Lymphatic System Part II: Massage + Oil Scrubs

In the last article I introduced the Lymphatic System, and how paired with the cardiovascular system, makes the great rulers of the body health. We introduced the practice of dry brushing, and now we will look at other rituals of massage, oiling, and bathing with shower oil scrubs!

By stimulating the lymphatic system, we can decrease inflammation, increase immunity, sleep better, feel more energetic, and help the body flush out toxins.  Massage is a perfect addition to your bathing ritual.

Everything that you put on your skin gets into your bloodstream, which also means that it goes through the lymphatic system. Because of this, it is important to be aware of the chemicals that could be absorbed by the skin, what is in the products you use, and what you are exposed to.  Whatever we have a difficulty filtering and cleansing creates toxic build up.  Over time, this leads to poor immunity + disease.

Massaging is an amazing way to keep the lymphatic system functioning smoothly, because we stimulate and relax muscles and flush metabolic wastes.   Massage increases the amount of lymphatic fluid that is pumped by about 10%, which is a huge reason you are encouraged to drink water after a massage.  Additionally, massage stimulates the cardiovascular system and immune response by increasing the count and function of white blood cells and helping distribute nutrients to the body.

Try treating yourself to professional massages at least once a month.  Many massage schools offer student prices and it makes getting them more affordable.  Or, if you have a partner, you could trade off giving each other massages.  If you work a lot of hours, or sit most of the day, it might be a good idea to get massages even more frequently. (It is truly an investment in your health).  The rest of the time you can self massage!


Oil = love
In the Ayurvedic tradition we have the glorious practice of Abhyanga: self-oil massage. Sneha, the word for oil in Sanskrit, is also the word for love.  So, the practice self oil massage of  is a practice of self love. In turn it helps stimulate the lymphatic system, which helps your immune system function more optimally.

“The body of one who uses oil massage regularly does not become affected much even if subjected to accidental injuries, or strenuous work. By using oil massage daily, a person is endowed with pleasant touch, trimmed body parts and becomes strong, charming and least affected by old age”

Charaka Samhita Vol. 1, V: 88-89

Traditional Abhyanga oil self-massage can take 20 + minutes to do.  Because of this, it can be challenging to do daily.  I suggest scheduling to do this at least once a week on a day you are free, and then soaking in a tub.  For this article I will not go into the traditional practice of abhyanga, but, you can read more about it Banyan Botanicals.

Oil Scrubs


Shower Oil Scrubs are one of my favorite things in the world, and they are one of the easiest ways to add self massage into your routine.  You get the lymphatic stimulating benefits of self massage, plus exfoliation and moisturizing that leaves your skin looking and feeling amazing.

In addition to lymphatic benefits, oil scrubs help to slough off dead skin, allowing the oil to penetrate and be more effective. While these can be quite expensive when you buy them from the store, they are affordable when you make them yourself.  Also, when you use them a lot, it pays off to know how to whip them up quickly.  I will describe a simple formula that I give to clients for different constitutional and elemental imbalances and concerns.


Basic Recipe for a Body Oil Scrub

scrubies = 1.5 – 2 cups (I like mine pretty oily)
oil = 1 cup
Essential oils = Add 25 drops per cup for a .5% dilution.

All of the ingredients we can choose from have different actions and energetic qualities of warming, cooling, drying, moisturizing, grounding, uplifting, etc.

Elemental Recipes

I have listed some combinations to balance the following elements in our bodies.  This is by no means an extensive list, but these are basic choices to pick from.  Choose one or more essential oil, one of the base oils and a scrub, and mix according to the recipe proportions provided above.

Qualities of cool, heavy and slow can be balanced by using stimulating, warming and cleansing aromatics.  The following options are for you if you have cool, clammy skin, excess fat and oily + thicker skin.

Essential oils: anise, basil, bay, bergamot, birch, black pepper, camphor, cardamom, cedarwood, cinnamon, clary sage, clove, cypress, eucalyptus, fir, frankincense, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, hyssop, jasmine, juniper, lavender, lemon, lime, marjoram, neroli, myrrh, rosemary, sage, sweet orange, tea tree, yarrow
Base Oils: mustard seed, almond and grapeseed, Castor (mix with another oil as this is really sticky)
Scrubs: Salt, Sugar, Coffee
Season: Later Winter to Spring

FIRE + WATER {pitta}
To balance hot, sharp + piercing, the following recommendations cool, soothe and calm the body and mind.  Try any of the following combinations if you have sensitive, warm, freckled, combination skin that sunburns easily.

