Chosen (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 22)

The final televised Buffy episode offers a very clear Channel Divergence to treat, one which accesses the last of the Extraordinary Vessels, the one concerned with passing on a lineage, with making choices, with encircling a person’s body into a solitary figure — but one which also brings all that to the surface, changing the form of one’s life through manifesting one’s choices.  Willow opens this channel with magic (and it often seems like magic for an acupuncturist to be able to treat multiple people simultaneously, as most clinicians can attest.)  This post, then, is for Willow.

The Channel Divergence I propose treating in this episode is the Kidney CD.  It’s intimate link with the Dai Mai and other Extraordinary Vessels points to its capacity to access not only to the ‘Prisoners of the Dungeon’ (the Turok-han vampires beneath the seal), but also the physiology which will be passed into the Slayer Lineage.

The episode opens with Caleb coming back to life and Buffy slicing him in two, ‘up the middle’, starting with his ‘external kidneys’.  Buffy quotes the openign lines of the Buffy series, and comes to the realisation that it doesn’t have to be that way:  “one in every generation…  She alone…”

Angel and Buffy then have a discussion about having souls, or specifically, about Spike’s ensoulment.  Buffy admits that Spike is in her heart.  Buffy then returns home.  Alone.

Buffy presents her plan to the Scoobies, a plan which will ensure she is not alone.  It is also a plan which entails Willow going beyond the darkest place she had ever been.  Later in the episode, we will see Willow come out the other side, having gone through that darkness, to a place of light.  The Potentials, too, will have to make a choice.  They go to the Hellmouth, and collectively feed their blood to the seal, opening it.  The non-potentials — Dawn, Xander, Anya, Giles, Principal Wood — stay above ground.  Dawn delivers a potent line to Buffy before she enters the Hellmouth:  “Anything you say will sound like good-bye”.  Dawn then walks away.

Descending into the depths while Willow casts her spell, they wait for their transformation into Slayers.  Willow’s spell succeeds.  A great battle ensues, culminating in Spike’s redemption and the collapse of the Hellmouth.  (The collapse of the Hellmouth incidentally disrupts the Scoobies’ plans for what to do after the battle.)

The final lines of the episode contain food for thought in reference to the KD CD:  “We changed the world.”  “We’ll have to find them [the new Slayers].”  And perhaps most importantly, when using the Channel Divergences of Acupuncture for self-transformation, Buffy says:  “Make your choice:  are you ready to be strong?”

How exactly does this episode relate to the Kidney Channel Divergence?  After all, it is usually used for deficient yin conditions from overwork (“lao taxation”) and adrenal exhaustion (a condition in which too much yin has been transformed into wei qi).  Those familiar with the ‘kidney return’ protocol will note that it uses selected points on the KD CD.  Symptoms include empty fire, which is a loss of jing giving way to heat.  The trajectory of the Kidney CD will illustrate my argument more fully:

The channel diverges from the primary Kidney meridian at KD-10, near the knee.  A he-sea or he-uniting point, this point homes to the Kidney organs.  A little known effect of the point is its usefulness in treating mental disorders.

From KD-10, the channel moves laterally to link up with the confluent point of the BL-KD Channel Divergence at BL-40.  BL-40 is the end of a third trajectory on the Bladder Meridian, originating at Du-4, moving outwards towards the lower inner bladder line (to encompass the shu points of the LI and SI) and down towards the knee.  This is one reason why BL-40 is particularly effective in treating low back pain:  it connects directly with the low back.  In combination with Du-26, the entire spine, including the marrow it houses, is affected.  (As a side note, Du-26 also treats mental disorders.)

From Bl-40, the channel follows the BL divergence pathway, passing through BL36 on its way to Du 4.  BL-36 and DU-4 both relate to the ability to stand upright, or as Buffy phrases it: “Can stand up, will stand up.”

From the Du Mai, which some readers may recall is the Extraordinary Vessel of individuation and going-out into the world to meet one’s destiny (Du-4 is called ‘Gate of Destiny’), the Kidney divergent channel then homes to the Dai Mai via BL-23 and BL-52, the shu points of the Kidneys and Will, respectively.  Physiologically, the movement to the Dai Mai allows the channel divergence to move pathogens to the last of the EVs:  wei qi using yuan qi to store or create latency.  The kidney uses fear or cold to repress pathogen, especially fear of dying, thus limiting potential of yuan qi.  It is the ‘dungeon’, reserved for prisoners who couldn’t be killed (due to status, position, lineage, family relations, etc).  Yet the next point in the channel, BL-52, is the gate of will, where one overcomes fear and cold and can make one’s choices.  In a way, this is also the point of a ‘will-within-the-will’, a situation in which a person is acting for one set of articulated reasons, but is actually responding to a much larger, more extensive set of choices about his or her life.  “Make your choice.”

