lymph love

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The lymphatic system has been on my mind, the waters of the body. The word is derived from latin, lympha (lymphae) aka water nymph-we can think of this as loving life as much as water. It is a one way river, your vitality, your defense system against disease. It is a system needing more attention as we emerge from winter, a stagnant time, where the body is contracted and hardened by colder temperatures and less movement-depending on your lifestyle and environment. With warmer temperatures and the emergence of a new season, we see water moving again. Rivers and streams start their flow, rain brings patterns of cleansing and nourishing. The same needs to be reflected in the body. Unlike other muscles, the lymphatic system doesn’t have the same capacity for movement, therefore we need to bring that ebb and flow to it.

The cardiovascular and lymphatic system are linked via the circulatory system. Both work together to distribute blood and fluid throughout the body. The blood stream is united with the lymph via the venus system. The lymph is a network of vessels that carry lympathic fluid (comprising of plasma, lipids + proteins, cell debris, toxins such as bacteria + viruses, and B + T-cells ) directly into the lymph nodes to then cycle back into the bloodstream. Therefore, we can imagine it as a giant filter system for the body. It allows T-cells (the warriors that attack microbes and other toxins directly) to mature in the lymph nodes and thymus, which help us fight infection (this is when we feel swelling in our lymph nodes, which is an indication of your body fighting an infection of some sort). There are hundreds of lymph nodes in the body, located along the neck and clavicle, armpit/pectoral area, abdomen, and groin for example.

Using lymphatic herbs and lymph stimulating practices are integral to lymph health. A lack of movement in the lymph taxes the immune system. Signs of a congested lymph system are wide spread; some symptoms may include cysts, swollen nodes, edema, joint pain, irregular ovulation/menses, poor liver clearance, and skin conditions such as acne.

We can target the superficial lymph system by practices like dry brushing (using a stiff bristled brush, working in circular motions towards the heart, starting down at the legs and moving up), and body oiling (self massage). Visual benefits include more glowing skin as circulation is brought to the area with dead skin cells sloughed off. You can incorporate herbal nourishment topically by using a violet (viola odorata) or calendula infused oil. Rosemary, juniper, and sweet birch are other herbs to use as infused oils that may be incorporated to stimulate lymph.

Some of my favorite examples of lymphatic herbs to take internally include red clover, cleavers, calendula, and burdock root. One or a combination of these taken long term (2-3 months) as tincture are more like daily nourishers and cleansers, whereas echinacea angustifolia may be use when an active infection is present. Making nourishing herbal infusions (a 4 hour to overnight steeped brew of nutritive herbs such as red clover, nettle, comfrey, and oatstraw) are a great practice to incorporate to support all body systems and deliver vital minerals to your tissues.

Exercising regularly through walking, yoga, lifting weights, jumping on a trampoline, etc. all help pump our lymphatic fluid and aid the body’s filtering process. Breath work, and breathing appropriately with your diaphragm are all means to relieve congestion and support your lymph.

There is also an emotional component to consider in lymph health. Anytime a stagnant emotional state persists, such as grief, sorrow, regret, burrowed anger and other unfinished emotional business, a correlation of congested lymph may be observed. It is important to witness this experience of mental and emotional health being linked to body state, and to seek support how you see fit.

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pesto season

May is such a rich, sweet season. It rivals my love for October/November when the decadence of foliage colors beings to cascade and the smell of summer toasted grass, leaves and wildflowers takes over. Right now everything is quickening and taking shape. So much is brightening and showing up for us. Everything at the precipice of new life and possibility. This is a very exciting time and I felt myself inspired at every corner (quite literally-often I am pulling over to the side of the road to jump into meadows to collect cleavers, violet flowers, garlic mustard, dandelion leaf and flowers, and japanese knotweed). I pluck violets from the yard and cover them with honey. Fill a jar with their leaf and flowers and make a tincture. Fill another quart jar with dandelion, violet, burdock root and red clover-cover with apple cider vinegar and wait a few weeks to extract a mineral rich, nutritive tonic that offers gentle support to the lymphatic system and liver, both of which are working hard to bring us into this new season.

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Spring wild edibles keep a kitchen witch busy, as you can see. My favorite application for all the spring wild greens is pesto. Take 2 cups of any green you like and blend it up with a ratio of nuts/seed, nutritional yeast or parmesan, some sea salt, fresh lemon and lots of olive oil. My general recipe is 2 cups greens (ramps, garlic mustard, parsley, basil, dandelion) which could be a combination or all one, 1/2 cup nutritional yeast, juice of half a lemon, 1/2 tsp pink salt, 1 cup cashews (or 1/2 cup each sunflower and pumpkin seeds, you can toast for extra depth), and about 1/2 cup olive oil. I add the olive oil as the rest of the mix is blending until I like the consistency-you can eyeball this and add the oil (and everything else, for that matter) to your liking. Below is a nice bouquet of garlic mustard, a delightful green whose entire parts are edible-some use its roots to make a horseradish like condiment.

 

 

Every year I like to experiment with Japanese knotweed. It’s a fascinating invasive; when its shoots are young and tender they have a rhubarb consistency and flavor. They can be prepared similarly, but beware as their bright green/mottled pink color goes muted green/brown when cooked. I’ve enjoyed it chopped up and stewed with apple, grated ginger, and maple syrup, and had like a compote on top of oatmeal or yogurt.

Last night, I added chopped knotweed to sliced red onion, a clove of garlic, and proceeded with cumin, fennel, and coriander seed as well as a few crushed black peppercorns and chili peppers. As it softened with a little water, 1/3 cup dark brown sugar went in as well as about 1/2 cup red wine vinegar. I let this all reduce and thicken into a chutney-which then inspired me to toss in a few tablespoons of chopped prunes. This became a savory jam to enjoy on top of cheese and crackers, as the base of a salad dressing, or as a sauce for a protein. Wild foods inspire the desire to get outside and appreciate the landscape in a new way. They encourage play and experimentation, as not much is lost in the creative process should it go south-there’s plenty garlic mustard and knotweed out for the taking to try again! Not all wild foods are so generous, so be mindful with plants like ramps whose existence is threatened by locavore restaurants. and wild food hungry markets/businesses. Wild foods are tenacious, and parallel this in their nutrient profile. They are much more rich in phytonutrients than conventional vegetables because of the conditions they grow in. My hope is to rival this energy via their consumption!

 

 

 

spaces + clarity

The benefit of a clean room, a well kept kitchen, or a designated desk space reaches beyond aesthetic merit. I’ve been thinking about inspiration and our bodies-how vital it is to be able to be clear in mind and environment to be able to respond to muse when channeled.

The ability to act on creative impulse is the main reason why I maintain a sense of lived in orderliness in my room and kitchen. This way, feeding my inspiration does not feel blocked or challenged by my circumstances, i.e. an excess of clutter on a table top, dirty dishes, or journals/art supplies buried and misplaced.

This is one of the avenues to health, one of the primary sources of nourishment-the ability to respond to and facilitate creative force.

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