Where the Wild Things Are (Buffy Season 4, Episode 18)

Make up sex seemed to be the theme of this episode, and Riley and Buffy are at the core of the supernatural problem to be overcome.  Their incessant need to be closer to one another began to generate some strange events at Riley’s place, first manifesting themselves right before a big party.  When the party gets underway, some of the women begin to cut their hair, a glass bottle used in playing ‘spin the bottle’ explodes, and a G-spot appears in a wall for the amusement and wonder of party-goers.  Eventually all this fecundity leads to faster-than-kudzu vine growth throughout the corridors of the place, and the Scooby gang must figure out how to rescue Riley and Buffy from the death-by-sexual-exhaustion that awaits them.

It turns out that the dorm where Riley lives used to be a foster home of sorts.  The lady who ran the home used to reward the children when they were ‘good’ and punish them when they were ‘dirty’.  Anya understands this to mean ‘not dirty-muddy’, and the lady confirms Anya’s suspicions:  the children were punished when the girls were vain about their hair, or the boys lustful after other girls.  The result is a house filled with powerful energies which never got released.

[As a completely separate digression, more for the theology portion of my blog, something the old woman who used to run the foster home made something click in my mind:   She said that if she had not punished the children, or rather, if they had continued in their paths, ‘they would be kept out of the kingdom.’   The implication is of a specific sort of heavenly kingdom in an afterlife.  What clicked for me was that in the medieval period, when Christian theologians wrote about the ‘kingdom’, very often (at least for the monastic writers), they were referring to the kingdom entered through contemplation and stillness.  In some ways, this is simply a Christian continuation of the philosophical ideal of the ancient world.  For the monastic writers, a focus on distractions of any sort — vanity or sex — led away from entering the fulness of that contemplation, and disrupted the stillness of body and mind that was sought.  With a loss of monasticism and mysticism after the sixteenth century in certain parts of Europe and the Americas, the result was a much more literal take on the ‘kingdom’.  Instead of being a direction for or place of repose in meditation, it became literalised as an otherworldly place in the future.  It became not simply something unattainable in this life (unlike the accessibility of contemplation), but the dungeon of a most beautiful castle (to allude to the writings of a sixteenth century Spanish mystic, Teresa of  Ávila).]

In one of the initial Angel episodes — the one which started these blog posts, in fact — I treated the idea of the three types of ghosts:  wandering hosts, hungry ghosts, and horny ghosts, any of which can take possession of a person, often after traveling somewhere, and use them to attempt to fill the ghost’s needs.  Therefore, I will not revisit those ideas here; instead, the diagnosis I will give for this episode is simply excess libido.  (‘Libido’ means sex drive.)

In case readers think no one wants a lowered libido, I would mention that I have actually had patients in the clinic present with this concern.  I will mention two briefly, below.  I will also include a link to a recovering sex addict:


Martial artists often advise their students to refrain from ejaculation during particularly intense training months.  What is the reasoning behind this advice?

In terms of Chinese medicine, we know that Jing is transformed into qi and by assimilating the qi of food to its template is also transformed to support blood.  However, the focus in the case of martial arts is really not on the usual aspects of Chinese medicine — the zangfu or three humours — so much as on the tissues of the body.  (This paradigm much more in evidence in Ayurvedic rasayana tonics).  Although we can derive relationships between the tissues and the internal organs — the Spleen controls the Flesh, the Kidneys are associated with Bone, the Liver with Tendons, for example — in a more direct path, we can say that jing nourishes the marrow (‘sui’ or, in Jeffrey Yuen’s tradition, ‘jing-shen’), which allow the bones to be supple and the tendons to be strong.  Jing thus supports the density of bone and the limberness of the joints.  Although practitioners debate whether jing can actually be nourished or ‘regained’, it is said the jing is formed (or released by ming men) after about 90 days or 3 months.  Because the Extraordinary Vessels are filled with jing, EV treatments are typically given for three months before results are seen.  In my clinical experience with an older woman with slight damage to jing, it took  four months, at which point some rather profound changes came about in her life and her outlook on life.  I might have advised continuing with that treatment for another few months, but clinical rotations changed, and I did not see her as a patient after five months of treating her.

