboro, NC 4/18/2015

      Angie Perry | 04.19.2015 | Reply
      • Anita Active makes good sports bras that are not too constricting and are breathable. Also check out Fabletics sports bras; they have a great selection for comfort and control when exercising.

        Kirsten | 06.25.2015 | Reply
    • I have your book. I remember hearing someone speaking of this at Lupin, Los Gatos, years back. Finally, I got up and joined in: brilliant talk by you and your wife, who is an optometrist, if I remember correctly. Thank you for all the great work.

      Karen Ferguson | 01.08.2016 | Reply
  2. I’ve never heard of those herbs. I’ll have to check them out. Thanks!

  3. Such a great article! I appreciate that you gave us such a comprehensive look at lymph drainage. I had my spleen removed because of an accident and for 35 years have been told it doesn’t matter. I always knew that there must be something I should to do to compensate for the loss of such an important organ. Through trial and error (and chronic illness), I discovered many of your suggestions (inversion, rebounding, massage, enzymes and the highest quality food) to be imperative to my well-being but the tip about the bra… this is a welcome epiphany. Striking a match now!

  4. My brother had a hip replacement due to serious osteo-arthritis overtaking all his joints….as a result, he wound up with extreme lymphedema which caused his legs to become like elephants, and because the fluid has no place to go, it breaks through the skin….like for the last 7 years….it’s amazing he hasn’t taken his own life, the pain and suffering he’s in constantly. It’s painful to see him like this…..as of today, he’s lost all the skin on his calves….he has to keep his legs wrapped to “help” the situation…..due to doctor’s who only address the symptoms, and not the cause…..they spoke of amputating his legs a year or so ago, because they’re so clueless…..can you help ? He puts absolute faith in these doctors of his and rarely listens to any advice, which impedes helping him to any degree, but maybe he’d listen to someone with more knowledge than myself…..thank you….sorry, this doesn’t include the bra scenario…..he’s 63 yrs old, with a poor diet at best, and drinks soda, and beer. Yay. Thank you…..

    margaret | 08.14.2015 | Reply
  5. Great article, many thanks for posting. I thought if I’d share my own experience it might help someone. I have a problem with a knee at its back, it’s often swollen and sore. What helps me is a simple exercise adapted from Katsuzo Nishi system. The one has to lay down on the floor and raise his/her hands and legs up. Then trying to relax them and shake vigorously, counting till 40, then small break to catch breath and repeat counting till 40 again. Word of caution: rest for couple minutes after the exercise and get up slowly. I even experienced intoxication like symptoms, just drink water and sit down for a while. After some research today I realized that I have problem with lymph and lymph node at the back of the knee, and that exercise stimulates lymph drainage from hurt knee, that is why it’s helping. I obviously need lymph detox. So thanks a lot for great tips on the matter, I get some herbs now. :)))

    Nataliya | 08.17.2015 | Reply
  6. Wonderful article, thank you! I do have a question…How is lemon and alkaline fruit? It is a actually a very strong acid, citric acid. And how can citric acid mineralize anything? I’m not sure those statements are correct.

    LucyJane | 10.25.2015 | Reply
    • Hi LucyJane,
      It’s a counterintuitive way of looking at things, but the “acid” aspect of lemons is misleading. Lemons are, in a sense, acidic, but when you’re looking at raising the Ph of the body, lemons actually help to alkalize the body, and therefore, help with the overall health of the lymphatic system. They help the body get to a Ph of about 7.0 (which is ideal) and therefore help with overall functioning. Ph levels will vary throughout the day but 7.0 is about the sweet spot on average.

      Nathan | 12.15.2015 | Reply
  7. lookie here

  8. Thank you, I have all of these symptoms

    Chelle Coffee | 03.20.2016 | Reply


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