Beauty and the Beasts (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 4)

This is the Dr Jekyll – Mr Hyde episode of Buffy, the episode of an abusive boyfriend.  We see Buffy and Willow confront the soon to be victim of her boyfriend’s rages and insecurities.  Buffy says the best treatment for a black eye is not to get hit in the first place.

It is true that the best treatment for a black eye is not to get hit in the first place, prophylactically speaking.  Even leaving the abuser puts an end to the problem, at least from the survivor’s perspective, but it does not solve the pathology.  Avoiding being hit, or leaving an abusive partner ignores treating the one who does the abusing — and sometimes they are the ones who need treatment the most.  While I do not suggest that the survivor try to remain in contact with a violent partner, East Asian physiology presents an explanation for how emotions can override rationality — and if it has a physiology, it has a treatment possibility.

When we look at emotions, one of the first channel systems to examine are the luo meridians.  Secondarily, we might evaluate the Extraordinary Vessels.

Luo meridians are examined physically by observing the skin along the trajectory of a channel for spider veins, and by palpating along the channel looking for small nodules or lipomas.  The presence of spider veins indicates luo vessel fulness, while nodules indicate the vessel has emptied itself and the pathology has either flowed into the associated primary channel, its yin-yang pair (check source and luo points on both primary channels), or into the next luo vessel.

One way to remember these distinctions is to think of blood as the physical carrier of emotions.  If the body cannot express those emotions, it stores them away for a later date; in the process, it creates new blood vessels.  These vessels show up as spider veins.  If the spider veins empty pathologically, what has happened is the tissue has dried up and shrunk, leaving a small hard nodule.  (Sometimes the nodules are soft and gummy.)

Physiologically, spider veins are created when an area of the body swells.  The swelling sends a signal to the body to begin angiogenesis so that metabolic waste (“toxins”) can be swept out of the area, white blood cells can be brought in to fight infection, and other nutrients supplied to help heal injured tissue.  When the swelling goes down, the newly created capillaries are not necessarily reabsorbed into the body.  Instead, they can show up as spider veins.  Spider veins are thus often a reaction to heat (inflammation).

The Ling Shu details the symptoms associated with fulness and emptiness of each luo meridian.  It also describes the trajectory of these meridians.  Through careful questioning, the practitioner can gain an idea of which channels to look at and palpate.  Alternately, the appearance of very visible spider veins can lead the practitioner to ask additional questions and incorporate those answers into an overall understanding of the strengths and weaknesses in the physiology of the patient at hand.

Some men (or women) become abusive and violent because their emotions get out of control.  This may be a case of losing control of one’s emotions or getting highjacked by them.  Either way, feelings and emotions being out of control is a sign of Stomach Luo fulness.

The trajectory of the ST luo meridian begins at the midpoint of the lower leg (ST-40) and travels up the centre of the thigh along the lateral edge of the rectus femoris.  A branch connects to the Kidney’s Luo on the abdomen before it reunites with a second branch which followed the stomach primary meridian trajectory.  The luo meridian then travels up into the chest and throat before entering the head and brain, after which it moves down the other side of the head to the throat.

When we saw the transformation from Mr Hyde into Dr Jekyll we clearly saw the blood vessels of this trajectory bulging all along the throat and temples.  Clearly, this is a Stomach Luo condition from both theoretical and clinical observational perspectives.

Jeffrey Yuen points out that the relationship between the Stomach and Kidney luo meridians is important.  The emotion associated with the Kidneys is fear, and it may be that the root pathology lies not in the Stomach so much as the Kidneys.  Thus both must be addressed.  Certainly in this episode, we know that Dr Jekyll started his poorly advised self-treatment to impress his girlfriend, make himself more masculine, more attractive, more — secure with himself.  He acted out of fear.

As a side note, this post is for theoretical purposes only.  If you feel Chinese medicine may benefit you or someone you love, please seek a qualified practitioner.

Treatment would be to disperse the Stomach luo vessels using blood letting, to strengthen the Spleen, and to regulate the Kidney luo,.

The Stomach luo would be dispersed first by bloodletting.  The spider veins along the channel trajectory would also be bloodlet.  Then ST-40 could be needled with a dispersive technique while SP-3 is needled.

Tonifying the Spleen using the source point activates the source-luo relationship between points and meridians.  In terms of physiology, the Spleen brings restraint into the picture, because the Spleen holds the blood and does not allow it to flow recklessly.

Finally, the Kidney luo can be regulated by dispersing KD-4 and tonifying the Bladder source point, BL-64 (use a short, thin needle and a tube!).

However, the Kidney channel is also intimately related to two Extraordinary Vessels, one of which deal with how a person integrates his or her own internal experiences (Yin Qiao Mai), the other of which involves a person’s posture to him or herself and provides contingencies for preserving the self in the world (Yin Wei Mai).  I would be prone to using the EVs to address the root issues of fear and insecurity, rather than using the source-luo combination of KD and BL.

The points I would choose are left KD-3, to open the Yin Qiao Mai, bilaterally at ST-9 or points on the abdomen, which relates the channel back to the Stomach Luo; then CV-22 (a point on the Yin Wei Mai) to release any blockage in the throat (manifested by an inability to speak one’s feelings calmly) and KD-9 (the xi-cleft point of Yin Wei Mai), closing with right PC-6.  Needles are inserted to a deep level, vibrated, and left in place for 40 minutes.  This treatment happens once a week.  Re-evaluate after three months.

Luo meridian treatments can take place every other day.

Herbally, one does not usually think of herbs to disperse blood; however, we know that the Spleen could benefit from being strengthened.

I would therefore use Bai Zhu and Mu Dan Pi to cool and invigorate the blood while strengthening the Spleen.  I would consider adding Hou Po to address the throat and any phlegm which may have obstructed the mind.  Remember ST-40 treats phlegm, including phlegm clouding the mind; therefore, phlegm resolving herbs may help in the case of Stomach Luo fulness.  Finally, I would add Shi Gao to calm any heat lodged in the Stomach meridian.

As always, these posts are for theoretical purposes.  Please see a qualified practitioner if you feel Asian medicine may benefit you or someone you love.

May your resolution be a peaceful one.


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