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Herbal Supplements

Lymphedema and Herbal Supplements

There is increasing interest in using herbal supplements to assist in the treatment of lymphedema. These herbs are supposed to serve two main functions. First, they are meant to help detoxify the body and secondly to improve fluid transport. 

This is for information only and inclusion of this section does not constitute an endorsement. You should check with your physician before undertaking any alternative or homeopathic treatment.

Before taking any herbal supplement I suggest research and asking several questions.

1. Is this herbal supplement safe?
2. Is there information of possible toxicity and side affects?
3. How does the herb fit my specific situation?
4. How would it affect any other medical conditions I have?
5. What are the contraindications for any prescription medicine I use?

These supplements are classified as food products instead of drugs so they are not regulated, approved or unapproved by the FDA. Also, they are based upon the traditions of "folk" medicine and many have not undergone the critical rigors of clinical studies. The few that have undergone a study generally have been shown to be ineffective.

It is so vitally  important  that we once and for all need to recognize that there is no magic bullet, no magic pill, no magic cure for lymphedema.  Indeed, if there were, we would all be lined up to buy it.  There simply is no replacement at the present time for a treatment protocol of manual decongestive therapy, compression bandages, compression garments and a compliant patient who is willing to take the time necessary for proper management...a patient who does so because they as a person are worth it.  

Pat O'Connor

May 4, 2008

As of the update/review date of Jan. 6, 2012, there still is lacking any concrete evidence that herbal supplements can cure lymphedema and very little on the prospects that they care help much. This subject remains one of great controversery and there is an acute need for solid independent research.



This is perhaps the most widely used supplement in the treatment of lymphedema. Used throughout India and Europe, it has not been approved by the FDA for use in the United States.

It is found in a variety of plants including the tonka bean, lavender, sweet clover and licorice.

This agent binds to interstitial proteins with the result that the proteins fragments pass more freely into the venous capillaries and are able to be eliminated from the body.

There have been numerous reports of liver damage from this substance.


Horse Chestnut herb

Has a coumarin component and a compound called escin that is said to strengthen the tissues of lymph vessels capillaries and veins.


Grape Seed Extract

This is used as an antioxidant agent to assist in cleansing
radical free agents from the body. It has also been suggested grape seed extract may help prevent cardiovascular disorders and may assist in the treatment of opthalmology disorders.



Extract from the pineapple that has sulpher containing enzymes that digest or breakdown proteins. Also used as an anti-infammatory and supposedly assists in helping antibiotics treat cellulitis and/or infections.

Should not be used by anyone taking any type of blood thinner or anticoagulant medication.



An herbal supplement derived from the linden tree, this has been widely used in Europe for a number of conditions.

Extract from the flowers is said to have diuretic properties and charcoal used topically is said to promote healing of wounds and assists in treating cellulitis.


Other Herbs used in the treatment of edema

Butcher's Broom
Golden Rod
Dandelion leaves
Corn silk
Juniper oils


Herbs used to support the immune system

Comfrey root
Calendula flower
Fenugreek seed


Lymphovenous Canada: Liver toxicity raises doubts about coumarin


Lack of Effect of Coumarin in Women with Lymphedema after Treatment for Breast Cancer



Comparative Study of the Clinical Efficacy of Two Different Coumarin Dosages in the Management of Arm Lymphedema After Treatment for Breast Cancer


Grape Seed

Also Named As:

Activin, Extrait De Pepins De Raisin, Grape Seed Extract, Grape Seed Oil, Grapeseed, Leucoanthocyanin, Muskat, Oligomeric Proanthocyanidins, Oligomeric Procyanidins, OPC, OPCs, PCO, PCOs, Proanthodyn, Procyanidolic Oligomers. Vitis vinifera; Vitis coignetiae.
Family: Vitaceae.  

Also Used For:

Orally, grape seed is used for treating and preventing vascular or circulatory disorders including venous insufficiency, varicose veins, atherosclerosis, hypertension, peripheral vascular disease, edema associated with injury or surgery, and myocardial or cerebral infarction. It is also used orally for hemorrhoids, strengthening blood vessels, inflammation, diabetic complications such as neuropathy or retinopathy, improving wound healing, preventing dental caries, cancer prevention, macular degeneration, poor night vision, liver cirrhosis, allergies, allergic rhinitis, and prevention of collagen breakdown associated with collagen diseases and aging. Grape seed oil is used orally as a supplemental dietary source of essential fatty acids and tocopherols.


