Consequences (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 15)


This episode opens with a dream sequence in which the slain Deputy Mayor is trying to pull Buffy into the murky depths of (presumably) the Sunnydale High swimming pool.  (We all remember the unfortunate incident with last season’s swim team, right?)  When Buffy breaks the surface, Faith is there waiting to push her back under.  Buffy wakes up gasping for breath.

Later, Xander tries to go over to Faith’s place to bring her around, let her know that people are there to help her.  She throws him on the bed, straddles him, and then proceeds to demonstrate the  asphyxiation technique, with both erotic and deadly overtones.  Xander becomes short of breath.

Finally, towards the end, Buffy is pinned by the throat against a wall by Mr. Trick, choking the life out of the Slayer before he takes a much desired bite.  Unfortunately for him, Mr Trick is dusted by an unquenchable spark of loyalty in Faith (unless she was actually just riled up by all the action and had that down low tickly feeling she needed to get out by slaying one last vampire just in the nick of time).

Shortness of breath is a symptom commonly seen in the clinic.  Its western diagnoses can be as varied as asthma, COPD, or simple habituated hyperventilation.  Chinese medicine treats shortness of breath differently depending on whether it is more difficult to inhale or to exhale; whether the shortness of breath (SOB) is accompanied by general overall fatigue, or if it comes and goes; and whether some obstruction — like phlegm or fluids — is present.

Physiologically speaking, in the East Asian medical paradigm, breathing is a result of the Lungs descending qi.  This qi is from the air we breathe, but once inside the body it becomes a part of the ancestral qi which gathers in the chest.  As this qi descends, it must pass through the diaphragm.  The diaphragm is more important in some schools and periods of Chinese medicine than in others.  If constrained, the diaphragm can block not just the descent of Lung qi, but also the ascend of Liver qi.  Treatment would involve not simply regulating the directionality of physiological qi movement, but also on releasing the diaphragm.  After the qi passes below the diaphragm, the Kidneys grasp it, and the qi then ‘lights’ the flame of minister fire which uses the jing stored in the Kidneys as fuel.  The minister fire then rises up the shu points of the back or across the mu points of the abdomen, distributing jing-qi to each point and its associated organs.

Greater difficulty inhaling is considered to be due to weak Kidneys; difficulty exhaling, weak Lungs.  Generalised fatigue is also considered to be more of a Lung issue.

As a side note, in some cases of infertility, nourishing the Kidneys in an effort to grasp the Lung qi can also help the jing of the woman (or the mixed jing of a woman and man, to be specific) grasp a shen, thus conceiving a child.

TCM style acupuncture will typically make use of point such as LU-7 and CV-22 to help descend Lung qi, and KD3, KD6, or KD7 to nourish the Kidneys’ ability to grasp that Lung qi.

Another approach would be to trace the path by which mu points are formed with the first breath, as Jeffrey Yuen describes in one of his seminars (I believe it is in his NESA Channel Divergences seminar).  Breath enters the nose or mouth, then collects in the basin of ST-12.  ST-12 is a point known to release the diaphragm; the Stomach meridian actually splits into two branches here, one of which descends to that muscle intimately tied to breathing.  From here, it reaches LU-1, the mu point of the Lungs.  It then descends further to its associated metal organ mu point, ST-25, the mu point of the Large Intestine.  From here the qi moves upwards to GB-25, the mu point of the Kidneys, and branches into three paths.  One path circles around to the back via the Dai Mai, reaching BL-52, BL-23, and Du-4 — the back shu point of Will, of the Kidneys, and Ming Men, respectively.  This is where the ‘fire’ of minister fire is lit.  The other path moves downwards to meet with the mu point of the water fu organ, the Bladder, at CV-3.  (From CV-3, the qi would move to the associated water-fire fu organ, the Triple Heater, at CV-5, and then back down to CV-4, the mu point of the SI, the associated fire fu organ.)  Meanwhile, another branch moves qi to LV-14, the mu point of the Liver, and then into the mu point of the Gallbladder, GB-24 (from which it moves to CV-17).  Qi continues to move along the generation cycle of elements to each of the organ systems of the Heart, Stomach, and Spleen, the last two also being the influential points of all the fu and zang organs.

When I have used this approach in the clinic, I typically needle three points along the pathway at a time, and then remove whatever was the least recent needle, before adding a new needle.  Thus, I would needle ST-12, LU-1, ST-25, obtaining qi at each point.  Then I would remove ST-12 and needle GB-25, obtain qi, and remove LU-1.  In the particular case we are treating for this episode, I would trace the pathway to the back shu points while also needling CV-3 with the patient side-lying.  I would stop at CV-5 and Du-4 if I thought that treatment was sufficient.

It is said that needling the jing-well points is good for restoring consciousness in someone who nearly drowned, but I hope never to have the opportunity to try this protocol and cannot vouch for its efficacy.

As for herbal treatments, Chinese medicine has a variety of options.  The simple pair Jie Geng and Xing Ren acts to harmonise the flow of qi into and out of the Lungs.  The Xing Ren (apricot kernals) descend Lung qi, while the Jie Geng (Balloonflower root) floats it upwards.

For childhood asthma, Kanpo might use a small dose of a formula like Ma Xing Shi Gao Tang.  The Ma Huang helps open the bronchial passages, the Xing Ren to descend qi, and the Shi Gao to anchor it downwards and generate enough fluid to counteract any drying property the Ma Huang might have.

As always, this post is for entertainment and theoretical purposes only.  If you feel that Chinese medicine may benefit you or someone you know, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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