To return to martial arts:  Not all students feel up to the task of withholding their essence, and so the masters have come across several formulae which seem to have beneficial effects.

Gui Zhi Long Gu Mu Li Tang is the usual formula used by martial artists when they are training but wishing to have an aid to retaining their jing.  Gui Zhi jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang is made by decocting equal amounts of Gui Zhi (‘cinnamon twig’), Bai Shao (‘white peony root’), Long Gu (‘dragon bone’), Mu Li (‘oyster shell’), and Sheng Jiang (‘fresh ginger-root’), with 12 pieces of Da Zao (‘red dates’) and two-thirds the amount of Gan Cao (‘licorice root’).

Gui Zhi and Bai Shao together regulate the qi of the interior (ying qi) and exterior (wei qi), ensuring that the interior is astringed, and the exterior is dispersed and properly moving.  Sheng Jiang and Da Zao serve a similar function, with Da Zao nourishing the heart and blood, and Sheng Jiang warming the qi.

The Divine Farmer indicates Long Gu for treating “heart and abdominal demonic influx, spiritual matters, old ghosts, cough and counterflow… in females leaking, concretions and conglomerations, hardness and binding, and in children heat qi and fright epilepsy.”

The Divine Farmer says Mu Li — with protracted taking — kills evil ghosts, fortifies the bone joints, and prolongs life.  “It eliminates tuggings and slackenings, mouse fistulas, and, in females, red and white vaginal discharge.”  It also treats cold damage.  Today, however, it is also used to clear heat and astringe, and for this reason is used to treat seminal emission.  “With Rehmannia as its envoy, it boosts and astringes the essence and stops frequent urination,” according to Wang Hao-gu.

In both cases, ghosts are referred to; but so is ‘leaking’ in females.  This is sometimes interpreted as leaking of essence, or the female equivalent of spermatorrhea.

As a whole, the formula treats (dreams of) sex with ghosts in women, and spermatorrhea (i.e. masturbation) in men, according to Zhang Zhong Jing, the physician under whose name this formula was passed to us.   Ted Kaptchuk has explained that ‘sex with ghosts’ can also mean having a ‘dream lover’ in the sense of Mariah Carey’s song:  ‘Dream lover, come rescue me.’  This is a formula for the sort of person who can never be satisfied with one person because her ideals can never be fulfilled by an actual person.

Interestingly, the obverse of excess libido can be a fear of intimacy.  Having ‘ghost lovers’, in the sense of being ephemeral, here one day and gone the next, is another way of articulating that phenomenon.  As the article on sex addiction noted, this is precisely the sort of psychological mechanism articulated by the writer of that column.

But what produces the libido?  In Byzantine or Galenic medicine, it was thought that semen built up and caused friction within the vessels of the testicles and spinal chord.  This friction generated heat within the body, which in tern was interpreted — as the English phrase still reflects — as being ‘hot and bothered’.  A similar logic can underlie the explanation of how slippery medicinals which usually nourish jing, can in fact be used to regulate the sexual appetite:  they lubricate the vessels, thus preventing the build up of heat from the friction of too much substance; yet they can also be seen to quell empty fire, when yin deficiency from loss of essence is the root.

For speculative purposes, I would also note that in Galenic medicine, semen was thought to be composed of little homunculi, little tiny fetuses (or as Giles expressed it, ‘tiny, tiny babies!’).  Extending that thought process, one might posit that herbs to calm the fetus and address ‘restless fetus disorder’ in Chinese Medicine might work in men to calm libido.

