Essential oils for the Lymphatic System

FDA restrictions rightly tell us we can't say we "treat" or "cure" anything. We can only say something "supports healthy balance," and that is never truer than when it comes to essential oils for the lymphatic system. The system is responsible for balancing body fluid and healthy immunity. Oils like Fennel and juniper balance water, which is helpful in cases of edema, and oils like copaiba and black pepper help us fight illness.

What Does the Lymphatic System Do? 

The lymphatic system is best understood as our body's waste management system. Every chemical process produces by-products that leak out of our blood vessels as fluids. The lymphatic's job is to remove these. It also plays a vital role in absorbing fats from the intestine.

The lymphatic system is vital for optimal health functioning and specific immune responses.

The system's fluid is a clear straw-colored fluid known as lymph. It contains many different cells, including lymphocytes, white blood cells that attack bacteria in the blood and body tissues and other white blood cells. Another fluid called chyle, which contains proteins and fat, also empties into it from the intestine. The totality of the fluid is a soup of proteins, fats, bacteria, damaged cells and excess fluid. This is transported around the body via tube-like structures called lymph vessels.

The lymph system is a significant part of the body's immune system and comprises lymph nodes, lymph ducts, and lymph vessels that make lymph and then use it to move the waste from tissues into the bloodstream. To do this, fluid is processed and cleaned by immune cells, fundamentally white blood cells). They do this with the help of the spleen and thymus gland, which monitor the blood and detect and respond to any malignant cells they find or impending disease or developing illness.

What Moves Essential Oils for the Lymphatic System Through The Body?

Throughout the body, each person has approximately 700 lymph nodes. These monitor how much lymph flows into them; they manufacture cells and antibodies to protect our body from pathogens.

Immune cells are mainly stored in lymph nodes. These also filter the fluid to remove invaders like bacteria and cancer cells. When it recognizes invaders, lymph fluid manufactures extra infection-fighting white blood cells. As it works overdrive, nodes swell up so you can feel them in the neck, under the arms, and groin.

As well as the spleen and thymus, the lymph system includes the tonsils and adenoids.

Finally, recent studies have highlighted the lymphatic system's role in absorbing fats and fat-soluble vitamins into the digestive system.

If the lymphatic system is, damaged or malformed, swelling can form in the extremities, especially the legs. If this swelling lasts more than three months, it is called lymphoedema. Dysfunction in the lymphatic system may have a role to play in obesity, Crohn's disease and other disorders.

The most important thing to understand about this system is that it doesn't have a pump. 

The heart pumps blood, but the lymphatic system relies on muscle pressure to move the fluid around the system.

Poor muscle tone contributes to sluggish lymphatic tone. Exercise can help the lymphatic system flow more effectively and potentially help prevent infections and other diseases like cancer. (Alexander Cancer Centre, 2019)

Let's Think About Edema First

If the lymphatic system is sluggish, fluid can build up. Think of swollen ankles when you've been standing up too long or when you sprain something. In this situation, the function of the lymphatic fluid is to cushion the injury while it has a chance to heal.

The worst lymphatic even I have ever had was when I was carrying my first child, and my feet swelled so large I went up two shoe sizes. The only shoes I could get on my feet were some open-toe sandals with little stars pierced into the leather, so I had puffy stars all over my feet every evening when I got home from work.

This soft puffiness indicates edema caused by too much fluid trapped in the body's tissues. It can affect any body part but is more likely to appear in the legs and feet. We also use lymphatic drainage massage in aromatherapy to deal with puffiness around the eyes. 

Lymphatic System and Hydration 

Another common cause of lymphatic congestion is dehydration, which may exacerbate existing lymphatic problems. Drinking enough water each day encourages lymphatic function and reduces water retention.

Essential Oils For The Lymphatic System 


Fennel essential oil is excellent for flushing toxins out of the system. It aids digestion and stimulates the body to clean itself.

People often get interested in lymphatics when they have cellulite because they can be related. As we've said, lymphatics rely on muscle tone, so exercise is applicable here. 

Fennel is also one of my favorite essential oils for the lymphatic system because it's so great for stamina.

