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lymphedema

Parts of this were taken with permission from Essential Oils Overview and Reference Guide, published by: The Family Tree, 2008

Summary

see also edema.

Lymph SystemLymphedema is characterized by swelling of one of the limbs of the body caused by an accumulation of lymph fluids as the lymph system is unable to properly transport and dispose of them.  Although both arms or both legs may be affected more commonly it is in just one.  Lymphedema differs from edema (see more below) in that the fluid causing the swelling is from the lymph system rather than the circulatory system.  A number of factors may cause this build up of lymphatic fluid.

Primary lymphedema is the term used to describe a fundamental flaw in the functioning of the lymphatic system.  This may be from birth (congenital lymphedema) or from disease (lymphedema praecox, Meige disease, Milroy disease).

Much more common is secondary lymphedema.  In these situations the lymph system has been damaged or partly removed in some area of the body.  The swelling will occur in the area of the body serviced by this non-functioning part of the lymph system.  Most commonly today this damage comes from medical procedures related to cancer treatment.  This can include lymph gland removal, direct radiation, collateral radiation, or other procedures.  Vascular surgery and scar excisions may also damage the lymph system. 

Outside the US a parasite, Wuchereria bancrofti, transmitted by mosquitoes near and in tropical areas, causes a form of lymphedema termed filariasis.  Severe swelling of the leg, arm, or genital area may occur.

see the Lymphatic System tab above for more detailed information about the lymphatic system.

 

Edema, Lymphedema, and Lipedema

Edema is caused by excessive fluids from the circulatory system accumulating in the tissues of the body.  This may be the body’s normal response to an injury that causes temporary swelling or a problem with the heart or circulatory system that results in longer term swelling.  If the swollen area is pressed with the finger and removed the mark will soon disappear.  This is known as nonpitting edema.  A diuretic may help nonpitting edema.

Lymphedema is caused by excessive lymphatic fluids in an area of the body.  This is usually because the lymphatic system is impaired and unable to handle the amount of fluid present thus causing swelling.  These areas may be subject to infection or slow healing.  In the early stages if the swollen area is pressed with the finger and removed a mark will remain for an extended period of time.  This is known as pitting edema.  Lymphedema will not respond to a diuretic.

Lipedema affects primarily women and may be associated with genetics and hormones.  The symptoms are enlarged legs and buttocks as fat is abnormally deposited in the layer below the skin.  These fat accumulations do to not respond directly to normal dieting and exercise.

 

[search helps: swelling, swollen]

Oils, blends & products recommended:

Oils & Blends:  AromaTouch, CypressC, GrapefruitC, HelichrysumC, LavenderE, Lemon, LemongrassC, Lime, Melaleuca, Peppermint, Roman Chamomile, RosemaryEC, Zendocrine

Essential oils based products: Life Long Vitality supplements, GX Assist, PB Assist

Also consider: Citrus BlissC, ThymeC, Wild OrangeC

Note: to understand the E and C superscript go to Home and scroll to New Helps.

Suggested protocols:

The lymph system is the major tool the body has to collect and rid itself of toxins.  If lymphedema or local swelling of lymph nodes is present it often is an indication of a disease or distress in the body.  It is important to identify this root cause of the problem.  To reduce the immediate discomforts of lymphedema a number of techniques that have been suggested and are listed below.  The severity of lymphedema can vary widely so one or more of these protocols may apply to any situation.

Strengthening protocols:

Life Long Vitality supplements - Take these consistently to build a foundation of body strength.

AromaTouch Technique - Periodically apply the ATT because this protocol, with the essential oils used, is designed to strengthen the immune system and bring the body to homeostasis. 

Individual Essential Oils - Helichrysum, Lemon, and other oils not only cleanse but help to strengthen the lymph system.

Internal cleansing protocols:

Lemon essential oil - Drink ample water each day, at least 4 - 6 cups, with 1-3 drops of Lemon added.

Zendocrine cleanse - Use Zendocrine Detoxification Complex and Zendocrine Blend as described on a daily basis to facilitate a more efficient lymphatic system. This is a mild cleanse for the liver and the other cleansing organs of the body. 

Individual Essential Oils - A number of suggested protocols are included in the experiences of others.  The following is one of those:

  2T carrier oil (originally I used EVOO and it worked well for me)

  10 drops Lemongrass

  6 drops Lavender

  5 drops Roman Chamomile

  1 drop Cinnamon (because it increases the effectiveness of other oils)

Topical cleansing protocols:

Direct topical -

  For mild local swelling apply Lavender or Lime directly to the swollen area

  1 or 2 drops of Peppermint to bottoms of feet stimulates lymphatic flow

MLD or Manual Lymph Drainage - This is spoken of as the first protocol for difficult lymphedema.  It is best done by a professional massage therapist. This is a gentle touch massage designed to assist the lymphatic system eliminate toxins by unblocking any obstructed vessels.  At the same time it strengthens  the lymph system.

