Several years ago, when I began classes at the Cayce/ Reilly® School of Massage in Virginia Beach, I remember that the chapter titled “The Lymphatic System” in our anatomy and physiology book was 11 pages of explanation and 7 pages of illustrations. Years later, in the newer versions of the book, 37 pages cover the lymphatic system. Why the change? I believe it’s because more and more people want a holistic approach to health and are willing to shoulder the responsibility for their well-being.
One third of the 9,500 physical readings Edgar Cayce gave (that’s a little over 3,000 readings) refer to lymph and lymphatic vessels. These readings have a lot to say about lymph and its effect on our health—and in a number of instances, the readings were ahead of the times.
The Structure and Function of the Lymphatic System
You are no doubt familiar with the body’s five main systems: circulatory, nervous, digestive, reproductive, and excretory. The lymphatic system is actually a specialized component of the circulatory system. Like blood, lymph is a fluid that moves through-out the body and serves as a unique transportation vehicle: it returns substances, such as proteins, fats, dead cells, and tissue fluids, to the general circulation, collecting the fluid from the spaces in between cells (interstitial fluid) and eventually depositing this fluid into the bloodstream. If these substances were not removed and placed in the bloodstream, we would die within close to twenty-four hours. The lymphatic system has a highly important, life-sustaining role.
Although the lymphatic and capillary (blood) networks lie side by side, broadly parallel and in close proximity to each other, they remain separate and independent of the other. Also, the lymphatic system does not have a pumping organ in the way that the blood has a heart to pump blood through the body; instead, the lymphatic system relies on our breathing and our muscular and joint movements to move lymph steadily and slowly between cells and throughout its vessels.
Structurally the lymphatic system is composed of lymph, lymphatic vessels, lymph nodes, Peyer’s patches, and lymphatic organs. Serving as a defense against infection, the lymphatic system plays an important role in the body’s immunologic response, as well as helping to maintain a balance of fluids in the body. It has often been described as the body’s garbage disposal system.
Lymph is a clear-to-white watery-appearing fluid that originates in the connective tissue spaces of the body. Once it enters the initial lymph capillaries, it is referred to as lymph and is carried through the lymphatic vessels to lymph nodes, to ducts and trunks, then to the venous system, eventually reaching the heart.
Lymphatic vessels begin as closed-end structures called lymphatic capillaries. Just as blood capillaries form veins, lymphatic capillaries unite to form larger and larger tubes, and these vessels route the lymph fluid on its way to the heart.
Located along the length of the lymphatic vessels are oval or bean-shaped structures called lymph nodes through which the lymph flows at various intervals. Usually clustered in groups, these nodes (from 400 to 700 nodes in the human body) act as purification and filtering centers, breaking down and destroying harmful particles in the lymph so that they can be flushed out of the body and eliminated through the lungs, skin, kidneys, and intestines. Lymph enters the nodes at one end, exits at another, and in the process is cleansed of foreign and harmful substances. Its slow-moving action allows time for the cleansing and filtering process to take place. The nodes are also the site of maturation for some lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell that is also important to the body’s defense system.
Peyer’s patches are large, specialized collections of lymphoid tissue located in the small intestine. They are named after Swiss anatomist Johan C. Peyer and mentioned in over sixty Cayce readings. These patches help to confine infectious material and prevent bacteria from penetrating the intestinal wall and entering the bloodstream. They are ideally located to capture and destroy bacteria, which are always present in tremendous numbers in the intestine; they act as sentinels to the constant attacks of foreign material. Thus, they play an important role, repelling microscopic intruders, in the body’s fight against infection.
Lastly, the lymphatic organs, each in its unique way, also help the body fight infection. These are the tonsils, thymus, spleen, liver, appendix, and bone marrow.
The tonsils, located at either side of the throat, help trap and destroy microorganisms and keep infections away from the lungs.
The thymus gland, located near the heart, is where developing stem cells migrate to form T lymphocytes, white blood cells that protect against viral infections and detect and destroy some cancer cells.
The largest mass of lymphatic tissue in the body is the spleen, located in the upper left part of the abdominal cavity. The spleen produces, monitors, stores, and destroys blood cells.
One of the largest organs of the body, the liver, is also one of the most important, performing a variety of functions. Located in the upper-right section of the abdomen behind the lower ribs, it produces cholesterol and bile; manufactures proteins; stores iron, glycogen, and vitamins; removes poisons and waste products from the blood; and converts waste to urea. It also filters and destroys bacteria to help detoxify the body.
