With the condition impacting millions of people worldwide, there is increasing interest in finding effective lymphedema treatments. I have primary lymphedema in my lower legs. Because of the progressive nature of the condition, I’ve done extensive experimenting to see if any natural approaches could reduce or control this.
I’ve chronicled my efforts in another blog article. Many, many things have not made any difference. Thankfully though I finally have had significant reduction in my lymphedema using Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). So much so that I don’t need to wear compression stockings anymore, or do daily elevation or massage.
While TCM usually includes acupuncture, I’ve tried that alone, with two different acupuncture professionals, and it didn’t work either time. Instead, what did work was a long course of daily Chinese herbs along with Tui Na massage (which is a Chinese acupressure massage).
I am a big fan of Chinese medicine, but even I admit it can seem difficult to understand. But it pains me that more people are not trying this for lymphedema. It’s natural so there’s no downside other than investing some time and money. So I’m attempting to demystify this so you can hopefully give it a try and see if it works for you.
If you’re not familiar with Chinese Medicine, it is a natural way of treating health issues. It is holistic medicine: instead of treating the symptom, Chinese medicine always attempts to treat the root cause. That’s the good part.
The downside is, if you haven’t grown up around it, it can be very hard to understand. And it can seem downright strange. When you take herbs, the ingredients can be strange and the herbs that help most can taste really, really bad. And Chinese acupressure massage is quite firm. It is not a feel-good massage…it is therapeutic.
But I can’t argue with the results I got. It dramatically decreased my lymphedema, so much so that I was able to stop wearing compression stockings, elevating and doing daily self-massage. This was a profound improvement.
Why Aren’t More People Trying It?
I believe it is because very few Chinese medicine practitioners have experience in treating it. I have dealt with two in my area (then, Southern California) that were very difficult to find. Both have treated only about a handful of patients each. But according to these two, all patients have gotten a significant level of relief.
Obviously more results and evidence is what is needed to find out if this can help any case of lymphedema. In the meantime, there is no downside to trying. Here’s some tips based on my experience on what to look for and how to go about it.
1) Keep an open mind.
If you’ve never seen a Chinese medicine doctor before, be prepared for an interesting experience. They’ll ask about your symptoms, but they really want to get to the root cause. It may catch you off guard. They will look closely at you: are your eyes white or yellow? Skin pale or rosy? They may ask to see your tongue or feel your pulse. Sometimes you’ll get a lot of questions: Do you usually feel hot, or cold? Do you have cold hands and feet? Can you skip meals easily? How do you react to caffeine? It can be quite extensive.
After consultation usually they will determine which herbs will help and start you off with a specific combination. These will probably be adjusted after a few weeks based on how your body responds.
2) Allow sufficient time for this to work.
With natural healing methods, they are not as quick as taking a pill or getting surgery. They require time to work. You may not see a difference for a few months. And lymphedema is a tough condition, so it may take some time to get results. I took herbs daily for 4 straight months before any change. But then one morning I woke up with markedly less swelling. Then it continued to drop for the next several weeks. Soon, I was back to living my normal life. No compression socks (except when flying or on long drives), no elevation or daily massage required. Freedom! So hang in there and give it a try.
3) Communicate with your masseuse.
I went for Tui Na massages every two weeks while taking the chinese herbs. Tui Na is a therapeutic massage that can break up old scar tissue. According to these Chinese medicine practitioners, scar tissue can impede your lymphatic system.
To break up old scar tissue, there’s going to be some pain. If it’s too much, say so. You can always get a higher pressure massage later. Along with freedom from lymphedema, this Tui Na helped my neck and back which frequently hurt since I work at a desk too much.
4) Support your body while it attempts to heal.
There’s no guarantees of course, but with natural remedies, your body stands the best chance of a good result if it’s not over burdened. So eat a diet that helps lymphedema (LINK), always exercise and move frequently, and do everything else needed to keep your lymphatic system moving. I was on a healthy plant based diet with a lot of green vegetables and I suspect that helped me get the great results I did. Trying will only make you look and feel better, so it’s a win/win.
Is this too good to be true?
I realize that western medicine tells us that lymphedema is both incurable and progressive. I have primary lymphedema and I’ve had it for a couple decades, so it was even hard for me to believe there was something that could partially reverse it and help me control it.
This has been nothing short of a miracle for me. But I don’t hear anyone else talk about it… that’s why I’m sharing it. Lymphedema is too depressing and we need those of us who have gotten results to share what has worked. As a natural method, there’s little downside to trying it and you have so much to gain if it works.
Research may provide some hints
Right now I find very little on the internet about lymphedema and Chinese medicine. Ideal world, more people will try it and we’ll have more anecdotal evidence that this will work on a bigger scale. In the meantime, I always keep my eye out for interesting new research.
Here’s a 2016 study:
Apparently in this study, researchers found that Siberian ginseng powder “significantly reduced” edema within 2 and 4 hours after consumption in 50 healthy volunteers.
Siberian ginseng has been in use in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. It has been a component of the herbs I took that gave me such great results.
Finding a practitioner
Ideal world, it is best to find a practitioner who has treated lymphedema. Otherwise you might find yourself on a bit of a learning curve.
We’ll be working on setting up some directories soon to connect lymphedema sufferers with Chinese medicine practitioners who are experienced with treating this condition. In the meantime, you can search for a local TCM practitioner. If you’re in the USA, here’s some tips to help you do that.
Please leave a comment if you have already used Chinese medicine. I’d love to hear about your experiences and results!