Lymphatic massage or self massage - This uses the same principles as MLD but allows those that require this help often to care for themselves at home.  Again it is best to receive assistance and training from a professional.

Essential Oils - Use essential oils with lymphatic massage by topically applying 1-5 drops (depending on area involved) and gently dispersing over the area and allowing to absorb before massaging.  Cypress, Grapefruit, Lavender, and Peppermint are all mentioned as beneficial.  AromaTouch blend contains all these oils and is an excellent choice.

Also noted is the benefit of using FCO with the massage to increase absorption.  Also Zendocrine added on the lower legs improved results.

Differences - MLD or any lymphatic massage differs from muscle or deep tissue massage in the following ways:

    Gentle with very little pressure. Primary motion moves the skin, rather than a sliding action over the skin.  This stimulates lymph vessels that lie just below the surface of the skin.

    No massage oil is used or if essential oils are used let them absorb for a few minutes so the gentle movement of the skin is achieved.

    Lymph flow is from the extremities to the trunk (heart) of the body.  The massage movements are always towards the trunk but clearing of blockage needs to start at the trunk and move to the extremities.  Therefore, the massage stimulation starts near the truck of the body and moves to the extremities but the motions are generally from the extremity to the trunk.

Motions that may be used:

  Gently press fingers, move skin in circular motion, release.

  Fingers tight together, gently press, stretch skin by moving fingers apart, twist and release.

  Gentle sweeping motion toward the trunk.  Usually the final strokes of the procedure.

 Baths or soaking protocols:

Full bath - Here is one Lymph Detoxification Bath found successful:

  1c Epsom salts

  4 drops Lemongrass

  4 drops Lavender

  4 drops Roman Chamomile

  1 drop Cinnamon

  Mix salt and oils together thoroughly then add to hot water, soak till warm. Hydrate often with 1-2 drops of Lemon essential oil in water

Foot bath - Using the same oils as the full bath or consider:

  1/4 cup of Epsom salt

  5 drops Lemon or Lime

  5 drops of Melaleuca    

  Add to hot water, soak feet until water cools 

Experiences and Testimonials of others

MtnMama - My 8 yr old son has lymphedema in his left arm. Has anyone had any experience with using essential oils to help reduce swelling caused by lymphedema? Does anyone have any knowledge of which essential oils may help? 

 Pat - I can suggest the Aroma Touch Technique on this young man. Also massaging the lymph node areas using the AromaTouch blend and/or Peppermint which helps reduce swelling.

Sharon - Cypress is a great oil for lymphedema.  Also, rubbing gently upwards from the hand will relieve the swelling, being careful to cause no pain.

Tracy - Besides Cypress and AromaTouch, both being very helpful for the swelling, you can add in Grapefruit as it is de-congesting to the Lymphatic system.  Start with a "light, pumping stroke" going towards the axilliary (armpit) area.  Start closest to the armpit then working further away, always moving your light pumping strokes toward the armpit. You want to open and clear the area closest to the armpit before moving further down the arm and further away from the armpit. Your strokes should always move toward the armpit.

I don't know what condition is causing his lymphedema.  Be sure that whatever his condition is that the massage is not "contraindicated" before doing this. Also if you decide to use Peppermint, be careful in applying it to the armpit lymph nodes.  You'll want to dilute it, the armpits and groin areas where lymph nodes are grouped can be sensitive areas.  The AromaTouch is a great blend as it contains the Cypress, the Grapefruit and the Peppermint in the blend already. p>

MtnMama - I wanted to share our success to help other people who suffer from lymphedema. I took a combo lots of advice plus some. I gave my son a bath with 2 drops each of Cypress and Lemongrass, then I immediately did his lymphatic drainage massage using a carrier oil plus these oils in this way: (I layered them but concentrated some of the oils in certain spots.)

  Carrier oil plus 3 drops Lemongrass lightly spotted all over arm and hand and used to start massage (clearing at shoulders and stimulating lymph system at belly button)

  Carrier oil plus 3 drops Cypress dotted over entire area and then used to draw lymphatic fluid across chest and back and draw fluid up upper arm.

