Band Candy (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 6)


I wonder if it is every teenager’s nightmare:  Parents turning into their children — while the kids are still at home.  Or perhaps the nightmare is seeing what those parents were like as teenagers.  Might shed some light on why parents act the way they do during the teenage years, but some things are better left unknown.

Alas, on the Hellmouth, such things are not to be, as Buffy and her friends find out.  After selling candy bars to all the adults, who find the candy quite addictive, the Scoobies discover just what that candy does to people:  makes them all act like teenagers.  The only people acting their age in this episode are the high school students, who seem to be immune to the effects of the chocolate bars.

One might think this would be a straightforward food allergy diagnosis.  I have another idea.  (Who in their right mind is going to entirely stop eating chocolate?)

Not acting your age.  It is true many people might wish to be young again.  It is equally true that many young people wish to be or look older.  While most people are sensible enough not to want to go through any particular decade again, not acting one’s age is considered undesirable and disruptive.

I’m not saying that 30 year olds must act one way, 50 year olds another, and 70 year olds still somehow different.  Age is in many ways just a number.  But the responsibilities and expectations which go with various period of life are also conditioned by social norms and practices, and a 70 year old who acts like an impulsive 19 year old manifests a pathology just as any child who isn’t growing physically.

So, like the inaugural season three post for the episode “Anne”, this post will also treat the topic of aging — but with a twist.

We know that the herb He Shou Wu is famously used for premature greying of the hair.  While this might seem to be a straightforward indication, a little reflection points us to something more.  What does it mean to be prematurely  grey?  One interpretation suggests premature grey is indicative of those who are old before their time — both physically as well as psychologically.  The one reflects the other, and it is not necessary that both be present.  He Shou Wu can therefore also be used for high school students who speak and act like they are 60, just as much as it can be used for 30 year olds whose hair has gone silver.

He Shou Wu is not alone in this reputed effect.  Other herbs which have a similar properties are Mo Han Lian, Nu Zhen Zi, Sang Shen (mulberry fruit), and Shu Di Huang.  In addition to tonifying the Liver and Kidneys, the first three herbs also happen to cool the blood, a characteristic we earlier noted seems to be associated with herbs which slow aging.  Mo Han Lian is also used in the treatment of bloody urine, and disinhibiting urine to expel heat from the body was one method of slowing aging.

The problem in this episode isn’t that Giles and Joyce and Principal Snyder are acting older than they are, however.  The problem is that these adults are acting like teenagers (and rather violent teenagers at that).  This seems to be the reverse of what He Shou Wu is indicated for.

Luckily, as Ted Kaptchuk has pointed out, Chinese herbs are not unidirectional.  In our case, the herbs can help someone who feels to old to feel younger, and they can help someone who is acting immaturely to grow up and accept responsibility for their actions.  In fact, we know this already when we look at herbs which treat childhood developmental disorders.  In those cases, we want the child to act or grow older.  The herbs we typically use for slowed development nourish the kidneys and essence.  Other herbs which catalyse the expression of essence through either the Shao Yang Triple Warmer mechanism or through the outward movement of the Wood-Liver phase are then added to the formula.  The end result is a formula which addresses the body’s physiology entirely, from supplementing its source qi and essence to opening the channels by which that source qi can nourish and express itself outwardly through the rest of the body.

A similar principle would hold here.  We could use the herbs which treat premature greying, and instead of dispersing jing (which the adults seem hellbent on doing anyway) through the ShaoYang or Liver, we could add herbs which reverse the process — herbs which restrain or calm the Liver’s expression.

Thus, if L were concerned that the nourishment of the Liver and Kidneys would in fact be too great and therefore counterproductive, I could add Tian Ma to level the Liver and Gallbladder.  The ability of Tian Ma to reign in the overexuberance of the Liver as it manifests as wind is well known.  Since it also supplements the Liver through its warming qualities, it will not have an antagonistic effect on the previous herbs, although it may moderate their coolness.  Interestingly, this herb is also called “Parting Mother” in the Shen Nong Ben Cao, indicating its usefulness in helping a child move out into the world and become self-responsible.

For acupuncture, I would want to choose a channel system which has relatively quick effects.  Thus the Extraordinary Vessels would not be used; they take up to three months to fully manifest a deep and lasting change.  The Channel Divergences take three weeks.  Primary Meridians can have quite rapid effects, as can Luo Vessels.  Sinew Vessels also provide a means to address pathologies quickly, since they conduct wei qi, which renews its course every day.

I think I would use a primary meridian system to treat this particular case.  The source of the pathology is diet — that is, the Stomach is the first to be affected.  Currently, the pathology is manifesting as either fire harassing the Heart (leading to the mania we see in the streets) or the Kidneys (an unsettling of the Self).  The next meridian the pathogen would move to are the Triple Heater and Pericardium — although one could argue those meridians are already affected.  If one makes that argument, then we must see the last stage of the pathology as ending at the Liver.

The meridians I would end up needling are therefore the Stomach, the Heart, and the Triple Heater.  To make the acupuncture treatment align with the herbal formula, however, one could choose the Stomach, Kidney, and Liver meridians.  The points I would choose to disperse are ST-4 (the pathogen entered via the mouth), ST-36 (treats pathologies related to diet), HT-8 (to clear fire) or an even technique on HT-1 (to calm the spirit and settle the will).  I would use an even technique on the Kidney channel, if I opted to use it instead of the HT meridian.   I would think of KD-3 and KD-22 (Corridor Walk, to remind the spirit what its path in life is) or KD-23 (Spirit seal, to seal the spirit back to its residence) as appropriate points to needle.  I would then also tonify with moxa TW-5 (to regulate the outer gate of expression).  If I were to choose the Liver channel, I would tonify LV-14, Cycle door, to regulate the expression of age-related cycles of life.

Somehow, this point prescription does not satisfy me; perhaps I would choose a sinew vessel treatment to clear the exterior enough to let the interior pathology express outwards.  I would use the sinew channels to draw out wei qi from the interior, where it seems to have lodged (via consuming the drugged chocolate), giving rise to symptoms of Stomach and Heart fire (i.e. mania).  Perhaps I will explore that option at a later time.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and theoretical purposes only.  If you feel you or someone you know with grey hair or a tendency to pedantic outbursts may benefit from the tradition of Chinese acupuncture and herbal medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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