Grape Seed Extract


Horsechestnut Herb in the Treatment of Lymphedema


Horsechestnut Herb in the Treatment of Lymphedema

The swelling and edema characteristic of Lymphedema is caused by excessive leakage of fluid due to poor tissue integrity. This manifests itself in various parts of the body but is  typically found in the arms and legs.  Bandaging and compression garments are used successfully to reduce and control edema by mechanical means, i.e. pressure.  Plant compounds that improve tissue integrity are also used to treat edema but work in a different manner.  One particular herb, Horsechestnut seed, contains a plant compound (escin) that strengthens the tissues of the capillaries and veins.  When these tissues are strengthened there is less leakage of fluid out of the veins and into the surrounding tissue.  Edema is therefore reduced at its source; the weakened tissues of the capillaries and veins.

A recent study at the Department of Internal Medicine in Germany proved the efficacy of this herb in a clinical setting.  Results were published in the February, 1996 issue of the Lancet by C. Diehm (vol. 347, pp 292-4).  The effectiveness of horsechesnut seed extract was compared to compression stockings in 240 patients with chronic venous insufficiency.  Patients were randomly assigned to receive either compression treatment, horsechestnut seed extract (containing 50 mg of escin twice daily) or placebo for twelve weeks.  Horsechestnut seed was found to be as effective as compression treatment, determined by the reduction in swelling in the legs of the patients.  Both treatments were significantly more effective than the placebo.

Based upon this study, we began incorporating horsechesnut extract into our treatment program with encouraging results.  Our patients were at different stages of treatment when the horsechestnut was introduced and results have varied from patient to patient.  The first patient to include horsechestnut into her regime was a 69 year old woman with secondary Lymphedema of the left arm.  She had 11 CDP/MLD treatments nine months ago along with our complete program of herbs, vitamins, and enzymes.  She also had one maintenance treatment every 2 weeks for 5 months before starting the horsechestnut herb.  She was bandaging nightly, or using a CircAid, and wearing a Juzo compression sleeve with custom hand piece.  After a few days of taking 10 drops of horsechestnut once a day, she stopped bandaging, using the CircAid and the compression garment.  When she came in for her next bi-monthly treatment, there was very little increase in swelling from her last visit (0.1cm to 0.4cm). She continued this routine for over 3 months.

Each time she came in for a treatment, her arm measurements were the same or slightly higher with the increase ranging from 0.1cm to 0.4cm.  She reported feeling fine but did notice some swelling when she overexerted herself.  However, that swelling came down without compression garments when she relaxed for a while.  Her dosage was increased from 10 drops once a day to 10 drops twice a day during this timeframe.  The only time she uses the compression garment and CircAid is when she flies.  She is extremely happy with these results.

Another patient has secondary Lymphedema of both legs that goes up and iinto the abdominal area.  She started treatments at our center seven months ago.  She had been treated at another clinic in our area and only came in for maintenance treatments.  We started her on our holistic protocol and treated her Lymphedema once or twice a week for a month, every one or two weeks for 2 more months, and then once a month.  At this time, we started her on 10 drops of horsechestnut twice a day.  It took 2 weeks to notice any improvement in edema. After 2 weeks the edema was decreasing and she was able to stop wearing the compression garments, however, her legs were swelling by the end of the day.  We increased her dosage to 30 drops twice a day and that reduced the edema at the end of the day.  She reports feeling much better on the increased dosage and is very happy with the results.

Copyright © Diana Brady


Horsechestnut Herb


Horsechestnut Herb and the Treatment of Lymphedema

Research Study of Herbal Therapy as a Treatment for Lymphedema

(Portland, OR) - Legacy Cancer Services is seeking additional lymphedema patients to participate in a research study evaluating the effectiveness of an herbal therapy (horsechestnut) as an alternative to conventional treatments.

Lymphedema is a swelling of the arm or leg and/or other body part caused by an abnormal build-up of protein and excess water in the tissue space. Lymphedema is commonly found in women with breast cancer who have had some lymph nodes surgically removed. Conventional treatment methods for lymphedema include manual drainage and bandaging.

"While current treatments are effective, they are labor intensive and difficult for many patients to sustain over a long period of time" says Nathalie Johnson, M.D., Medical Director, Legacy Cancer Services. She is the principal investigator for the study. "Herbal therapy offers patients the possibility of decreasing the frequency and amount of bandaging."

Horsechestnut can be helpful in reducing inflammation and has been used for relief of venous insufficiency. The study will look at whether or not horsechestnut will help reduce fluid accumulation and inflammation associated with lymphedema.

Participants in the study should have a diagnosis of lymphedema and not have undergone treatment in the last three months.