The appendix is a small, finger-shaped tube on the right side of the abdomen. It projects from the ascending colon of the large intestine at its juncture with the small intestine. Chiefly lymphatic tissue, it can become inflamed from an infection in the body, which is why it must be removed before it ruptures and leads to peritonitis. Because of this dangerous condition, the appendix is often routinely removed to avoid a possible future inflammation.
Bone marrow, the innermost portion of bone, produces red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. When responding to infection, bone marrow produces and releases more white blood cells, the body’s major mechanism for fighting infection.
Indications Related to Lymph Function
It’s likely that those who sought out Edgar Cayce for a physical reading were not expecting to learn about imbalances in their lymphatic systems, yet this is what they did learn about from him. The types of symptoms they had questions about that they learned involved the lymphatic system included
- sinusitis and swelling
- skin conditions: psoriasis, boils, pimples, dry skin, eczema, blemishes, erysipelas
- bone conditions: arthritis, knots, creaking/cracking joints, and joint pain
- sensory organ conditions, the eyes, mouth, ears, body aches and pains
- heart, throat, lungs, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, kidneys, and bladder conditions
- fever, tumors, cysts, lumps, knots, growths, and pockets
The list illustrates the pervasiveness of lymph in the body and its relationship to the circulatory, digestive, and excretory systems and helps us understand how lymph influences systemic conditions in the physical body.
Recommendations for a Healthier Lymphatic System
One of the most helpful aspects of a Cayce health reading was the often-detailed regimen of treatment it outlined. The range of options offered a holistic plan of health for those desiring some relief. Before we look at some remedies and treatments for the lymphatic system that you might find helpful, please take note of these guidelines:
Attempts to follow someone else’s physical reading may not always be effective. First read all the Cayce readings that cover your particular ailment (A.R.E. members will find an index of conditions in the Circulating Files at EdgarCayce.org). Then choose one reading that matches or resembles your body most closely (current physical condition, near same age, etc.) and follow its suggestions. Keep in mind that the Cayce regimens differed from person to person, and the products were often used with other remedies, not taken alone. Always consult a physician or other health professional for any medical problem before altering or adding any treatment to your protocol. The information that follows is meant to be useful; it is not intended for self-diagnosis or self-treatment.
Two internal applications mentioned most frequently in the readings were saffron tea and olive oil. Saffron tea coats the stomach as an aid to digestion. “It [also] stimulates better strength through the activities of the lymph and emunctory [excretory] circulation in the alimentary canal.” (257-215) Usually the tea was made fresh each time it was taken. Saffron tea is available from Baar Products. Olive oil has both external and internal uses. Though not always specified, the type of oil to use would be pure olive oil; in other words, “cold-pressed” or “extra virgin.” Taken in small doses, it was considered “helpful to any intestinal disturbance.” (567-7) For another person, taken daily, it would “act as a lubricant and as food value for the inflammation as has been created through the whole intestinal tract . . . .” (900-197)
Cod liver oil is rich in vitamins A and D. One Cayce reading stated the oil “is an addition to a developing body in making for not only the structural activity, but throughout the lymph and all that necessary to supply the vitamins needed.” (276-5)
Cimex lectularius (“sigh-mex”) is a homeopathic product several readings recommended for cases of dropsy (an older designation for edema or swelling), usually in the feet, ankles, and lower extremities, “caused by infiltration of the tissues with diluted lymph fluid” (An Edgar Cayce Home Medicine Guide, A.R.E. Press, 1983). Cimex evidently helps relieve the condition as well as “control the lymph circulation.” (420-7) Cimex can be purchased without a prescription wherever homeopathic products are sold.