  Carrier oil plus 3 drops Slim & Sassy over entire area especially finger tips where there is hardening and then used to draw fluid up from forearm, hand and fingers.

  Carrier oil plus 3 drops Clary Sage and Geranium used to quickly repeat all the steps focusing on drawing fluid across chest and back. PHEW!

  Finally I bandaged him the way we've been instructed by the therapist and off to bed.

 The next morning... the results were incredible! He had wrinkles of loose skin on his hand, he was able to wear his compression garment that he had become too swollen for last year! He felt better all day! Of course anyone with Lymphedema knows that we have to keep this up daily or he will swell right back up, but it is all about effectively managing swelling to avoid all kinds of problems. Super excited, I hope this info can help someone else! 

 

 Kathy - Just found this, thought it was cool.  A liver and lymphatic system detox blend is Geranium, Rosemary, Roman   Chamomile, Fennel, carrot, German Chamomile, Helichrysum and blue tansy.   This combination cleanses the liver and the lymphatic system of high levels of toxins. I don’t have all the oils so I think I'll just take equal parts of  Geranium, Rosemary, Roman Chamomile and Helichrysum and try that! Any other   suggestions? 

 Laura -  That is cool!  Thank you!  Um... what else... how about some Grapefruit to help with the cleansing?

Pat - The Zendocrine blend is a wonderful liver cleanse and also takes care of kidney, skin, bowel and lungs.

 

Sharon - What oils would be good for massaging someone with lymphedema in their legs?

Amelia - I actually have some experience with this because I have lymphedema in my legs and I came up with my own blend for massaging onto the lymphatics especially concentrating on the ones behind my knees, groin area, and abdomen...fyi I also use it on the lymph nodes under my arms and near the breasts as well as the ones in my neck and shoulder area. I have also found that if I massage this oil directly on the spot or spots that are most swollen this helps as well. I will give you my recipe but let me just say first that the oils I primarily use are Lavender, Lemongrass, and Roman Chamomile and I also use Lemon and Lime. I don't have Cypress so I can't really comment on it but I can tell you that these oils have helped me TREMENDOUSLY. I also do the diet "EAT RIGHT FOR YOUR TYPE" (Blood type) and see a naturopathic doctor along with a medical doctor. But I can tell you that the natural doctor, my diet and now doTerra essential oils have all been the key in controlling most of the extra fluid.  My blend is:

  2T carrier oil (originally I used EVOO & it worked well for me)

  10 drops Lemongrass

  6 drops Lavender

  5 drops Roman Chamomile

  1 drop Cinnamon (because it increases the effectiveness of other oils)

Also if the swelling is really bad I apply Lime oil on the swollen area and sometimes on my lymph nodes as well. I also put 10 drops of Lemon and 5 drops of Lime in my water everyday religiously...and drink it throughout the day.

Let me know if you want it I also created my own recipe for a detox bath using many of these same oils and that helps as well.

Elaine - I'd love to have your bath detox recipe.  I'm a massage therapist and usually recommend 1/2 C Hydrogen Peroxide, plus 1/2 C baking soda in bath water, after energywork or bodywork, to open up the pores and pull out the toxins easily.

Amelia – Here is my detox bath recipe: LYMPH DETOX BATH

  1c Epsom salts

  4 drops Lemongrass

  4 drops Lavender

  4 drops Roman Chamomile

  1 drop Cinnamon

Mix salt and oils together thoroughly then add to HOT water (as hot as you can stand) then soak for about 20-30 min. Make sure you are re- hydrating yourself either as you soak or immediately following. Sometimes I also add a drop or 2 of Frankincense or Serenity if I'm having an especially bad day.

 

Jan - I’ve been doing the Lymphatic massage with AromaTouch multiple times a week for a friend with fairly severe lymphodema. I always use FCO to help slowdown evaporation and increase absorption. Also, she began having better results when we added in Zendocrine up the inside and outside of the lower legs.

 

Editorial note – The following comments have been edited for brevity while trying to maintain the impact.

Connie - My legs are swollen from my calves down to my feet.  My left leg is worse than my right.  They have been swollen since the summer of 2000 and they have progressively gotten worse.  I have seen countless doctors regarding this issue and have been told incorrectly that I have everything from lupus to cancer to fibromyalgia. …  Over the last year, my doctors have tried wrapping my legs to no avail and right now they want to wrap them again. 

Recently (over the last 4-5 months) I have been getting little bumps on my left leg.  They eventually start to weep clear fluid and then every once in a while, one becomes a sore.  I ended up in the ER and was told I had a flesh eating bacteria in my leg and was put on antibiotics. After a month I started using doTERRA products and it cleared up.