For more information about the study, call Legacy Cancer Services at 503-413-6284. For more information: Tracey Barnett, telephone: 503-415-5770, pager: 503-938-7797, email:

News from Legacy Health System --- June 24, 2002


Chinese Herbs for Lymphedema


Cellulitis, the Immune System and Herbs

While there are no scientific studies showing that herbs have a direct effect on cellulitis, the following herbs that support the immune system may be helpful:


Impetigo and Its Treatment

Inhibitors of Staphylococcus


Medicinal Herbs


Butcher's Broom

Broom is one of those indefinite common names that tends to make the field of herbal nomenclature such a difficult one. The name was originally applied to several plants whose tough stems and rigid leaves made them useful for sweeping up debris. Used without a qualifying adjective, broom refers to the previously discussed Cytisus scoparius L., a common roadside plant in the Pacific Northwest, distinguishable by its showy yellow flowers. Spanish broom or gorse (Spartium junceum L.) is another yellow-flowered leguminous shrub that flourishes in parts of California. Although both plants have been used in folk medicine, neither is the so-called butcher's-broom that is, so to speak, "sweeping the country" at the present time.

Butcher's-broom, also known as box holly or knee holly, is a fairly common, short evergreen shrub (Ruscus aculeatus L.) of the family Liliaceae, native throughout the Mediterranean region from the Azores to Iran. Butcher's-broom, too, has a long history of use in herbal medicine. As early as the first century, Dioscorides recommended butcher's-broom as a laxative and diuretic. The seventeenth-century apothecary-astrologer Nicholas Culpeper suggested that a decoction of the root be drunk and a poultice of the berries and leaves applied to facilitate the knitting of broken bones. However, the drug never became popular in either Europe or the United States and was seldom mentioned in standard references on drugs.

Then, during the 1950s, French investigators showed that an alcoholic extract of butcher's-broom rhizomes (underground stems) produced vasoconstriction (blood vessel narrowing) in test animals. Further studies identified the active principles as a mixture of steroidal saponins, the two main ones being identified as ruscogenin and neoruscogenin. They apparently produce their vasoconstrictive effects by direct activation of a-adrenergic receptors. Japanese researchers have isolated twelve steroidal saponins, including seven new ones, two of which have cytostatic activity on leukemia HL-60 cells.

Limited clinical trials in humans have, in general, provided support for the effectiveness of the drug in venous disorders. In addition to its vasoconstrictive effects, the extract was demonstrated to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Such studies convinced certain European drug manufacturers that butcher's-broom extract is superior to some of the conventional plant remedies, such as extracts of horse chestnut and witch hazel, which are marketed for their supposed beneficial effects on venous circulation. Consequently, they have made extracts of butcher's broom commercially available in capsule form to treat circulatory problems of the legs and as an ointment or suppository to relieve the symptoms of hemorrhoids.

Capsules containing 75 mg of butcher's-broom and 2 mg of rosemary oil are now being sold in the United States, mainly through health food stores. One such product is being advertised as "a proven European herbal formula-said to improve circulation in the legs," while another is being promoted with the claim that "millions of Europeans report it works wonders-particularly for women who often complain about a 'heavy feeling' in the legs." The ads also state that butcher's-broom is "rare" or "hard-to-find" which is not true.

Although there may be some basis for cautious optimism concerning butcher's-broom as a potentially useful drug, would-be consumers should recognize that manufacturers of butcher's-broom products have never presented proof of safety and efficacy to the Food and Drug Administration and that therapeutic claims for these products are therefore illegal. Moreover, self-diagnosis and self-treatment of circulatory disorders, or any other potentially serious health problem, are certainly inadvisable.

Parts Used

Aerial parts, rhizome.


Butcher's broom is not used much today, but, in view of its positive effect on varicose veins and hemorrhoids, it could be due for a revival. In the European tradition, both the aerial parts and the rhizome are considered to be diuretic and mildly laxative.
Other medical uses -
Chronic venous insufficiency, Lymphedema, Swollen Ankles.

Habitat and Cultivation

Butcher's broom is found throughout much of Europe, western Asia, and North Africa. Butcher's broom is a protected species, growing wild in woodland and on uncultivated ground. Cultivated plants are gathered in autumn, when in fruit.

How Much to Take     

Ointments and suppositories including butcher's broom are typically used for hemorrhoids. These are often applied or inserted at night before going to bed. Encapsulated butcher's broom extracts, often combined with vitamin C or flavonoids, can be used for systemic venous insufficiency in the amount of 1,000 mg three times per day. Alternatively, standardized extracts providing 50-100 mg of ruscogenins per day can be taken.

 Side effects and Caution

There are no significant side effects or problems if butcher's broom is used in the amounts listed here.


