Neptune + Our Lymphatic Resilience / Nettle Leaf + Red Root
Welcome back to our discussion of the planets and how their energies interact with our bodies to produce the symptoms that we know to be "health." So far we've talked about most of the inner planets and dedicated some time for the outer planets Uranus and Pluto due to their stimulation these past months. Today we will focus on Neptune--the ruler of the great mother ocean and our energetic armor to the trials and tribulations of the outside world.
As we have previously discussed, the outer planets (Uranus, Neptune + Pluto) don't really have personal resonances with any of our body systems, rather, they represent external or pernicious influences with which we co-exist and evolve through a symbiotic relationship of sorts. Just to recap, Uranus is connected to the electrical fields and EMF radiation that directly impacts our nervous systems. Pluto represents large forces of bacterial, viral or fungal colonies that exist alongside us and can overwhelm or overtake our systems via infection when allowed to grow out of balance. Neptune, today's topic, rules toxin, chemical or poisonous materials, those which our body might consider to be foreign to us. As such, Neptune is intimately linked to our body's system of internal defense, otherwise known as our immune system. The immune system is profoundly complex, so we will focus today on the lymphatic system, which is responsible for transporting waste products, white blood cells and antigen-presenting cells around the body as a part of our adaptive immune response.
Just as Neptune is often compared to an ocean, we also contain internal oceans of lymphatic fluid which are constantly in a state of flux, reflecting the health of our entire being at any given moment. And as the archetype of Neptune is related to suffering and strife in astrology, our immune system help us to process not only physical toxins but emotional ones as well. This is why we can sometimes get sick after a period of mourning or elevated stress. Just as struggle is an intrinsic part of life that is sometimes unavoidable, our bodies have evolved to understand that we are sometimes in a position of having to withstand toxin exposure, making our immune system resilient and adaptive. Conversely, this is also why shamanic healing practices or entheogenic journeys can address physical illnesses, because those ailments may have their roots in emotional trauma. Because of this, it is said that gratitude and happiness can actually strengthen our immune system as well.
What is the Lymphatic System?
Our lymphatic system is a network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of waste materials and cellular debris. Through this network a fluid called interstitial fluid passes, much like the channels of a river running throughout the entire body. This fluid contains specialized white blood cells known as lymphocytes, as well as leftover blood plasma that has been separated from the red blood cells and is making its’ way back to the heart. Like islands in the ocean, organs made from lymphatic tissue (such as the spleen or tonsils) produce the lymphocytes and release them into the stream.
Our immune systems develop as we do--by being exposed to different types of bacteria early in life, we develop antibodies in relation to them but also learn to coexist with them as well. Much has been misunderstood about the immune system in the age of antibiotics; we cannot live in sterility as many of these bacterial or parasitic colonies moderate and work together with our immune functioning. Many of them even protect; in fact, numerous studies have shown seemingly unrelated adverse effects after antibiotic use, such as an increase in allergies in populations who go through de-worming protocols, for example. The problem comes when we allow our internal terrain to become conducive to over growths of certain strains of bacteria, viruses or fungi through lifestyle and diet choices. A prime example of this is candida overgrowth being linked to a diet high in sugars and starches. This is one of the reasons why herbal medicine is so effective at correcting these imbalances, because they do not act as potent antibiotics, rather they address the imbalanced internal terrain of our tissues and organs, making the environment inhospitable for offending organisms to take hold.
Is there an easy way to tell how your lymph is flowing before getting sick? These are a few common symptoms of lymphatic stagnation to watch out for:
feeling sluggish or tired even after resting well
emotional outbursts, frequent crying
Frequent skin rashes, eczema or chronic acne
Sensitivity to fats or problems with fat digestion
unexplained muscle aches or stiffness, especially soreness around lymph drainage sites
swelling of the lymph glands (while it is common practice to remove glands that swell frequently, such as the tonsils, this is your body's natural way of telling you that your immune system is being triggered by a certain toxin and is therefore crucial to pay attention to)
So if we consider that we are indeed more bacteria than we are human, this tells us a lot about the role of Neptune in modulating our concept of self versus non-self. This is where Pisces earns its reputation as being the ego-destroyer--Pisces, as ruled by Neptune, is naturally aware of this fluidity between the lines of self and other, and therefore is easily prone to attracting situations in which the ego is challenged, as with drug use or drunkenness, spiritual/psychic experiences, virtual realities and instances of imprisonment or confinement. Pisces intuitively remembers the great ocean from which we were all birthed, and resonates with the sameness in everyone they meet, therefore it can struggle at times with the egoic concept of "I" and "you." Confusion, a hallmark Neptunian emotion, finds an allegory with our current epidemic of auto-immune disease, wherein the immune system starts attacking parts of our own bodies in a state of hyper-vigilance. Allergies are another manifestation of Neptune's energy.