Now I have another really bad sore that keeps getting bigger and I have used Melaleuca, Lavender and Patchouli as well.  It is starting to get really infected and it also hurts too.  Any suggestions would be very helpful?

Pat - You have to cleanse inside and treat the problem internally. These are suggestions only, I am not medically trained but these are the things I would do if it were me:

    I would start the GX cleanse for 10 days followed by PB Assist. After completing this 10 day regiment I would wait 10 days and repeat, then wait 10 more days and repeat it for the third time.    

  I would also start the LLV pack to supplement important nutrients.    

  I would take a capsule twice a day with 5 drops of Melissa and 5 drops of On Guard for 2 weeks.    

  I would also do an Epsom foot bath. 1/4 cup of Epsom salt mixed with 5 drops Lemon or Lime and 5 drops of Melaleuca in hot water. Soak your feet until water cools.    

  You can also drop Melissa and Melaleuca directly on the open sore, and rub Peppermint on your ankles and bottom of your feet daily.

Connie - I completely understand that you are not a medical doctor!  I have given the medical field over a decade to try and resolve my problems but I am WAY worse now that when it all started...   so now i'm trying natural things!  Feel so blessed that I found doTERRA products!  so far, they have been absolutely amazing!  I have quite a collection of them now, just need to learn the correct way to use some of them so my body will receive the most benefit!

Prior to using doTERRA essential oils I had been sick and I mean really sick for OVER a year.  … Now I haven't used my cane, I am now off of my anti depressant completely (yes, I tapered off slowly and with my doctor's knowledge), I have also been able to cut down on quite a few of my other meds as well.  I now have more of a life than I've had for years! Thank you for taking the time to help me!  

Sandi - A great lymph cleanse drink is:

  1/2 gallon water

  3 drops Cypress 

  2 drops Grapefruit

  1 drop Orange

  2 T grade B pure maple syrup

Mix and drink 6 oz at least  1-2 times per day. My girlfriend just sips on the drink all day. I can't stand the taste of it, so I double the oils and put them in a capsule and chug water all day.

Michelle – This is something I relate to.  For me, the swelling and weeping in my legs has been related to circulatory and emotional issues.  In addition, the top of the left foot and the side of my right foot have been painfully itchy.  I was told that the soleus muscles in my calves, the body's second "heart" that helps pump blood back to the heart, needed to be moved and exercised several times a day.  I also had some good chiropractic adjustments.  So in addition to my essential oils and supplements, I've been getting regular full-body lymphatic massages, adjustments, and lots of little daily walks.  My body is beginning to heal.  

Sandi - It's interesting that the top of your foot itches. That is where your lymph signal system is. You can move the lymph by pushing/massaging from the outside of the foot to the inside of the foot (on the top). Then drain it by pushing in a downward direction between your big toe and 2nd toe.

Connie - I tried the foot bath last night and I’m not sure if it's just wishful thinking on my part but I think it's looking a little better today.

 

Editor - Another episode of swelling.

Chrystal - Last October I started having swelling in my lower legs.  The right side was worse than the left and I found that exercising helped.  When I went to the doctor in January, he said I would have to wear support hose to prevent the blood from pooling in my ankles as the veins were not able to close.  He also recommended exercising everyday. I was really resistant to wearing support hose because of how hard they are to put on and how expensive they are and I already have a problem with sweaty feet and I thought that would make that problem worse so I decided to just deal with it.

I asked a friend who knew about oils and they suggested Aroma Touch and Frankincense.  I tried these for 2 weeks with not a lot of help, and the swelling was getting worse where I had swollen ankles all the time. I read that Lavender helps with swelling or edema so I started using that and at the same time I was using Lemon, Lime, and Wild Orange for a completely different reason. Today I showed my friend the results and she told me I had ankles again.  So if you are having trouble with swelling in your ankles try some Lavender and citrus oils.

Sharon - How are you using the oils?  Under the feet? Internally? How often?  I know someone with this problem whom nothing else has worked for in over 20 years now so I'd like to try it on her.  Thanks! This is exciting indeed!

Crystal - I have been using them once in the morning and once at night 2-3 drops each. Here is the kicker--I wasn't planning on this working and my body really responds to citrus oils and Lavender. I rub them right on my legs where the swelling is.

 

Maria - My aunt recently had a brain aneurysm and the left side of her body has been very affected.  She's having swelling in her left foot and I'm wondering what oils would be good for the swelling?