I always say that Fennel is for mile 25 of the Marathon. Funnily enough, the word marathon does mean the city of the fennels, too, after a battle was won at Marathon in ancient Greece, and a messenger ran 26 miles to report their victory. I always think how strange that is, and it's a great way to remember how good Fennel is after a prolonged exercise.

Use it for swelling after injury too. I like to use it with Helichrysum when someone has had a bang. Helichrysum deals with cuts, inflammation and bruising, while Fennel reduces the free fluid around it.

Fennel And Estrogen…

There is a connection between the lymphatic system and menstruation. Think of how you bloat up before you are due to come on. 

The lymphatic system has two places where it drains away - the subclavian, which is around the collar bone, and the pelvis. We can see how it may become more sensitive around these areas.

Fennel bridges this same gap. It is a diuretic, supports the lymphatic system and has Phyto-estrogenic properties.

Premenstrual bloating is triggered by changes in estrogen and progesterone in a woman's cycle. Fennel mimics estrogen, helping to balance the hormones again.

A drop of Fennel in the bath when you have PMS is lovely. It's fantabulous on painful boobs too. If you can hear the taste, fennel tea is super for this too. Stuff belongs down the drain, but each to their own.

Maximum Dilution: 3%


Lots of safety considerations around Fennel, but for the most part, it is easy to use.

Like many essential oils for the lymphatic system, Fennel should be avoided during pregnancy. It could be better if you are breastfeeding, which is contraindicated for people with endometriosis.

It thins the blood, so it should be used with care if you have any particular clotting disorders or peptic ulcers. Likewise, choose one of the other essential oils for the lymphatic system. Obviously, if you have been diagnosed with cancer that relies on estrogens to grow, this would not be an excellent choice.

You should not use essential fennel oil if taking diabetic medications or therapies to thin the blood. Likewise, avoid it for two days before any scheduled surgery.

Go gently if you need to use it on a child for any reason. Use only in dilutions of less than 0.25% in children under five.


I like to do it in layers when choosing essential oils for the lymphatic system. Fennel, Juniper and Cypress are my go-to's for dealing with fluid retention; then I like to layer that with some oils to help with the fats and immunity.

To a certain extent, they overlap, but Juniper leans towards water detoxification.

It's excellent for cleaning the muscles and joints of buildup after exercise or for rheumatism or arthritis.

I am a big believer in rotating oils, however. Keep the body on the hop!

So, consider using Fennel for a week, then change to Juniper…

Always remember that essential oils have many effects, so changing it up a bit means you give systems you are inadvertently stimulating a chance to balance themselves too.


Don't choose this one if you have kidney issues. The effect on them is powerful. I'd choose Cypress as a substitute. It's gentler but just as efficacious. 

Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.


Cypress is an all-around healing plant. I always think about cypress trees surrounding the temples of Asclepius in Greece. Asclepius was supposed to have been an honest man trained first by Artemis, then Chiron, the wisest of the centaurs. Eventually, he had become even more skilled a healer than they were. Eventually, he was elevated to a god and was revered as the Father of Medicine.

Cypress is a wonder oil. People should not rave about it anywhere near enough.

It's not as fierce on the water as Fennel and Juniper, but it does just as good a job.

It gently stabilizes the systems, as if angels sneak in overnight and reset the health.

In any situation with toxicity, choose Cypress, especially for the Genito-urinary and the lymphatics.


At last, a nice easy one. Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy


Right, we just crossed an invisible bridge from water to immunity.

Same system different target approach.

You could choose one of the old faithful, like tea tree or clove, but I like the energetic Ravensara.

It always feels like toothpaste when you go out into the fresh air... Do you know how your breath feels cool, fresh and invigorating?

Ravensara has that effect…tonic, stimulating, bracing…

I love that invigoration.


Not suitable for use during the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.


So this one is more abstract. Copaiba is rich in beta-caryophyllene, which works on a receptor mainly in the blood and lymphatic tissue.

The CB2 receptor modulates inflammation, immunity and pain.

Although the action is indirect, it makes sense to me that this would be an excellent way to target.


Lovely safe oil. Just avoid it in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Black Pepper

Also rich in beta-caryophyllene. Very warming and invigorating to both the circulation and, indirectly, to the lymphatics.


Not suitable for use in the first 16 weeks of pregnancy.