Colonics are frequently recommended in the readings. They deliver an internal cleansing for the bowels and stimulate and correct the upper portion of the large intestine. Different from an enema, which cleans the lower bowel or rectum, the extra pressure of a colonic removes more toxic materials, stimulating the peristaltic action with its gentle water-massaging and opening pathways for finer eliminations from lymph. The Cayce readings also recommended solutions be added to the water, such as a baking soda and salt combination (a saline solution) to help with releases, prevent irritation, and purify the lymph flow. In the final rinse, a dilution of Glyco-Thymoline, an alkalizing agent, is added as an intestinal antiseptic. One reading stated: “For, everyone—everybody—should take an internal bath occasionally, as well as an external one. They would all be better if they would!” (440-2)
A rather popular remedy for all sorts of respiratory problems is an inhalant named Inspirol®; it was mentioned in more than three hundred Cayce readings. The solution is placed in a wide-mouthed jar that fills only a portion of the container, which allows the fumes, after the bottle is shaken, to be inhaled through a breathing tube placed in a hole in the lid. One woman was told by Cayce: “This is an antiseptic and a healer, and will prevent the sneezing, as well as the tendency for the lymph to drip from nostril and nasal passages.“ (2801-6)
Exercise was a big part of the Cayce protocol, but in the case of a lymph remedy, deep breathing was emphasized along with it. One 31-year-old woman was told to “massage the lymph centers—from the pubic center to the throat itself, and in the back of the neck, raising the head forward and the breathing brought into same—through the deep breathing.” (3149-2) This massage area follows to some extent the position of the thoracic duct, a major lymphatic vessel. The duct passes through the diaphragm, which upon deep breathing squeezes the lymph within it and forces it to move, enhancing circulation and allowing the lymph to flow better throughout the body. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is now considered a necessary part of therapy for stimulating lymph circulation.
Massages and spinal manipulations were most frequently noted for their effects on the lymphatic system, shuffling toxins to the nodes to be filtered and purified and helping the body excrete unwanted materials by transporting them to the appropriate eliminatory organs. Massage plays an important role, considering that the skin is the largest organ. The Cayce readings also noted the oils to be used, since the skin naturally absorbs the oil that would “act as a stimulating food value for the emunctory and lymph circulation.” (3337-1) Directions in the readings also included areas of the body to be massaged and even the types of strokes to be applied. In some cases, steam baths, salt rubs, or packs preceded the massage, followed by a grain alcohol rub to end the treatment.
Spinal manipulation is considered extremely beneficial, whether administered by an osteopath or a chiropractor. A number of readings referred to its ability to establish equilibrium in the body. As an aid to better health, it helps our natural forces achieve results in our physical body. Adjustments “make for the better flow of the lymph and the circulatory forces . . . .” (567-8) Another reading mentions the “coordination between the lymphatic and sympathetic nerve system and the cerebrospinal centers,” all of which are stimulated through spinal adjustments. (2977-2)
One of the purposes of a castor oil pack is to increase lymph circulation. To make use of this treatment, you need a piece of wool flannel large enough to fold two to four thicknesses, which is soaked in cold-pressed castor oil and placed over the liver/gall duct area (right side of the abdomen). The pack is heated first on a heating pad, with a plastic sheet or bag between the pack and the pad to protect the pad. Once it’s heated, you place the wool flannel on the abdomen, next the plastic sheet or bag, and then the heating pad on top. A bath towel can be laid over the layers and its ends tucked under your sides to stabilize the pack.
Keep the pack on for one to one-and-a-half hours, as you meditate or pray. When you remove the pack, clean your abdomen with a washcloth that’s been dipped in a cup of warm water with a teaspoon of baking soda in it.
The usual routine with a castor oil pack is to use it for three days in a row, skip the next four days, and then repeat this pattern for two more weeks. By the fourth week there are no packs at all. When the last castor oil pack for the week is taken (so, after the third day), the readings suggested ingesting a small amount of olive oil (from two teaspoons to half a teacup) to help empty the gall duct; occasionally there were exceptions to this advice.
Applying heat to the body promotes both lymph and blood flow, and there are various ways to do this. Vapor baths, saunas, steam cabinets, and salt rubs, all help to open the body’s pores for sweating out impurities. A word of caution: heat is contraindicated in cases of fever, acute infection, edema, recent injury, neuralgia, pregnancy, malignancy, ischemic conditions, and pains of unknown origin.
Mentioned in more than eight hundred readings, the Radio-Active Appliance is described as a type of battery that helps equalize the body’s energy by using the body’s own current. Despite its name, it has no connection whatsoever with radioactivity and is sold today as the Radiac®. Of course, it’s best to become familiar with the appliance if you plan to use it. You will find information on this appliance in the book Experience the Radiac.
Although each remedy has its own particular brand or purpose or vibration for fostering healing, it does not in and of itself cause healing. The remedies aid in its facilitation. The readings are emphatic that healing comes from the Divine within each person. It is hoped that what has been presented here will be of benefit and encourage you to explore the readings on your own for their understanding of maintaining optimal health.
Elaine Hruska is a therapist at the A.R.E. Houston Spa and former teacher at the Cayce/Reilly* School of Massotherapy. This article is reprinted with permission by Venture Inward Newsletter, Virginia Beach, VA.
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