I have written numerous articles on the new discovery of lymphatic vessels that drain three pounds of toxins annually from the brain while you sleep at night, but this understanding is just the tip of a massive health-promoting iceberg—and I am super excited to share these latest developments regarding the best ways to detox your brain.
For me, the most exciting part is how the ancient practices of yoga and Ayurveda, which directly addressed brain cleansing, are now being supported by new studies linking cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) flow to brain lymph drainage.
Boosting CSF has been linked to an improvement in cognitive function and a reduction of cognitive concerns in the elderly in one study. (8) In another study, aging was associated with a 50% reduction in CSF production in otherwise healthy adults. (1)
Let me start with a short overview of how the brain washes itself from these toxins:
The Brain Cleanse Process
Circulating inside the spinal canal and throughout the brain is a fluid called cerebral spinal fluid (CSF). This system is not a closed system, as once thought. It dynamically interacts with the lymphatic system and is drained into the lymph within the central nervous system (CNS) from the tailbone to the sinuses at the top of your brain. (1)
The lymph that drains the brain and spinal cord actively washes the brain and CNS inside the spinal column while you sleep, as well as during certain specific CSF-moving, brain-cleansing activities. (1,2)
The CSF is a type of lymphatic fluid that is believed to be primarily created anew by a concentration of blood vessels called the choroid plexus at the base of the brain. The fluid is oozed out of these brain blood vessels similar to the way lymph fluid is circulated throughout the rest of the body.
As this fluid is created in the center-base of the brain, it literally washes the brain of toxins, moving through brain circulation pathways called ventricles. Most of the CSF is rinsed throughout the brain, directed to the brain’s outer areas and into lymph-carrying vessels in the superior and transverse sagittal sinuses—which is exactly where Ayurveda described these lymph channels thousands of years ago. Along the way, the CSF is cleansing the brain of toxins and delivering nutrients, much like the function of the lymphatic system. (1)
Wrapped like a sleeve around the veins in the sagittal sinus, just beneath the skull in a pattern like a mohawk haircut, the lymphatic vessels were found—which are now called glymphatics in the scientific community.
These glymphatics absorb the old CSF along with toxins that are directed into either the cervical lymphatics in the neck or the nasal mucosa lymphatic vessels.
The Best Ways to Detox the Brain, Boost Your CSF and Brain Lymph Flow
An Ayurvedic Brain Cleanse
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. (3-5) Pretty fascinating stuff!
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.
The science on the glymphatic system saw a significant increase in brain lymph drainage during sleep that was more efficient when sleeping on one’s side. (3) So, make sure you are getting enough sleep on your side, and also getting it at the right time—which is somewhat old-fashioned, but early-to-bed and early-to-rise has been linked to some emerging health benefits. In one study, those who got to bed early and woke up early were associated with healthier weight and lower body mass index than those who went to bed late and slept in. (6)
Significant CSF flow or brain cleansing has been linked to deep breathing exercises. Studies show a specific boost in CSF flow during inspiration (inhalation), and even more during forced inspiration. (1)
This research supports the predicted benefits of pranayama or yogic breathing exercises. The nose breathing exercise research I did years ago saw a significant increase in meditative brain wave (alpha) activity during nose breathing versus mouth breathing. Mouth breathing was linked to increased “fight or flight” stress and sympathetic nervous system activity, and nose breathing was linked to an increase of parasympathetic nervous system activity—also called the “rest, repair, and digest” nervous system. (7) Learn more about Nose Breathing Exercise here.
Fight or flight stress was linked to a reduction of CSF flow, while parasympathetic activation was linked to a boost in CSF flow, making nose breathing exercise and yoga critical practices for better CSF and brain lymph flow. (2)
Remember, a boost in CSF flow supports better brain lymph drainage. Yoga, nasal breathing exercise and meditation are all linked to boosting CSF flow. In fact, my One Minute Meditation—which is a breathing meditation—is a double boost of CSF flow, as it employs forced inspiration followed by a meditation, which boosts parasympathetic activity.
One study suggested that all the following are associated with increased CSF flow (1):
- Chiropractic spinal adjustments
- Osteopathic Therapy—Cranial Sacral therapy
- Breathing exercises
- Lymphatic massage
Optimal brain health is just a breath away—and you breathe 26,000 times a day. What could be easier?!
- Altern Ther Health Med. 2009 May–Jun; 15(3): 54–60. PMCID: PMC2842089. NIHMSID: NIHMS183250
- J Neurosci. 2015 Feb 11;35(6):2485-91. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3246-14.2015.
- Nature. 523,337–341(16 July 2015)doi:10.1038/nature14432
- EBioMedicine. 2015 Aug; 2(8): 776–777. Published online 2015 Aug 14. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2015.08.019 PMCID: PMC4563157
- Rejuvenation Res. 2013 Dec;16(6):518-23. doi: 10.1089/rej.2013.1530.
- Sleep. 2011 Oct 1; 34(10): 1299–1307. Published online 2011 Oct 1. doi: 10.5665/SLEEP.1266. PMCID: PMC3174832
- Neurobiol Aging. 2014 Jun;35(6):1318-24. doi: 10.1016/j.neurobiolaging.2013.12.030. Epub 2013 Dec 27.
Author: Dr. John Douillard
Photo: YouTube Still
Editor: Travis May