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What are Brain Glymphatics?
While we rest, there are tiny lymph channels that open up and drain toxic waste and proteins. The brain dumps about 3 pounds of toxins from the brain each year. This is the entire weight of the brain in toxins that get processed through these channels.13,14
This is referred to as the glymphatic system, and has become a powerful breakthrough in western medicine, as it indicates a strong link between the immune system, which travels via the lymph, and the brain and central nervous system.
The glymphatics were first confirmed by the scientific community in 2015 in studies at the University of Virginia.
While a new and exciting discovery, many have suggested their presence long before.1,2 Two centuries ago, the anatomist Paolo Mascagni made full-body models of the lymphatic system that included the brain, though this was dismissed as an error.3
Thousands of years ago, Ayurveda described the glymphatics, referring to the system as “tarpaka kapha,” which is the aspect of the kapha dosha that literally drains toxins from the brain into the cerebral spinal fluid. It was known that if these lymphatic channels became congested, the mood can shift, memory can become compromised, the brain can become foggy, and immune-related or nervous system disorders can ensue.1,2,4,5,6
3 Ways to Cleanse Your Brain Lymph
According to Ayurveda, besides getting an adequate amount of sleep, breathing exercises, and meditation, there are specific things you can do at home to optimize this brain waste clearance process:
1. Marma Point Scalp Massage
There are 108 marma pressure points in the body, and 37 of these pressure points are located in the head and neck. There are emissary veins15 or marmas all along the sagittal sinus of the skull where the brain lymphatics drain toxins and waste while we sleep. Massaging the scalp can elicit changes in the blood flow inside the cranium, allowing for more efficient waste draining while we sleep.16
In the photo below, you can see a great example of the parietal emissary veins that have held great significance in Ayurveda.
The head massage includes treatment of the face, scalp, head marmas, neck, and ears. While most massage therapists in the states have incorporated massage tables into their practice, a traditional Indian head massage was always performed while the guest was in a seated position.
The scalp massage traditionally was quite vigorous and would use a copious amount of herbalized oil. Focus should be placed on where the emissary veins or marmas are – they are in the shape of a Mohawk haircut on the skull. When working with marma points, it is best to use the pads of your thumbs to create pressure, not the fingertips.
>>> Learn more about these tiny holes in the skull, called “emissary veins,” that drain brain lymph, and how a head massage on specific points on the head can support healthy lymphatic flow in the brain.
2. Nasya Therapy
There is an ancient Ayurvedic technique called nasya, where herbalized oils are sniffed into the nasal mucosa. This technique was designed to cleanse the brain lymphatics, called “rasa,” and the brain ventricles and sinuses, called “tarpaka.”
I have used nasya techniques in my practice for 30 years and have witnessed how nasya supports mental clarity, memory and the flushing of old toxic emotions. Thousands of years ago, ancient Ayurvedic texts suggested that such brain congestion is directly linked to neurological as well as old emotional concerns.
Today’s science has linked optimal glymphatic function to cognitive health, restful sleep, as well as stable mood and immunity.7-9
Nasya can be as simple as sniffing a few drops of sesame oil to lubricate the sinuses, or it can be a much more elaborate Ayurvedic therapy. I have detailed articles and videos on how to do this technique at home.
3. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
One of the solutions to care for the lymphatic channels is to feed the body with good, high quality lymph-moving fats.
There are volumes of studies linking fish oil supplementation to healthy brain and cognitive health. Omega-3s are essential components of brain cell membranes and take a role in supporting serotonin nerve cell transmission.11 People with mood and cognitive concerns may have low levels of omega-3s in the brain.12
New research has suggested that omega-3 fatty acid from fish oils helps support healthy brain lymph circulation.10
Most experts agree that a minimum of 1800-2500mg of EPA and DHA (combined) is needed to achieve a daily therapeutic dose. Learn more about LifeSpa’s Mini Omega fish oil supplement that delivers 3 times the potency from a patented delivery system.
- Vasant. Textbook of Ayurveda. Tarpaka kapha. Vol. 1. P. 74-6
- Neuropharmacology. 2011 June 29.
- Biol Psychiatry. 2007 Jul 1; 62(1):17-24