Rob - I would try Cypress neat using massage and use the Aroma Touch Technique.  I would augment that with Frankincense just prior to the normal application of Lavender.  Cypress is very good for swelling, water retention etc.  Deep blue is great for inflammation.

Pat - I have had some swelling on my ankles and I read that Birch would help and it has. A definite wonder oil. I also recommend Cypress and giving your aunt the Aroma Touch Technique would be a very kind and helpful thing to do for her.

Jan - Citrus oils can also be very effective in reducing swelling.

Loryjean - I am allergic to bee stings and was taught to rub a burnt Lemon half on my foot when I got stung. I'm not sure why the burning was important, but it did help take the swelling and pain down. Lemon oil would be SO much more effective, and less messy!

 

Susan – We have a friend with swelling in her feet and ankles.  Any suggestions for that?  

Rob - On edema.  I would suggest Cypress and Lemon massage to the areas of swelling and to the reflex area on the inner leg just above the calf or on the top half of the calf. Some people use a carrier oil with Cypress, I've never needed to.

Protocols folks recommend for children

 

The Lymphatic System

The lymphatic system is a key component in the body’s immune system.  In its defense against infection the body produces white blood cells, or leukocytes, that are able to locate, identify, and destroy invading pathogens.  These leukocytes are produced and stored in the lymphoid organs that include bone marrow, the thymus, the spleen, and the system of lymph vessels and nodes. 

Lymphatic System

There are approximately 500 to 700 lymph nodes spread throughout the body with clusters found in the neck, chest, underarms, abdomen, and groin.  These are small bean shaped organs that vary from very small to about ½ inch long.  They are linked together through lymph vessels (lymphangions).  Lymph is the fluid that these vessels carry.  The lymph fluid originates from the outermost parts of the circulatory system where blood plasma (liquid and protein) enters the tissues of the body. This extracellular fluid brings nutrients, oxygen, and hormones to the cells and receives waste and toxins from the cells.  Most of this returns to the venous side of the circulatory system.  But, about ten percent of this fluid enters into the lymph system, which is a one-way path to drain this lymph through the lymph nodes and eventually back to the blood stream.

The fluid enters the lymph system through permeable lymphatic capillaries that then join together in a network of tubes that eventually become the lymphatic vessels that carry the lymph through the nodes and on into the bloodstream at the base of the neck through the subclavian veins.  As the fluid passes through the lymph nodes dead cells and other waste are filtered out while in another part of the lymph node the lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell, kills pathogens that are in the fluid.  Because the body will increase these white blood cells as such an infection is detected the lymph nodes become enlarged.  This then becomes a noticeable and sometimes uncomfortable signal of disease or distress in the body.

The drainage paths of lymph fluids is interesting.  Note the illustration.  On the right side of the body the right side of the head, neck, arm, and upper quadrant of the body flow to the right subclavian vein.  Where on the left side these same upper portions, the left side of the head, neck, arm, and upper quadrant flow to the left subclavian vein but all of the lower portion of the body drains to this left subclavian vein as well.  From the legs and lower trunk of the body fluid drains to the cisterna chili where it is temporarily stored until it passes through the thoracic duct and on to the left subclavian vein.  In some cases if MLD is required or there has been significant damage to the lymph system this knowledge may be important.

The one-way lymph system that returns the lymph fluid is unlike the circulatory system in that it does not have a pump like the heart to move the lymph liquid.  This flow has to come from smooth muscle activity and the ordinary movements of the limbs of the body.  For this reason it is very important to have body movement on a regular basis to maintain the proper flow of these fluids.

Diet and Nutritional complements to essential oils

 

What Science & Research are saying

Grapeseed Oil Article

This is an excerpt of an article that has some interesting information that may apply to using Grape Seed Oil as a carrier with topical application of essential oils.

Grape seeds pack a healthy 'punch' of proanthocyanidins, by Victoria Dolby,
March 1997

Edema, the abnormal accumulation of fluid in the body's tissues, often results from capillary malfunctions. Proanthocyanidins extracted from grape seeds may help prevent edema by stabilizing the capillary walls and preventing abnormal capillary permeability. These compounds may be beneficial in the prevention of high blood pressure, heart disease, and even provide relief from fibrocystic breast disease. The anti-edema properties of proanthocyanidins may also be very useful in combating some symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

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NOTE: The advice shared in this site has not been evaluated by the FDA. The products and methods recommended are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any illness or disease, nor is it intended to replace proper medical help. As members offer or look for answers, kindly understand that essential oils work to help to bring the body into balance - thus helping the body's natural defenses to restore homeostasis. Essential oils are not used to "treat" medical problems.