Into the Woods (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 10)


The Buffy-Riley relationship arc comes to a close in this episode, with some character development for Xander along the way. The break-up is precipitated after Spike follows Riley to the vampire den and sees what is going on. Spike then leads Buffy there, where she sees a vampire feeding on Riley. Feeling so betrayed she is rendered speechless, Buffy makes a quick exit. She later returns and torches the place. She does have the opportunity to slay all the vampires, including the one who was feeding on Riley, after they surround her in an alleyway.

Meanwhile, Riley is offered a position in a special forces unit fighting demons in Central America. He confronts Buffy and asks her to give him a reason to stay. She does not give him that reason, at least, not then. Riley remained hopeful to the end that Buffy would show up before the helicopter would take him away. I found it interesting to consider how Riley confused Buffy’s need for space with an unwillingness to open up; it seemed he did not understand that sometimes Buffy needed space by herself to let things bubble up to the surface of her consciousness, after which she could be open. Ultimately, their communication styles, especially on the level of emotional needs, were not compatible.  It took someone outside the relationship to mediate between the two; unfortunately, Buffy acted too late on Xander’s counsel.

Communication, or its lack, is the focus of this episode’s diagnosis. Communication, although it can be expressed with the body, is also seen on the face. The face conveys the shen of the person. Verbally, communication is effected by the tongue. The tongue is examined in Chinese medicine for its ‘shen’. It derives this shen because the Heart luo vessel ends at the tongue. The Heart supplies the tongue with blood to speak. A person who is verbally stuck, or who has been betrayed, often manifests a Heart luo condition. When replete, the person suffers from Heart pain; when depleted, the Heart is vexed. Clearly, Buffy’s Heart luo is replete.

The treatment is therefore to bleed Ht-5. In cases of aphasia, one could consider bloodletting the tongue, especially if the veins beneath the tongue are dark and purple, leading to a heavy, congested tongue.

I have given herbal treatments for heartbreak in the past. For betrayal, and to focus a formula on the Heart luo, I would use Mo Yao, Suan Zao Ren, Mu Xiang and Pu Huang. The first moves blood and opens the collaterals; the second nourishes the heart; the third relieves heart pain and can dry the blood, the last moves blood and goes to the heart channel. One could use all four together in a formula, or take a blood moving formula and add one or two of these herbs as envoys.

Di Tan Tang (Scour Phlegm Decoction) is a formula geared specifically to treating a stiff tongue. Although the formula is geared towards treating phlegm conditions, I would suggest a relationship between phlegm and sluggish blood does exist. Cholesterol can be thought of as either jing or thickened ye-fluids in the blood. When the blood is in excess (as in hypertensive, LV replete patients), the ying qi can clump up. ying qi is composed of nourishing fluids, and when they clump, the external manifestation can be one of dampness — or phlegm. This then makes the tongue heavy or clogs the orifices of the heart. The smooth flow of blood is essential for the smooth flow of fluids; the smooth flow of blood is helped by attention to the smooth flow of qi. For this reason, herbs like Dang Gui and Chuan Xiong, as well as Mu Xiang and Mo Yao, are useful in treating blood-phlegm conditions.  In Buffy’s case, if the Heart luo is not treated, one future manifestation could be as phlegm in the blood and Heart.  Therefore, the wise practitioner will take this into account when selecting the formula for her.

As always, this post is for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!

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