Herbs to help with circulation after mastectomy target lymphedema, or swelling near the lymph nodes. Because many breast cancer surgeries include removal of lymph nodes or tumors near the lymph nodes, circulation to the surrounding area may be damaged temporarily or permanently. The resulting swelling and discomfort sends many women back to the doctor to look for help. While some conventional treatment options such as compression devices improve circulation, others things such as herbs and alternative medicine may help also. It's important that any woman who has had breast cancer or is taking medication speak with her doctor before taking herbs or using alternative treatments. Herbs may interact with medications. Seek advice from a naturopathic doctor well versed in cancer therapy and lymphedema for additional insight and guidance.
Herbs to Help with Circulation After Mastectomy
After a mastectomy there is a period of healing in which some swelling may be normal. Talk to your doctor about how long any post-surgical discomfort may last, and if you feel it's going on too long, seek her advice before trying alternative therapy.
Circulation and the Lymphatic System
The lymphatic system consists of nodes and tubes that run throughout the body right alongside the circulatory system. Lymph is a clear fluid that transports water and other things throughout the body. As it moves through the body, a little bit is left behind. If tissues are damaged, more fluid is left behind and swelling occurs. After a mastectomy the lymphatic system and lymph nodes near the breast may be damaged, causing fluid to pool in the area. If circulation is improved to the area, the swelling can go down.
Herbs to Boost Circulation
Several herbs increase circulation. Some are taken internally as tinctures, pills or teas, while others are made into salves or creams and used topically.
- Ginger tea: Ginger tea is a well known and time tested tonic that boosts circulation. Try a tea made from powdered ginger root. Be sure to use fresh ginger or fresh, recently opened packages of ginger tea for maximum benefit.
- Cayenne pepper: Cayenne pepper is another herb that's known for boosting circulation. Be careful when using cayenne as it can also increase bleeding. Do not use while healing from surgery.
- Butcher's broom: The same information reference horse chestnut and cited above also mentions Butcher's broom. Butcher's broom is a bushy, evergreen perennial herb that grows throughout Europe as a wild plant. According to the Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine published by Natural Health, Butcher's broom contains compounds similar to Wild Yam, an herbal remedy often recommended to balance hormones in women.
- Sweet clover ointment: A commercial preparation made from sweet clover into an ointment rubbed into the affected area may also help.
Other Herbal Remedies
Healing Cancer Naturally recommends a detoxification protocol for anyone suffering from edema. Detoxifying herbs include milk thistle, dandelion and nettles. Many can be brewed as teas and sipped throughout the day. A healthy diet, gentle and moderate exercise, massage, acupuncture and compression garments may also help.
A European supplement called Wobenzym may also improve circulation after a mastectomy and reduce swelling. Wobenzym is a supplement pill that contains ligomeric proanthocyanidins and bromelin, compounds found in grape seed extract and pineapple. You may also want to increase the amount of fruits contain antioxidants and circulation boosting enzymes in your diet; eat more pineapple, grapes, and similar fruits.
Other Alternative Remedies to Try
Several other alternative remedies, used in conjunction with herbs, may offer relief from circulation problems. In addition to herbs to help with circulation after mastectomy surgery, you may want to talk to a naturopathic doctor about acupuncture, which is said to improve circulation and reduce edema. Several homeopathic remedies have also been recommended for use after mastectomy, but find a good homeopathic doctor before trying them. While homeopathy is safe, its efficacy depends upon matching the remedy very precisely to the symptoms and the patient, and it's often best to talk to an expert to get started using homeopathic remedies.
Gentle exercise also helps with edema problems. When you move a muscle, the contraction squeezes the blood and lymphatic vessels and pushes the fluids along through the body. This can move any fluid stuck in the lymphatic tissue near the mastectomy site move away and circulate naturally through the body.
After undergoing such distressing surgery as a mastectomy, it's tough to deal with circulation problems and uncomfortable swelling, too. Fortunately there are many conventional and alternative therapies to try. Be sure to speak with your doctor to make sure the herbs you take won't interact with your medications or impede healing. Make an appointment with a naturopathic doctor or an herbalist too, and get started on the road to recovery.