Introducing Lymphatic Drainage Massage

Another way to make essential oils for the emphatic system even more efficient is to use a lymphatic drainage massage. The lymphatic system has two main points where it drains into the blood system; the first is at the subclavian just underneath your collarbone, and the second is in the groin. When we do lymphatic drainage massage, we want to push the essentials for the lymphatic system from the peripheries up to the center soup. So, what I mean by that is to work from the feet of the ankles up to the knees up to the thighs, then push the fluid into the groin.

If we are using lymphatic drainage massage on the face to reduce puffiness under the eyes, we would push it out towards the side of the face almost towards the end of the ears and then down the side of the face down the side of the neck, pushing it down into the subclavian.

We'll look at how to physically place our hands on the kind of pressure to do that in a moment.

We'd also push fluid from swollen hands up from the hands of the wrists up the inside of the arm, past the inner elbow, up the inside of the arm, up over the shoulder and along the clavicle, into the subclavian.

How To Hold Your Hands To Do Lymphatic Drainage Massage

So it is much easier to do a lymphatic drainage massage on someone else, but you can do a much less efficient version on yourself.

The idea is to create a W with your hands.

We use this technique specifically for the extremities. We use a much lighter technique for the face, which we'll address now.

So, imagining you are draining swollen ankles, we would place one hand in an L shape. The hand is compact, with the thumb sticking out at 45°. Place that onto the leg below the ankle; then we do the same with the other hand.

Compact hand and thumb at 45°.

We place one over the other so that the thumbs are crossed, and the hand creates a W shape.

The idea is to push down hard enough to capture the fluid within that W.

Conversely, the pressure must be light enough to move the fluid without hurting the client.

I am moving the fluid with essential oils for the Lymphatic System.

So we push the fluid up the body.

You will find resistance; if you're doing it right, there will be a fluid buildup in your hands. So we want to move the hand back to be able to push it up more again. 

The flow will return slightly by moving the top hand backward and placing the other hand on top. 

You can push it up, so we are marching the hands backward. Marching the hands backward, push up, and gradually keep moving the hands up the leg.

Past the ankle, up the thigh, and then we're going round the hip and pushing it into the pelvis. Then from there, as long as we are going over that side of the hip into the side of the abdomen will find the fluid then can be drained into the groin.

The technique is the same for doing arms and also breasts. Breasts can be very tender, so be careful about doing those. Push the fluid from the breast tissue up into the subclavian.

Using Lymphatic Drainage Massage To Administer Essentials For The Lymphatic System On The Face

Here, we are all using the size of our index fingers (pointer fingers) on both hands and gently smoothing across from the nose from the inside to the outside of the face.

Place the first finger flat against the face, then put the second finger behind it to catch the excess fluid.

You will be able to feel the movement as the fluid moves.

I was going along the cheekbone, to the side of the face.

If you do it right, you should almost drag the skin, so be careful not to pull it. The aim is to move the underneath fluid rather than the skin.

Then march the fingers down the side of the face, stroking it, past the ear, down to the chin, down the side of the neck, down to the collarbone, under the collarbone, push it across, as if you're going to the middle under the collarbone, and that should drain it.

DIY Recipes of Essential Oils for The Lymphatic System

Swollen Ankles 

Method of use: Stroke into (up) the legs, either with or without lymphatic drainage massage. Use morning and evening for a week or until the symptoms have subsided. 

Safety: Not suitable for use during pregnancy. Should be avoided if you have kidney issues or are on diabetic medications.

Puffy Eyes 

Method of use: Apply with light fingertip lymphatic drainage massage, in the morning, as part of your skincare routine. 

Safety: Not suitable for use during pregnancy. It should be avoided if you have kidney issues or are on diabetic medications.


Method of use: Stroke into (up) the legs, either with or without lymphatic drainage massage. Use morning and evening for a week or until the symptoms have subsided. 

Safety: Not suitable for use during pregnancy. It should be avoided if you have kidney issues or are on diabetic medications.

One Final Point…

If you use essential oils for the lymphatic system, you will encourage the body to move toxins. Make it easy on yourself and drink plenty of water. Flush them out excellently; otherwise, the therapy's aggressiveness can give you a headache.

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