One patient I had was an elderly man (in his 80s) who came in complaining that after about a week or so, he gets very testosterone-y, and the only way to release it is through masturbation.  He was not satisfied with this solution, and sought herbal medicine to help.  I prescribed a very simple formula:  Wu Wei Zi Tang.  Composed of Wu Wei Zi only, in a rather small dose, it was designed to astringe and nourish (male’s) essence, as well as calm the shen.  He did not return to the clinic, so I do not know what his experience with this formula was; however, he had presented to other practitioners beforehand without lasting success.  My assumption is that he either gave up, it worked, or he went somewhere else.

Since the good physician also looks at the future injuries which accrue should a pathology continue, I would briefly refer the reader to a chapter in Hua Tuo’s treatise on the internal viscera.  In a section on bi (‘obstruction’) syndrome (often correlated with various types of arthritis today), the Tang dynasty physician Hua Tuo describes ‘bone bi’ as “due to injury of the kidneys by inordinate sexual desire.

I have seen this in the clinic.  One patient, a man in his 50s came in complaining of severe gout and kidney stones.  His history indicated that he never went a day without sex (either with or without someone, he specified) since his late teens, and often several times a day.  While he was quite impressed with the quality of his physical presentation at those times, overall, his case illustrated exactly the sort of  ‘bone bi’ that Hua Tuo alludes to.  I used a formula to dissolve bone spurs (in the hope it would also affect gout deposits and kidney stones) and augment the kidneys.  I also advised him to refrain for sex, or at least curtail his activities while on the formula.  Returning to the clinic, he indicated his ‘kidneys felt stronger’ or more ‘full’, and subsequent clinicians kept him on a variant of the same formula.

Hua Tuo continues the progress of the pathology: Dispersed internally, kidney qi is not able to shut and confine,” leading to leakage and chaos in the interior, specifically the centre and upper jiao.  This in turn leads to qi glomus of the triple warmer, which impacts the ability of food and water to be transformed into essential qi.

Interestingly, that glomus and blockage of proper assimilation of food qi can be correlated with the phenomena of certain foods being particularly prone to aggravate attacks of gout.

The inability of food to be properly transformed allows evil qi to invade ‘in a wanton way’, leading to four possible scenarios:

1. Evil qi surges to Heart and tongue giving rise to aphasia; or

2. Evil qi affects the SP and ST, causing them to be unable to replenish the flesh; or

3. Evil qi flows to low back and knees, leading to paraplegia; or

4.  Evil qi attacks the lateral limbs creating numbness or insensitivity in the limbs.

To address the inability of the Triple Warmer to aid in the assimilation of food, and to rectify the glomus qi in the chest and upper back, I would use Hua Tuo’s Asafoetida Free the Qi Pills:

Asafoetida, 2 liang; Chen Xiang, 1 liang; Gui Xin, 0.5 liang; Qian Niu Mo 1 – 2 liang.  Boil Asafoetida in wine down to a paste.  Add the other ingredients, powdered and form into pills the size of a plum.  Dosage:  one pill dissolved in wine.  (Note the original formula coats pills with zhu sha.)

Once the qi is rectified and the libido flows spontaneously rather than in a libertine fashion again, the essence should be replenished.  This can be accomplished with a medicinal wine designed to strengthen the tendons, also drawn from the Martial Arts tradition:

Jin Feng Jiu:

Sheng Di, Shu Di, Dang Gui, Mai Dong, Di Gu Pi, Yin Yang Huo, and half an amount of Sha Ren.  Grind or use whole to make wine.  Add to a fifth of 80 proof alcohol or less; steep for 60 – 90 days.  Like Wu Wei Zi alone, this formula increases jing and quiets restlessness.  It should go without saying that refraining from a loss of seminal essence while taking this formula is advised.

As always, this post is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from the application of Chinese medicine, please contact a qualified practitioner.


Yang Shou-zhong (1993).  Master Hua’s Classic of the Central Viscera.  Blue Poppy Press.

Yang Shou-zhong (1998).  The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica.  Blue Poppy Press.


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