It’s very common that a swelling appears somewhere on the body. If it doesn’t hurt much or doesn’t really bother you, it is most likely to be a swollen lymph node.
A lymph node is an oval-shaped organ or gland of the lymphatic system. They are present throughout the body and their main function is the production of lymphocytes, which help defend the body against microorganisms and harmful foreign particles. They do this by filtering the lymph fluid as it flows through them, then destroying the bacteria, viruses, and other foreign particles with the help of the white blood cells which are stored in them. Thus, lymph nodes form an important part of the immune system of the body.
While the exact number of lymph nodes varies from individual to individual, there are roughly about 500 to 700 of them in the body.1
Why Do Lymph Nodes Swell?
Lymph nodes block the viruses, bacteria, abnormal cells, or diseased cells that pass through the lymph channels. When the individual is suffering from an infection or disease, the lymph nodes gather up the bacteria and viruses. This leads to the nodes swelling up in the affected area.2 Swollen lymph nodes are a sure sign that the lymphatic system is working to rid the body of the responsible agents.
Common Sites For Swollen Lymph Nodes
Lymph nodes can be found throughout the body. They are located underneath the skin in many areas like the armpits, either sides of the neck and groin, under the jaw, above the collarbone, etc.3 The glands in the armpit are known as axillary lymph nodes. An injury or infection to the arm or hand are likely to be the cause for these nodes to swell. Cysts and irritation caused by shaving can also lead to swollen lymph nodes in the armpits. A rare cause may be breast cancer or lymphoma.
When glands on either side of the neck, under the jaw or behind the ears swell up, the culprit is usually a cold or a sore throat. An injury can be another cause for swollen lymph nodes in the neck. A tumor or infection in the mouth, throat or neck can also cause swelling of lymph nodes.
The femoral or inguinal lymph nodes are situated in the groin. These nodes can swell up in the event of an injury or infection in the groin, genitals, foot, or leg. Various types of cancers can also lead to lumps in this area.
Glands above the collarbone are known as the supraclavicular lymph nodes. An infection or tumor in the lung, breast, abdomen, or neck area can cause a swelling of these lymph nodes.
How To Treat Swollen Lymph Nodes
Swollen lymph node glands usually become smaller without any treatment. In some cases, however, doctors may suggest to monitor them.
If the node has swollen up due to an infection, antibiotics or antiviral medications may be prescribed to combat the infection. Pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications may also be prescribed.
In case the cause for swollen lymph nodes is cancer, cancer will have to be treated for the nodes to go back to normal size. While chemotherapy might be required in some situations, some cases may also call for the removal of the affected gland or lymph node.
While antibiotics and antivirals bring down the infections and reduce the size of the swollen lymph nodes, it may take up to four weeks for results to show. Then too, the glands need not always subside to its normal size.
10 Simple Home Remedies To Treat Swollen Lymph Nodes
There are a variety of natural remedies to treat swollen lymph nodes effectively and without any side effects. However, if there is no improvement in your condition even after one month, do consult a doctor. Here are some effective (proven) natural cures for swollen lymph nodes.
1. Warm Compress
A warm compress is an age-old remedy to reduce the swelling of the lymph nodes. When a warm compress is applied to the affected area, the temperature helps increase blood circulation and blood flow. This will give you marked relief from the pain and swelling.4
Studies also show a connection between heat and inactivation of viruses causing the swelling of lymph nodes.5
- Dip a washcloth in hot water and wring out the excess water
- Place this warm washcloth on the affected areas for up to 10 minutes
- Repeat a few times daily until the swelling is gone
- You can also wash the swollen area with warm water a few times daily.
Another natural remedy to go for is a massage. Massaging the lymph nodes, or the area around the nodes is believed to help. A good massage will stimulate the nodes, reduce accumulation of impurities in the nodes by draining it out, and help reduce the swelling. While you can opt to hire a professional to massage you, it is quite easy to do it yourself.6
- Use your fingertips to massage the lymph nodes gently
- Keep massaging the area for about five minutes
- Repeat twice or thrice a day for best results
3. Salt Water
For those suffering from inflamed lymph nodes in the neck caused by a cold or a sore throat, a salt water gargle will give immediate relief. Magnesium salts, or Epsom salts as they are more commonly known, have excellent anti-inflammatory and healing properties.7
- Take a cup of warm water
- Add half a teaspoon to 1 teaspoon of salt to it
- Mix well
- Use this solution to gargle
- Repeat two or three times a day for best results
Garlic has always been one of the foremost medicines in traditional treatment methods or herbal remedies. Studies have shown that garlic possesses antibacterial, antithrombotic, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, and antidiabetic actions.8 These properties will undoubtedly help in reducing the swelling in the lymph nodes as well as cleanse and heal the lymphatic system. 9
- Have 2–3 raw garlic cloves or a garlic supplement every day for a week.
- Massage the swollen area for five minutes with garlic oil. Repeat thrice daily.