What leads to autoimmunity or allergic conditions? A period of lymphatic stagnation, wherein the immune system is overloaded with foreign chemical compounds, along with continuous decimation of our body's natural bacterial flora. When we look at how many preservatives, pesticides and denatured compounds exist in our food systems, it is not surprising to understand where this uptick in autoimmune disease originates from. Combine this with an atmosphere of rampant antibiotic use and it creates a perfect storm for immune dysregulation. To be fair, I should mention that this situation can compound over several generations, so even if we do our best to live healthily, the lifestyle of our mothers and grandmothers also plays a part in how well our immune system functions. In fact, it may take up to one or two generations to see the full impact of one's lifestyle and toxin exposure!
Lymphatic stagnation can come from many different sources--sometimes we have a latent food allergy that is undiagnosed for years while the antibodies build up in our lymph, or sometimes we have an infection and take antibiotics that don't kill the bacterial colonies completely, leaving us with a low-grade infection for several years. All of this builds up in the system until stress triggers a response and our immune systems go into a state of overdrive, attacking healthy body tissue. The body part affected will often be Chiron or Mars's natal placement, or the ruler of your 6th house. For example, Chiron in Taurus has a higher chance of developing Hashimoto's autoimmune thyroid disease due to Taurus's resonance with the throat. Similarly, Chiron in Gemini can be predisposed to MS or other degenerative nerve diseases due to Gemini's rulership of the peripheral nerves.
Above we have an example of an afflicted natal Neptune—retrograde, conjunct the ascendant and in hard aspect to the South Node, Mars and Venus. This person is currently undergoing treatment for aggressive, inflammatory breast cancer, which is supported by a trine to Chiron in the 4th house of the breasts.
The predisposing factors are Mars on the South Node in the 6th house of health, indicating spleen weakness (6th house rules the spleen), poor blood circulation and circulatory issues. This person has had low iron on and off at times during their life. Venus in Gemini in the 8th can indicate spastic (Gemini) bowel movements (8th house), leading to nutrient malabsorption and chronic deficiencies over time. Finally, Neptune, indicating weakness, is found in it’s house of rulership (12th), and retrograde, which indicates a sluggishness to the lymphatic system in general, supported by Jupiter’ s placement there as well, pointing to a tendency to tax the lymphatic system. The north node conjunct Neptune is what makes the cancer aggressive and fast-spreading, as the north node attracts energy, therefore speeding up growth processes.
I add this example just to show you how you can start piecing together bits of what we’ve learned so far to paint a health picture from anyone’s natal chart, but again, it is essential to have multiple supporting pieces of evidence before drawing any conclusions!
What To Do During a Hard Neptune Transit
So what do you do if you have an afflicted natal Neptune, or are hit by a hard Neptune transit, such as Neptune crossing the ascendant or squaring a malefic in your chart? The first step is to accept that you may not be able to go hard 100% of the time the way you see your peers doing. Those of us with challenged Neptunes (Neptune in hard aspect to a personal planet or Neptune Rx) need to sleep at least 8 hours a day, drink plenty of water and will respond strikingly well to a diet based in organic, fresh fruits and veggies (if access is available). If access to organic foods is not available, try to limit the consumption of packaged or processed foods or supplements, anything that the body won't recognize, as well as refined sugar, as sugar lowers immune functioning. This includes alcohol! Challenged Neptune folks are prone to be more sensitive to alcohol and drugs in general, and while they may be attracted to them it is best to limit one's intake. Be wise with antibiotic use, only relying on them as a last resort and try making your own fermented foods to establish healthy gut flora. This alone will do wonders for allergies.
