As I wander through this growth spurt around creative frigidity and the lack of writing I’ve been doing + overthinking about it in abundance, I decided to just put something out there – the series of events and tools which may have catalyzed me into growth and out of stagnation: Lymphatic issues.
If you don’t know, the lymphatic system is a series of tiny vessels that run parallel to the blood vessels, veins, and capillaries. It is a system without a pump and with many nodes which are kinda like dump sites for the metabolic wastes collected as lymphatic fluid travels through our bodies. Those glands that get swollen and maybe even painful when you’re comin’ down with something are the lymph nodes in overdrive – full of junk from trying to fight off whatever infection is ailin’ you.
Sometimes when the nodes swell it can represent an energetic issue happening alongside the physiological one – a buildup of emotional or mental toxins that need to be cleared. It’s not always the case, of course, but sometimes it is, and recently, it was for me.
There this virus called Epstein-Barr, and it’s the one that causes infection Mononucleosis, aka Mono, aka the Kissing disease. Some folks out there get exposed to it and rather than just being laid out for 4-6 weeks, their bodies seem to be in a constant state of almost sick. These people have an active infection of Epstein-Barr that can flare up during or after intense stress, lack of quality sleep, troubled emotions, or just plain ol’ not taking care of oneself. I hate to say it, but I’m one of these people.
Every couple of years my body goes into what feels like Mono. Extreme fatigue, painful joints, aching muscles, and many symptoms that also go along with depression. I lose my mojo for 6-8 weeks at most if I treat it right away, much longer if I don’t, like before I found out I had this virus. I can usually tell it’s coming because I’ll get all those symptoms but the real tell-tale sign is that the two lymph nodes behind my ears at the base of my skull get rock hard and so painful that turning my head is a real issue. Once the nodes have hardened like marbles, it’s usually pretty challenging to get anything done.
My guess is that I contracted mono in 11th grade, the only time I remember missing 4 days in a row of school for feeling like absolute shit. I recall it being the worst I’d ever felt, but it wasn’t diagnosed for whatever reasons. 12 years later I was pretty miserable with one super hard, painful lymph node, and a naturopath said “Oh, that’s the mono lymph node. Let’s test you.” Before the finger stick I asked her if it was possible to have mono for 10 years, and that’s when I learned all about EBV and the antibodies. Sure enough the test was positive and further testing indicated that I did in fact have what we can call ‘chronic mono.’
With the help of my herbal mentor I developed a strict protocol to encourage my body’s natural resistance to the virus and defense against it, which included heavy doses of herbs to stimulate and cleanse the lymph. I really took care of myself and 6 weeks after my diagnosis, I believed I had triumphed over the disease – it’s symptoms had disappeared.
So yea, it came back. I found my pattern (for the most part) and did my best to prevent it but when it did I had a plan. And it has always worked.
This last go round, beginning about 2 months ago, I did something really different, and that’s what I want to talk about because I think this information will be super useful for any reader in a clinical practice. If you’re not a practicing herbalist, please don’t try anything you read here without the guidance of your health care provider – I’m not taking any responsibility for what happens to you. And yes, I can be your health care provider if you call me and schedule an appointment!
So about 2 months ago I started with fatigue and aches and painful joints. I knew something was up when I struggled on an easy, mostly flat, 5 mile hike. A few days after that, the lymph nodes got hard and I knew I was in acute EBV mode. I didn’t have all the herbs for my protocol. I didn’t have vitamin c. All I had was sleep and some dried herbs.
What I did was this. I drank a quart and a half of Red Clover and Echinacea infusion every day for 3 or 4 days. During that time I did as little physical and mental activity as possible, just resting and letting my body do it’s thing. My work suffered but I was able to go everyday, so I give myself some credit for showing up! By the end of the 4th day my lymph nodes had returned almost to their normal state – they no longer hurt or felt like rocks. The joint pain, muscles aches, exhaustion, and brain fog were all gone.
I’m not even kidding people. This is serious. Seriously amazing. Having dealt with EBV for the last 8 years, I can tell you that this feels miraculous. I’ve never experienced such an incredible health transformation in all the work I’ve done as an herbalist. Both of these herbs are in my standard protocol, but my body responded with expediency to them together, as if their synergy superseded their small parts in the more complex formulas I’d created in the past.
Echinacea is well known for its immune supporting properties. Honestly it’s probably over-used by the masses, but in my experience it is most effective for treating lymphatic congestion. Red Clover is well known by herbalists for being a gentle lymphatic stimulant and ally to the respiratory tract. But these two together form a bond that is a powerhouse for the lymphatic system, and I’m very curious about what else the relationship can do to heal we chaotic humans.
The potential for treating even complicated health issues is unlimited with a respectful approach to herbal medicine. As herbalists we must never cease to embrace nature’s medicines and try new things. My mentor encouraged us to use what we had on hand to heal whatever issue we had on hand, and this is an excellent example of doing just that and being blessed with incredible results.
It took knowing a little bit about the plants themselves and how they are best prepared, as well as a reverence for their power. Holding them in high esteem and having an unshakable belief in them is no joke – it’s a serious aspect of healing and should not be disregarded.
As the infection cleared, so did the space in my mind that was holding on so tightly to fear of exposure and whatever else was keeping me trapped in creative stagnation. I literally was not able to produce anything more than a quick instagram post here or there, for almost a year. Ugh. That’s not how I want to live, but I could not break through until I cleared the toxins from my body. I’m so grateful for the free flowing fluids keeping my body strong and clean and the free flowing words keeping my soul on its track. Alhamdulillah!
So take this my fellow clinicians! Take it and run wild into your next healing expedition, and please please please share your results with me!
~Yours in the Rebellion.