By David Lee, L.Ac.
Edema is an accumulation of excessive amount of fluid in an area of the body. Fluid builds up in the lower legs due to venous insufficiency. The build-up can occur in the arm and torso after a radiation therapy for breast cancer treatment, which damages the lymphatic tissue. Physical medicine is only palliative. Compression sleeves, lymphatic drainage massage, and exercise help to control the excessive fluid accumulation but do not reverse the lymphatic compromise.
Asian herbal medicine successfully treats lymphedema. It can reverse a significant portion of the cause. A long-term reduction or even elimination of the swelling can be achieved. Cells of the lymphatic vessels become healthier, making the vascular structure and valves stronger.
The treatment is differentiated by the constitutions. It is because the body must be involved in the healing process. Problem-focused is limited. But a human-focused treatment allows the self-healing to take place. Generally, human bodies have three different ways of establishing homeostasis. Therefore, working with the body must be in accordance with its genetic propensity. A one-size-fits-all does not exist. However, a three-size-fits-all approach with Lesser Yin, Lesser Yang, and Greater Yin constitutions is a practical method to successfully treat lymphedema.
These three Sasang herbal formulas work well. Historically, the challenge was identifying the correct constitutional diagnosis. The good news is that we now have physical, physiological, and psychological tools to determine the constitutions.
There are two Lesser Yin Soeumin constitutions. They are cold body types. Physically, their toros have hourglass and triangle shapes. Physiologically, they tend to be overly sensitive to caffeine, which can easily keep them up at night if taken after 4 pm. Psychologically, they are diagnosed as Vata and Kapha according to India’s Ayurveda, Phlegmatic and Melancholic according to Greco-Roman Unani, and Affiliation according to Need Theory. Lastly, Myers-Briggs psychological types are ENFJ, INFJ, ENTJ, INTJ, ESFJ, ISFJ, ESTJ, and ISTJ.
A Lesser Yang Soyangin constitution is a hot body type. Physically, the toro has an up-side down triangle shape. Physiologically, they are not sensitive to caffeine. Some are prone to motion sickness, which means they cannot read a book in a moving vehicle. If they can do not get motion sick easily, then a psychological profile needs to distinguish from a Greater Yin Taeeumin constitution. Psychologically, they are diagnosed as Pitta according to India’s Ayurveda, Sanguine according to Greco-Roman Unani, and Achievement according to Need Theory. Lastly, Myers-Briggs psychological types are ENFP, INFP, ENTP, INTP, ESFP, and ISFP.
A Greater Yin Taeeumin constitution is a dry body type. Physically, the toro is a diamond shape. Physiologically, caffeine with dinner does not keep them up at night. They are not prone to motion sickness and can read a book in a moving vehicle. Psychologically, they are diagnosed as Pitta-Kapha according to India’s Ayurveda, Choleric according to Greco-Roman Unani, and Power according to Need Theory. Lastly, Myers-Briggs psychological types are ESTP and ISTP.
Usually, the improvement is noticeable on a monthly timeline. There is a stable reduction of swelling due to the fluid accumulation under the skin. It can take between 2 months to 6 months to achieve the maximum benefit.
Sasang constitutional herbal medicine supports the body to self-heal the lymphedema while improving the overall health. With this holistic medicine, integration of the complex physiological events favors the organs, glands, nerves, and circulatory system to function normally. It is anti-aging because of the optimization of physiology. Both mind and body are in good order. The disease is mitigated or even eliminated. The whole body’s involvement in directly and indirectly treating the lymphedema makes the problem go away. As a bonus, the patient’s quality of daily living is enhanced with increased well-being in focus, clarity, and energy.