Leave it to Cordelia to clearly state what she exactly what she sees.
Never underestimate the perceptual powers of people who judge by appearance — they can make incredible diagnosticians. After all, it isn’t the perception of these people which is in doubt, it is their priorities. With a little reflection or compassion, which may come with experience and maturity, these people can be valuable allies to any practitioner.
Of course, that doesn’t make their offensiveness any more palatable when you’re on the receiving end, as Willow was in this episode. (Neither is it guaranteed that the shallow and vapid will ever learn from experience, or grow up.)
A quick recap of the episode: While Buffy is distracted by a false message, Drusilla and her cronies walk into the school library, kill Kendra the Jamaican Slayer (that is, the Slayer who is Jamaican), and steal Giles away to be tortured by Angelus. In the melee, a bookcase is toppled, knocking Willow unconscious. (For post-concussion treatments, see my post for Bad Eggs.) Willow is taken to the hospital where she wakes up, surrounded by her friends and Cordelia. When Willow suggests trying to cast (or recast) the Soul Restoration spell on Angelus, her friends try to disuade her. After all, she is in a weakened state — and as Cordelia points out, Willow’s hair is all flat and lifeless, and she looks horrible.
Nothing a little Chinese Medicine can’t fix — both in terms of helping restore vitality and bounce, fullness and luxuriousness to Willow’s hair, and to help promote the growth of facial and eyebrow hair for a little revenge potion on Cordelia.
When it comes to hair, Chinese Medicine makes several distinctions. Head hair is a manifestation of Kidney energy. Body hair is ruled by the Lungs. Facial hair is governed by the Chong Mai (an interesting passage describes why eunuchs can’t grow facial hair). Tonics can be devised to blacken hair which has gone grey, to make hair growth fuller or thicker, and to regrow lost hair.
Hair loss on the head can be due to excess yang ascending to the scalp and burning the hair (or turning it white), which can be seen in martial artists and men who eat too much meat. This type of case need not be identical to a LV-yang rising case; red eyes and anger are not necessarily seen here. Rather, the martial training has built up yang in the body, without a corresponding amount of yin to fully contain it. Hair loss on the head can be caused by too much heat in the blood, as seen in areas where hot and spicy food is the norm. thinning hair can also be due to a lack of nourishment. This can be caused by either not enough blood or not enough jing ascending to the head, or it can be due to blood stasis in the head and scalp. Finally, it can also be an issue of KD deficiency in general — what we might call “genetics” today.
Alopecia on the body is more complex, but is likely a manifestation of not enough ying qi moving outwards to nourish the skin and body hair. this would be regulated by the Tai Yin system — Lungs and Spleen. Incidentally, it is this system which can be called into play when trying to overcome a Kidney-based loss of head hair. In this latter case, what we would want to do is harness post-natal qi and essence to support pre-natal qi and essence. However, the real issue is that the prenatal essence isn’t imposing its pattern on the post-natal qi as well as it should, and so the Kidneys still need to be rectified, the minister fire addressed (perhaps via the Du Mai), and the TaiYin system clearly coupled to the ShaoYin channel. In the case of loss of body hair, the TaiYang system would be called into play, since the TaiYang channel moves things to the exterior — including the nourishment needed by the body hair.
Hair herbs thus come in several varieties. The Divine Farmer recommends that to prevent hair from turning white, one should consume Lan Shi and Qin Pi. To blacken hair which has already turned white, use Bai Hao or Hei Zhi Ma (black sesame seed). For preventing grey or turning hair back to black, He Shou Wu has long been regarded as the supreme tonic.
For baldness, Shen Nong refers us to Ci Huang and Shi Liu Huang (sulphur). i’m not certain how to use the latter herb, although I have heard of it being mixed with salt and placed in the navel, where moxa is burned on top of it. This will strongly warm Kidney fire. One of my herbal instructors also recommended a combination of Bu Gu Zhi, Gu Sui Bu, and a guiding herb such as Gao Ben to apply topically and take internally for baldness.
For more generalised hair loss, we could use Bai Xian. Bai Xian Pi is used to relieve toxicity and damp heat, so this might be a very good herb for those undergoing chemotherapy (although I’ve read recent advances in drug technology can block the hair loss effect in chemo therapy).
As for an herbal formula to regrow head hair, Wang Qing-Ren makes a very strong claim for Tong Qiao Huo Xue Wan, so long as it is made with She Xiang, musk. Since this formula is a very strong blood invigorator and opens the upper orifices to help expel wind cold, we may have another pathophysiology to consider in cases of baldness.
Qin Jiao is also said to help grow hair — whether one is bald or not — and could thus be used to help thicken the hair. It relaxes the sinews and unblocks the collaterals, in cases where hair is simply blocked from sprouting out. Together with He Shou Wu, we can regulate the LV and GB channels and a tonify the Kidneys. Additionally, the two together will move and cool the blood and clear deficient heat.
What about acupuncture? I’ve heard plum blossom on the scalp helps bring new blood to the area and release old and stagnant blood. With a nice distal point on the Kidney and Liver channels, we could easily treat above and below, interior and exterior.
And the revenge on Cordelia?
Sang Ji Sheng, the mistletoe like herb which grows on the mulberry tree, is said to make one’s beard and eyebrows grow. A little of that and Xander might realise he really is attracted to men…
Of course, with our luck, Cordelia with a beard will look like Salma Hayek as the bearded lady in Cirque du Freak, beautiful with or without facial hair. But high schoolers might not be able to see that!
As always, this post is for theoretical and entertainment purposes only. If you feel you could benefit from acupuncture or herbal medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.