Q & A: Lymphedema Natural Treatment

| September/October 2001

I have secondary lymphedema in my lower left leg and am interested in whatever can be helpful with that condition. I take ginkgo and eat many flavonoid-rich foods, and I also practice yoga—could these be helpful for lymphedema?
—K. N., via e-mail 

Keville responds: Yes, ginkgo, foods rich in flavonoids and yoga are exactly what you need to increase circulation and move the congested lymph and accumulating fluid. You could also try concentrated flavonoid supplements from bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus) or elder (Sambucus nigra). A lymphatic massage with an aromatherapy massage oil designed for lymph drainage would be great for you. To make the massage oil, use pure essential oils: 6 drops lemon, 6 drops grapefruit, 3 drops rosemary, and 2 drops juniper in 2 oz. of vegetable oil. It’s best to find someone trained in lymph massage to work on you, but you can even give yourself a lymphatic massage—use long, deep strokes up the leg.

Another idea is a hydrotherapy footbath. Use two buckets that are deep and wide enough to put your feet into them as far up to your knees as possible. Put cold water in one and hot in the other with about 6 drops each of lavender and rosemary essential oils. Alternate your legs back and forth between the two buckets several times. Stay in the hot bucket for at least three minutes, then try to remain in the cold at least one minute.

For internal treatment, cleavers (Galium aparine) helps drain excessive fluid buildup. A typical herbal formula to help move lymph is equal parts of cleavers, mullein (Verbascum spp.), prickly ash bark (Zanthoxylum spp.) and red clover flowers (Trifolium pratense). Secondary lymphedema is tough, but I think you’ll be surprised at the results you’ll see after doing these treatments.

Rountree responds: One of the best treatments for lymphedema is a form of massage called Manual Lymphatic Drainage. When performed regularly, it can be very effective for this condition. Certified practitioners are available all over the country. Yoga should be an excellent complement to this therapy. If you’re on your feet a lot, you might also need to use graduated compression stockings to keep the swelling down.

Eating a lot of vitamin C and flavonoid-rich foods such as berries, onions, and citrus fruits helps to strengthen the walls of the capillaries, thus improving general circulation. While ginkgo has been shown in medical studies to increase arterial blood flow, it may work better when combined with gotu kola (Centella asiatica) or horse chestnut seed (Aesculus hippocastanum), which are more specific for venous insufficiency. Studies show that gotu kola increases blood flow through the veins by enhancing the integrity of the surrounding connective tissue. Lymph is basically fluid that leaks out of the veins. Increasing venous blood flow should decrease the accumulation of lymph in the connective tissues, relieving your lymphatic system of the burden of draining it back out again. The dose of gotu kola is 2 to 4 g daily of the dried leaves, or 60 to 120 mg daily of an extract standardized to 40 percent asiaticoside.

11/22/2018 6:24:57 PM

Good article, we need more of this information about herbs out there. I tried several of these in the past, but maybe I wasn't using a big enough dose, as I didn't get any noticeable changes. I did however eventually get a dramatic reduction in my primary lymphedema when I added chinese herbs and tui na massage (I was already doing a plant-based diet along with some of these, horse chestnut, bilberry and cleavers.) In case that helps anyone who is trying these. You can read more about what I did and the results I got (and share what you've tried) here: http://fightlymphedema.com/resources/.

11/22/2018 6:24:55 PM

Interesting, good article. I tried many of these early on with no response, but maybe I wasn't using enough of a dose. I have had great results, finally, from using large doses of chinese herbs over a long period of time, combined with tui na massage and a plant-based diet. That has dramatically reduced my lymphedema. (I"ve chronicled this here for others who are struggling to reduce lymphedema: http://fightlymphedema.com/resources//) I assume these herbs would make sense for maintenance however?

8/11/2018 2:28:51 PM

Need to know dosage on Ginko, please. Thanks.



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