Killed by Death (Buffy, Season 2)


What nightmares we experience in the grip of fever, and how little are these visions accounted in hospitals today.  In this episode, children are being preyed upon by a demon-ghost called “Child’s Death” or “Kindestod”, which sits on their chest and then sucks out their lives.

The Kindestod actually describes something treatable in Chinese Medicine.  While one can experience this sort of chest oppression during the grip of a fever, more commonly, it happens without any obvious febrile signs — though always when the person is asleep.  A sensation of a being sitting on one’s chest and drawing out one’s breath or preventing one from breathing are the cardinal signs.

Unfortunately, no one formula is designed to treat this.  However, the Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica does list three herbs which treat “oppressive ghost dreams.”  These herbs are Ling Yang Jiao, the horn of the Saiga antelope (now endangered); She Xiang, or musk from the musk deer (also endangered), and Mu Xiang, Saussurea root (a type of aster which grows in mountainous areas), the wild form of which is also endangered.

Interestingly, all these herbs go to the JueYin level.  Ling Yang Jiao regulates minister fire as it is conducted by the Gallbladder and Liver.  She Xiang invigorates blood and opens the orifices to regulate the shen and hun.  Mu Xiang, also aromatic, relaxes constraint and regulates the Liver.  If decocted together they would extinguish wind by releasing blood clumping under the heart, that is, between CV-17 and CV-14, the area called the mansion of blood.  (I would decoct the Ling Yang Jiao first, then add the Mu Xiang, and finally dissolve the musk in a little rice wine and mix with the strained decoction.)

The pathophysiology then is that blood has ceased to move outwards as wei qi comes inwards at night.  The blood may have become stuck due to heat (from trapped emotions, perhaps, or from a simple fever), or it may be turning to heat because it is stagnant, or it might become hot when wei qi tries to penetrate through it.  When the blood becomes hot and deficient, wind can be stirred up in the vessels.  This wind will harass the shen which is housed in the vessels, leading to disturbing dreams.  Since the pathogen sits on the mansion of blood, the feeling of someone or something sitting on one’s chest results.

To make the formula more specific, one could look at the overall quality of the blood.  Sometimes the blood is too dry, in which case fluids are needed.  But sometimes the blood becomes turbid from dampness, and then diuretics are needed.  In this latter case, the Kidneys are engaged to drain the water from the Heart — and minister fire is guided back into the Kidneys.

With this physiological aspect in mind, we can devise an analogous acupuncture treatment.

We know that the sinew vessels conduct wei qi during the day via the yang vessels.  At night, wei qi homes into the chest by following the yin sinew channels.  The arm yin meet at GB-22, while the leg yin vessels converge at Ren-3, at the border of the pubic hair.  From here, wei qi travels to Ren-17, where it enters the chest to support the pericardium (JueYin) in protecting the heart from nightmares during sleep.

The problem, however, lies not with this mechanism, but with the inability of wei qi to actually enter the chest once it arrives there.  So we must turn to looking at the mansion of blood.

Blood is sealed by the Heart, held by the Spleen and stored by the Liver.  It originates at HT-1, moves to SP-21 (or, in some traditions, GB-22) the Great Luo of the Spleen, and then is stored at LV-13.  If the blood remains stagnant in these areas, it will eventually sink to the lower warmer — the region of CV-3 and CV-4.  In cases where the slowness of blood is due to Heart insufficiency, Western medicine prescribes diuretics — engaging the Kidneys to drain water from around the Heart.

First, we could bloodlet SP-21 to clear the clumped blood, adding HT-1 and SP-10 as more distal point to ensure that blood moves through the mansion of blood.  Then we can needle both GB-22 and CV-3 to work on sinew vessels and add both LV-13 and CV-17 to guide wei qi through the JueYin level.  We can retain the needles with a little more depth to tonify the lower warmer and prevent any remaining clumped blood from descending to the lower warmer.

This treatment might also be used as an adjunct for other Heart related conditions.  I would be interested in knowing if it has any efficacy for sleep apnea.

As always, this post is for theoretical discussion only.  If you feel Chinese medicine may help dispel your oppressive ghost dreams, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy slayage!

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