Personal Health Zone 

Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings About Herbs, info pages on herbs listed individually


Warning Herbal Supplements Don't Always Go Well With Heart Drugs


Safety warnings and messages for herbal medicines


A Warning Not to Mix Surgery and Herbs


Index of articles  for Lymphedema Treatment 

Acupuncture Treatment

Aqua Therapy for Postsurgical Breast Cancer Arm Lymphedema

Aqua Therapy in Managing Lower Extremity Lymphedema

Artificial Lymph Nodes

Artificial Lymphatic System

Auricular Therapy

Ball Massage technique

Compression Bandages for Lymphedema

Benzopyrones Treatment

Chi Machine

Choosing a Rehabilitation Provider or Physical Therapist

Complex Decongestive Therapy

Complications of Lymphedema Debulking Surgery

Compression Garments Stockings for Lymphedema

Compression Pumps for Lymphedema Treatment

Coumarin powder/ointment

Craniosacral Therapy

Daflon 500 and Secondary Lymphedema

Deep Oscillation Therapy

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diuretics are not for lymphedema

Endermologie Therapy

Essential Oils

Elastin Ampules

Farrow Wrap

Flexitouch Device - Initial Observations

Flexitouch Device for Arm Lymphedema


How to Choose a Lymphedema Therapist

How to be Safe with Complementary and Alternative Medicine

Infrared Therapy for Lymphedema

Kinesio Taping (R)

Kinesiology Therapy

Laser Treatment

Laser Treatment - Sara's Experience

Light Beam Generator Therapy

Liposuction Treatment

Low Level Laser

Lymph Node Transplant

Lymphatic venous anastomoses

Lymphedema Treatment Programs Canada

Lymphedema Sleeves

Lymphedema Surgeries

Lymphedema Treatments are Poorly Utilized


Lymphocyte injection therapy


Magnetic Therapy

Manual Lymphatic Drainage



Naturopathy: A Critical Appraisal

Patient self-massage for breast cancer-related lymphedema

Reflexology Therapy

Self Massage Therapy – Self MLD

Short Stretch Bandages


Wholistic Treatment

Treatment Information for Lymphedema Forum

Why Compression Pumps cause Complications with Lymphedema


Join us as we work for lymphedema patients everywehere:

Advocates for Lymphedema

Dedicated to be an advocacy group for lymphedema patients. Working towards education, legal reform, changing insurance practices, promoting research, reaching for a cure.


Pat O'Connor

Lymphedema People / Advocates for Lymphedema


For information about Lymphedema\

For Information about Lymphedema Complications

For Lymphedema Personal Stories

For information about How to Treat a Lymphedema Wound

For information about Lymphedema Treatment

For information about Exercises for Lymphedema

For information on Infections Associated with Lymphedema

For information on Lymphedema in Children

Lymphedema Glossary


Lymphedema People - Support Groups


Children with Lymphedema

The time has come for families, parents, caregivers to have a support group of their own. Support group for parents, families and caregivers of chilren with lymphedema. Sharing information on coping, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Sponsored by Lymphedema People.



Lipedema Lipodema Lipoedema

No matter how you spell it, this is another very little understood and totally frustrating conditions out there. This will be a support group for those suffering with lipedema/lipodema. A place for information, sharing experiences, exploring treatment options and coping.

Come join, be a part of the family!




If you are a man with lymphedema; a man with a loved one with lymphedema who you are trying to help and understand come join us and discover what it is to be the master instead of the sufferer of lymphedema.



All About Lymphangiectasia

Support group for parents, patients, children who suffer from all forms of lymphangiectasia. This condition is caused by dilation of the lymphatics. It can affect the intestinal tract, lungs and other critical body areas.



Lymphatic Disorders Support Group @ Yahoo Groups

While we have a number of support groups for lymphedema... there is nothing out there for other lymphatic disorders. Because we have one of the most comprehensive information sites on all lymphatic disorders, I thought perhaps, it is time that one be offered.


Information and support for rare and unusual disorders affecting the lymph system. Includes lymphangiomas, lymphatic malformations, telangiectasia, hennekam's syndrome, distichiasis, Figueroa
syndrome, ptosis syndrome, plus many more. Extensive database of information available through sister site Lymphedema People.



Lymphedema People New Wiki Pages

Have you seen our new “Wiki” pages yet?  Listed below are just a sample of the more than 140 pages now listed in our Wiki section. We are also working on hundred more.  Come and take a stroll! 

Lymphedema Glossary 


Arm Lymphedema 

Leg Lymphedema 

Acute Lymphedema 

The Lymphedema Diet 

Exercises for Lymphedema 

Diuretics are not for Lymphedema 

Lymphedema People Online Support Groups 



Lymphedema and Pain Management 

Manual Lymphatic Drainage (MLD) and Complex Decongestive Therapy (CDT) 

Infections Associated with Lymphedema 

How to Treat a Lymphedema Wound 

Fungal Infections Associated with Lymphedema 

Lymphedema in Children 


Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

Extraperitoneal para-aortic lymph node dissection (EPLND) 

Axillary node biopsy

Sentinel Node Biopsy

 Small Needle Biopsy - Fine Needle Aspiration 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging 

Lymphedema Gene FOXC2

 Lymphedema Gene VEGFC

 Lymphedema Gene SOX18

 Lymphedema and Pregnancy

Home page: Lymphedema People

Page Updated: Jan. 6, 2012