Winter cold care: lymph love.

Now that we finally have a bit of winter here in Vermont, people are starting to get sick. The symptoms are familiar: a slight sniffle, rawness in the throat, pressure in the ears, swollen lymph nodes.

Here are my favorite ways to care for this kind of winter cold:

1. Topical tinctures. I like to drip lymphatic and tonic herbs directly onto the surface of the tonsils. (If you want to try this, hold the dropper right up against the back of the inside of your cheek, with your head tilted back. Do a few drops on each side.) Some herbs I use this way: lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), red root (Ceanothus americanus), ground ivy (Glechoma hederacea) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). (Only use cultivated organic goldenseal, NEVER wildcrafted—this is an endangered plant.)

It’s best to experiment and see what feels right, since these herbs have really different personalities. Lemon balm is soothing and stimulating; red root is strongly astringent; ground ivy is astringent too, but gentler; goldenseal is an amazing all-around mucous membrane tonic, but be prepared for bitter if you use it this way.

2. Neck massage helps the lymph system drain (pay special attention to the area under the collarbones—this is where the lymphatic ducts empty into the bloodstream).

3. There’s nothing like a good whole-body stretch or a pleasant walk to get the lymph system moving.

4. Hot herbal face cloths feel really good, and they also encourage circulation and drainage. Just soak a washcloth in strong, hot herbal tea and press it to your face. Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) are lovely, but you can use any aromatic herb.

5. And, of course, there’s always chicken soup.

P.S. I’m extra geeky about the lymphatic system lately. Check out this amazing drawing.


  1. Jen said,

    January 22, 2007 @ 7:10 pm

    Humph… I only wish the lymphatic system was that easy to see! That is a fantastic drawing, though… kind of makes me miss anatomy, when all I had to do was memorize!

    Keep writing, darlin’… motivation is low, but a lot of your posts are so inviting-sounding that just reading them is soothing!

  2. crabappleherbs said,

    January 22, 2007 @ 9:13 pm

    Thanks, sweetie!

    It’s good motivation for me to know you’re out there reading.

  3. Blumenlieb said,

    January 16, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

    Thank you for posting this. I never think much about my lymph nodes and didn’t think of a neck massage, but will try it.

  4. karen said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 7:28 am

    you might want to check out the link at top of your anatomical lymph page… as you go to pages there, you will find a plethora of porn links at bottom of their webpage… know it is hard to keep track of all web links, so thought I would let you know. I enjoyed your page! I was looking for good photos of lymph system as I teach sinus and lymph massage to massage clients, nurses, etc.
    have a great day!

  5. crabappleherbs said,

    April 3, 2008 @ 4:21 pm

    Hi Karen. It looks like some pages on that site got hijacked by spammers. I’ll try and get in touch with the admin to fix it. Since the hijacking isn’t on the page I linked to, I’m going to leave the link for now.

  6. Michele said,

    May 27, 2009 @ 9:13 am

    Those little lymph nodes look like peanuts in the shell…

  7. Martha said,

    May 18, 2010 @ 3:45 pm

    I love your website. You provide a much needed service to those who want to know ways to take care beside using traditional Western medicinal practices. I notice that the postings stop around the time you became engaged and hope this is for good reason.
    Are you still an “herbwife? ”

  8. Cara Phillipo said,

    October 30, 2011 @ 5:59 pm

    Thanks for the great post and for informing me that goldenseal was endangered. I did not know that.

  9. Nakita Quinonez said,

    April 26, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

    Herbal tea is made from many plants, using not just the leaves, but also the flowers, roots, bark and seeds. At Celestial Seasonings, our herbal tea recipes blend the flavors of different botanicals from around the world – resulting in an infinite variety of healthful taste sensations. In fact, this exploration of the many flavors, remedies and benefits of herbal teas is one of the greatest pleasures of working with herbs — there’s an herbal tea that’s just right for every mood and every moment. *

    Most recent write-up on our own blog

  10. Voncile Amelung said,

    June 21, 2013 @ 8:01 am

    Goldenseal may be purchased in salve, tablet, tincture form, or as a bulk powder. Goldenseal is often used to boost the medicinal effects of other herbs with which it is blended or formulated.,*’..

    My current blog

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