Do you know?
- What organ receives one third of all circulating blood?
- When the liver is stagnant and a backflow of waste fills the blood, which organ bears the burden?
- What organ is the last in line for needed nutrients and the first to announce bodily imbalances and deficiencies?
Our skin is the sentinel of our health. Only 1 millimeter thick, the skin streams with blood vessels, hormones, lymphatic capillaries, healthy lipids, waterproofing oils, and beneficial flora. It breathes and absorbs sunlight, spinning the warm rays of the sun into vitamin D. Deeply connected to our brain, our skin is a vast interface between the outside and inside of the body. It defines for us what is “out there” and what is “in here.” Our stalwart skin does all this, and it is beautiful.
We tend to take our skin for granted, trespassing and compromising its health with indiscriminating choices: lethal lotions and polluted potions, fake food and tainted tap water, chemical crèmes and synthetic sun-screens. In lieu of this, let’s take a moment to attune ourselves to our amazing skin.
The ancient Greek and Romans thought highly of the skin; their legendary baths are monuments to the importance of skin care for good health. The bathing ritual was luxurious and relaxing, consisting of soaks in hot and frigid pools and saunas. The very first stop for a bather was the strigling room. A strigil is a metal spoon-like tool that was coated in oil and brushed across every inch of skin. This process cleaned the skin and readied it for the rest of the baths.
I prefer brushing my skin with natural bristle brushes. Dry brushing involves coating a dry brush with a drop of botanical oil and then very gently brushing every inch of skin, like butterflies on the skin – a very light touch. Always brush in the direction of the heart, and avoid brushing damaged or inflamed skin.
Dry brushing is so worth the 2 minutes it takes before a bath or shower. Of the many benefits, here are a couple of reasons why I dry brush:
- Your Lymph
Dry brush your skin for the love of your lymphatic system because a flowing lymphatic system helps support healthy immune response and circulation. Lymph fluid bathes all of the cells of the body with oxygen and nutrients and carries away wastes and excess fluid.
The lymph system is right under the surface of your skin, comprised of a vast network of superficial capillaries that lead to larger collection vessels throughout the body. These capillaries consist of loosely overlapping cells so that they are permeable to fluids, larger molecules, pathogens, and other smaller cells. Fluid from intracellular spaces drains into the lymph capillaries, is transported through lymph nodes, and then flows into large ducts on either side of the spine. From there, the fluid along with the waste and unneeded cellular “stuff” is passed into blood stream to be processed and eliminated.
Unlike the circulatory system that has the heart for a pump, the circulation of lymph fluid relies on physical motion to get it moving. Muscle contractions massage the fluid along through the capillaries in the skin. Inactivity and loss of muscle tone are major obstacles for healthy lymph flow. The lymph fluid can be roused by the dry and stiff bristles of a brush gently swept across the skin. The tiny muscles in your skin, the same muscles that make your hair stand up when you are cold, are stimulated by the motion of the brush and provide gentle contractions that get the lymph moving.
Botanical oils are an awesome way to enhance dry brushing. The use of undiluted oils of cypress, rosemary, laurel, eucalyptus and yarrow are antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, nourishing, balancing and revivifying. Laurel, Laurus nobilis are particularly known for clearing and moving the lymphatic system. In Advanced Aromatherapy, Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt states, “rubbing a few drops of bay laurel on swollen lymph nodes may have an immediate, noticeable effect. The positive and pleasant effect of this oil is so distinct and strong that one application will normally suffice to convince the most hardened skeptic to use it.”
Simply pour 1-2 drops of the oils on the palm of your hand, and then glide a dry brush across your palm coating the bristles. Then gently, brush your body starting with your toes all the way up to your head. Remember to always brush toward the heart.
2. Amplify Blood Circulation
Just two minutes of whole-body dry brushing boosts blood supply (both in volume and area) to the skin for an hour. Blood vessels weave through the skin in an elegant tapestry delivering vitamins, minerals, proteins, fats, and fluids that build and sustain it. Blood also picks up the vitamin D made in skin cells and delivers to the rest of the body. Stagnant blood supply to the skin leads to loss of vitality, paleness, and a cascade of complexion and immune issues.
The light pressure on the skin from dry brushing promotes temporary blood capillary dilation, which allows for a higher volume of blood flow and more efficient give and take with the cells. Dry brushing also recruits dormant capillaries back into action. This is why the skin has a rosy glow after a thorough brushing.