You can also try lymph massage techniques, dry brushing or gua sha, focusing on areas of lymphatic drainage such as the armpits, tonsils, groin or the bottoms of feet. Switch to a natural deodorant or go deodorant-free, skipping chemical-laden antiperspirants that inhibit our body's natural process of detoxification. Aim for a daily movement practice, otherwise known as exercise, as this is the best way to stimulate sluggish lymph. Afterwards, try a steam to really get the gush moving!
All of these recommendations are also suited for those with autoimmune conditions as well. The use of immune-boosting or even so-called “immune modulating” herbs and fungi should be used with care, as they can often trigger an aggressive response from the immune system, manifesting in a flare-up of symptoms. I kept that in mind when selecting the herbs for this month—neither have direct influence on the immune system, rather they nourish the body from within and stimulate lymphatic drainage, both of which will help with the symptoms of autoimmune disease.
Nettle leaf’s claim to fame is in the stingers, which don’t actually sting so much as they inject formic acid as a way of deterring herbivores. Herbalists for centuries have touted the properties of nettle stings as being healing to certain types of arthritis, nerve damage or poor circulation. I love nettles because of it’s abundance as well as it’s use as a medicinal food. The leaves contain magnesium, calcium, iron and protein that is easily assimilated, making a staple in many tonic formulas.
Because of it’s high mineral content, it can be useful in cases of cramping from low vitamin and mineral levels. It is also a diuretic, meaning that it stimulates the production of urine, facilitating waste release form the body. It aids lymphatic congestion in this way, while being nourishing at the same time. As such, it can be used for cases of edema, gout, allergic rhinitis (allergies), various skin conditions, kidney stones and UTIs. Herbalist Susun Weed also attributes the regular use of nettle to a “nourishing of the mucus membranes of the digestive tract,” easing constipation and diarrhea. It is a mild laxative, helping to ease digestive irregularities, and has also been historically used as a hemostatic, to address excessive bleeding or menstruation.
Traditionally, it is an herb of Mars, indicating numerous actions on the blood but also helping to strengthen core vitality, venous sufficiency and inner warmth both on the physical and emotional level. Its’ use in uterine steams speaks to this—it can be used to strengthen protection energies for female-bodied folks who have been in abusive situations or who have trouble maintaining boundaries. Martian energy is a good counteracting force to help balance dominant Neptune energy without compromising Neptune’s softness. Nettles is also a fabulous ally to new mothers, both in the gestational phase and during childbirth to get energy moving.
Both the tea and tincture are effective, but I truly enjoy the potency of the fresh herb in food preparations. I should also note that the root is also used, specifically for BPH (benign prostate hypertrophy).
Red root’s other name, New Jersey tea, comes from it’s history of use as a tea during the Revolutionary War. It is still marketed under that name commonly, however I am choosing to focus on the action of the root for today’s discussion. The actions of the root tincture are astringent, alterative, lymphatic, anti-inflammatory. As an aromatic bitter, it is mildly warming and dispersing of stagnant energies in the body. It is a potent anti inflammatory for both the liver and spleen, boosting white blood cell count and shrinking non fibrous cysts.
Red root’s specific indication is swollen lymph nodes, and it can also help with elevated blood cholesterol or fat in the blood. As such, it also helpful for poor fat metabolism in general. Due to it’s effects on stagnancy, it is useful for cases of hemorrhoids, varicose veins, broken capillaries, breast/ovarian/testicular cysts, heavy menstruation or swollen spleen due to viral infections. It’s astringency has made it a useful historical ally for Native Americans and early American doctors to stop bleeding.
Red root has an affinity with the spleen both physically and energetically. In addition to the symptoms of damp, irritated indigestion, the energetic spleen imbalances that manifest as excessive worry, thought or introspection, as well as an inability to pick a direction or feel one’s life purpose can be aided by red root in drop doses. These symptoms share many overlaps with Neptune transits, and so if you are undergoing one right now, you may benefit from the presence of red root in your life.
Some herbalists claim that an extract of the dried root loses some of it’s potential, and that a fresh root tincture produces the best results. This is because the main constituent in red root responsible for it’s lymphatic action, Ceanothenic Acid, is sensitive to heat and the drying process. So if you are going to use it for it’s physical effects, look for a fresh root preparation—look for a bright red color, the redder, the better!
July welcomes eclipse season! Eclipses have historically been portents of death and disease--we will talk about why in next month's article as we dive into the nature of eclipse energy and its' effect on the body. Until then, enjoy the summer weather and be well!