Essential Oils: birch, brahmi, chamomile, clary sage, coriander, fennel, geranium, jasmine, jatamansi, lavender, lemon balm, lemongrass, lime, neroli, peppermint, rose, sandalwood, spearmint, vanilla, wintergreen, yarrow, ylang ylang
Base Oils: sunflower, coconut, olive, jojoba, sweet almond
Scrubs: Sugar
Season: Summer

AIR + ETHER {Vata}
To balance cold, dry and irregular qualities, we can use warming, grounding and sweet qualities. If you have dry, sensitive, thin skin, that is showing premature signs of aging, with poor circulation, the following options can be good for you

Essential oils: amber, angelica, anise, basil, bergamot, camphor, cardamom, chamomile, cinnamon, coriander, eucalyptus, frankincense, geranium, ginger, heena, jasmine, lemongrass, myrrh, neroli, patchouli, rose, rosewood, sandalwood, sweet orange, tangerine, thyme, vanilla, vetiver, ylang ylang
Base oils: sesame, avocado
Scrubs:  sugar + cardamom
Seasons: Fall – Early Winter

Get creative and find out what you love.  You can also try the above balancing options seasonally, just refer to the season listed at the bottom of each section.  Keep the oil scrub in a container with a lid, especially if you are using sugar (ants love this stuff).


A note on the ingredients:
Scrubs: I like finer ground sugars and salts, as I find larger grounds too harsh.
Flour is a traditional scrub option, that consists of different ground up things such as chickpea or almond.  While these feel amazing and are amazing, I do not recommend using these as they do not dissolve and will cause problems for your drains above and beyond just using oil.

Medicated oils: I love these, and frequently use herbal combinations from Banyan Botanicals.  Information about herbal and medicated oils will be discussed in another post. In the meantime, if you would like a consultation to find out which ones are right for you, you can book here.

Where possible, always choose organic and fairtrade.  What you put on your skin matters!

{How to do it}

  • After dry brushing, get into the shower
  • Breathing deeply and mindfully remind yourself that this is a practice of love.
  • Begin this at the very start of your shower (unless you are shaving) to help protect the skin from the drying hot water (and whatever other junk is in your tap).
  • Start at your extremities, and gently massage, moving toward the heart.
  • Gently massage up and down, continually getting higher.  Massage the groin (the hip crease in front of the leg) but you may want to steer clear of the sensitive parts.
  • Tell your body parts that you love them as you move over them.  If this is difficult for you to do and feel like you mean it, begin by thanking your body parts for the jobs they do.  For example, thank your thighs for how hard they have worked your entire life, and that you appreciate their work in protecting and serving you.  This is not a hoaky practice, it is a true mindfulness practice that will root you into yourself and your true nature of an expansive heart.
  • Continue in the same way, even massaging your armpits gently.  Remember, the lymph nodes are concentrated around the knees, groin, stomach, chest armpits and neck.
  • Don’t use this on the face.
  • When you finish you can use regular soap up your groin, armpits and face as you usually do, but just rinse the rest of the body with water.  There is no need to wash the oil off – your skin will thank you and you will not need to apply lotion. When you finish in the shower, pat your skin dry.
  • It is important to use light pressure because ¾ of the lymphatic vessels are located just underneath the skin.  Using too much pressure bypasses the lymphatic vessels and moves straight to muscle.  light = right.  The feeling is more like a stretching of the skin, like the pressure you would use to slide a penny on top of a table.  When you gently stretch the skin you manually pump the lymphatic vessels because they are attached to the skin with small elastic fibers.

I have saved the most important part of lymphatic health for the last 2 articles: movement + diet. To get the next article in this series and others like it, Sign up for the mailing list, and/or follow this blog on wordpress.  I will also post these articles on facebook and instagram, so visit the social media sites and follow me to learn more tools for self-care and balance.

What are your favorite combinations?

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