5. Apple Cider Vinegar
Yet another effective natural remedy for swollen lymph nodes is apple cider vinegar (ACV). Believed to be a wonder cure, ACV helps create an alkaline environment in the body. It also maintains the pH levels in the body at an optimum level. Studies show that ACV possesses oxidative stress scavenging effects and that it also increases the levels of antioxidant enzymes and vitamins in the body.10 Moreover, its antibacterial and antioxidant properties help fight any infection that may be causing the lymph nodes to swell.11
- Mix 1 cup of raw, unfiltered ACV with 1 cup of water
- Soak a washcloth in the solution and apply it on the swollen area
- After 5 minutes, rinse it off with warm water and pat dry
- Repeat at least twice a day
Alternatively, you can opt for the following method:
- Take a glass of water
- Mix 1 tablespoon of raw, unfiltered ACV in it
- Add a little raw honey
- Stir well
- Drink it twice daily
Honey is an excellent wound healer. Its anti-inflammatory properties can help reduce the pain and swelling of the affected lymph nodes.12 Its antibacterial properties, meanwhile, can help fight the infection that is causing the lymph nodes to swell.13
- Take 1 cup of water
- Add 2 teaspoons of raw honey
- Squeeze some fresh lemon juice into it
- Mix it well and drink this twice a day for one week
Alternatively, you can
- Apply some raw honey on the swollen area
- Allow it to remain for 15 minutes
- Rinse it off with warm water
- Repeat 3 times daily until the swelling subsides
Yet another long-standing herbal remedy that has stood the test of time is turmeric. Rich in antioxidants and a highly effective anti-inflammatory agent and analgesic, turmeric is a sure-fire remedy to treat swollen lymph nodes.14 Since it is also proven to be effective in combating infections, turmeric can definitely aid in bringing down the swelling of enlarged lymph nodes.15
- Take 1 tablespoon of turmeric powder
- Add enough honey to make a paste
- Apply it on the swollen area
- After 10 minutes rinse with warm water
- Do this twice daily for about a week
- Drink a glass of warm turmeric milk twice daily
8. Peppermint Oil
As anyone who has chewed gum knows, peppermint has a cooling effect unlike any other. Not just in the mouth, peppermint provides this same cooling effect on the skin, too. So, topical application of peppermint oil can cool the skin in the affected area as well as increase the blood flow to the area.16 Apart from this, peppermint is also a powerful analgesic or painkiller.17 It is also rich in several nutrients and minerals like manganese, folate, calcium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin C, etc. and is a potent antimicrobial. So, applying peppermint oil on the swollen area will help kill the infection causing bacteria as well as provide a soothing effect to the area.18
- Take a few drops of peppermint oil
- Apply it on the affected area
- Gently massage the area for five minutes
- Do this twice daily till the swelling reduces
9. Mullein Leaves
Mullein leaves and flowers have long been used for traditional medicinal treatments. While mullein leaves have been popular in treating respiratory illnesses like bronchitis, whooping cough, cold, fever, flu, pneumonia etc., research also shows that the plant is a wormicide that is quite effective in combating helminths, viruses, and bacteria, as well.19 This means, that the plant can tackle the infections that are causing the lymph nodes to swell. For a natural cure for a sore throat and the consequent swollen lymph nodes, do the following:
- Chop up some mullein leaves
- Put it in a jar
- Pour 1 cup of boiling water into the jar
- Close the jar and let it steep for a few minutes
- Once cooled, drink the tea
- Drink 3 cups daily for one week
10. Panax Ginseng
Chinese ginseng or panax ginseng is capable of enhancing the immune function and liver function. It is also effective as anti-fatigue, anti-diabetic, anti-stress, and a pain relieving agent.20 These properties of the ginseng are derived from its roots.21 Ginseng is also believed to help treat the common cold and the flu. Ginseng is available in powdered form or as a syrup or as capsules.
- Take 400mg of ginseng every day for a week
- Consult your physician before you start this dose
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|↑2||Dietrich, Christoph Frank, J. Lee, Gunter Herrmann, Gerlinde Teuber, W. Kurt Roth, Wolfgang F. Caspary, and Stefan Zeuzem. “Enlargement of perihepatic lymph nodes in relation to liver histology and viremia in patients with chronic hepatitis C.” Hepatology 26, no. 2 (1997): 467-472.|
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|↑8||Tsai, Chia-Wen, Haw-Wen Chen, Le-Yen Sheen, and Chong-Kuei Lii. “Garlic: Health benefits and actions.” BioMedicine 2, no. 1 (2012): 17-29.|
|↑9||Amagase, Harunobu. “Clarifying the real bioactive constituents of garlic.” The Journal of nutrition 136, no. 3 (2006): 716S-725S.|
|↑10||Nazıroğlu, Mustafa, Mustafa Güler, Cemil Özgül, Gündüzalp Saydam, Mustafa Küçükayaz, and Ercan Sözbir. “Apple cider vinegar modulates serum lipid profile, erythrocyte, kidney, and liver membrane oxidative stress in ovariectomized mice fed high cholesterol.” The Journal of membrane biology 247, no. 8 (2014): 667-673.|
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