Following the Dai Mai, the KD Channel Divergences goes to GB26, SP15, ST25, KD16, and CV8.  If the Kidneys are a dungeon, the Dai Mai is a closet, into which pour all the unresolved emotional and physiological work entrusted to a particular lineage to work out.  The Dai Mai is the means to transmit a factor to one’s future lineage to work out.  Physiologically, it helps let go of things person is not conscious of (wei qi is not conscious), often by invoking the qualities of the Gallbladder to help let go of fearful, repressed emotions, the baggage we have difficulty letting go of.  It sets the prisoners of the Kidney free.  “Anything you say will sound like goodbye.”  In patients with a KD CD pathology, the Dai Mai reflex area of the hara is often full or filling.

The KD Channel Divergence pathway then follows the primary KD Channel trajectory on the abdomen, which is actually the Chong Mai trajectory.  The KD CD thus accesses the ‘Gate of Destiny’, brings that individuation through the elements of life which need to be resolved, and transmits them within the person to the EV which contains the blueprint of one’s lineage.  It allows all that hidden fear and baggage to meet the emotions for resolution.  The Chong Mai, as both the sea of blood and sea of the 12 channels, is intimately concerned with the full range of human emotion.  “How does it feel, B?”  This is also where the pathophysiology can move from consuming jing to consuming blood in an effort to keep a pathogen latent.  From consuming the attention of one’s life, to sucking up emotional energy, certain pathologies move more deeply into the body.

From the Chong Mai and KD primary channel points, the KD CD moves to CV23 and the Root of the Tongue, having passed through the Heart.  CV-23 is a Yin Wei Mai point, and concerns both continuity — in the case of the Potentials, their continuity with the Slayer lineage, which is their destiny, and all the history and mystery inherent in that lineage — and integrity: how the person remains who they really are in the face of challenges presented by life.

From CV-23, the KD CD then moves along the Jawline.  How does a person integrate experiences into her life?  The jawline is where one can see how a person chews on, savours, and assimilates experiences.  It is also a final place for deposit a pathology:  the teeth hold latent pathogens.   (If the tooth is removed, pathogenic process may still continue, and move to affect the throat.  Gua sha ST5 area, SCM, if this portion of the CD is diseased.)  “I want you… to get out of my face.” (Or “a nice, wholesome, my person has a pierced tongue sort of way”)

From the jaw line, the Channel Divergence moves backwards to BL-10, which connects yin to the head via marrow at lower border of skull.  “It’s bloody brilliant.”  BL-10 is also a Window to the Sky point, and as such draws things up from where they’ve lain buried to the light of the heavens, much as Spike brought light from the ‘trinket’ to the Turok-han.  “Spike”

Treatment would be three-time needling, shallow-deep-shallow, as we want to bring up the slayer-essence latent in each potential.  However, instead of doing a strictly ascending, or even a looping technique (in which one begins with KD-10 on one side, moving to BL-10 and then down the other side, to exit at KD-1 or BL-67), I will take a tip from Spike, and bring the light of a WTS point to a Doorway to the Earth point, and then move in an ascending direction.  Thus, I will begin on the left side with BL-10 and move downwards towards KD-10; then I will move to the right side and begin with KD-10, moving upwards to the nape of the neck.  The idea is to bring the idea to the depths of the person, and draw out what is needed to make that realisation an actual reality.

From here, follow treatments with either the Dai Mai or Chong Mai will help ground the person in her or his new identity.  KD CD treatments combine very well with Dai Mai and Chong Mai treatments, as can be seen from the trajectory of the KD CD.

In terms of Herbal Medicine, many formulas can be used to augment jing.  As for envoys, several herbs go to the Dai Mai and other EVs, but Wu Zei Gu goes to the Dai Mai exclusively (and not to other EVs); to bring the formula outwards to the TaiYang level, Hua Jiao goes to the middle to disperse cold (but homes to the KD channel), and Gao Ben raises qi to the vertex.  Both herbs would be good additions to a martial arts training formula like Jin Feng Jiu, which increases jing and quiets restlessness.  Jin Feng Jiu is composed of equal portions Sheng Di, Shu Di, Dang Gui, Mai Dong, Di Gu Pi, and Yin Yang Hua, with one-half a portion of Sha Ren.  Grind or use whole to make wine, steeping the ingredients for two or three months first.  (Guard the body from losing jing while taking this formula; this is especially important for men.)

* * *

So this completes my series of posts on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Chinese Medicine.  I originally began this exercise simply because I needed a way to keep my diagnostic skills up between my graduation from acupuncture school and being allowed to practice.  I also wanted a forum for presenting some of the more obscure, ‘superstitious’ aspects from the history of Chinese Medicine out into the world.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these posts as much as I’ve enjoyed composing them.  As always, the posts have been meant for educational purposes only.  If you or another person feel you could benefit from the perspective of Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Finally, all medicine, but Chinese medicine in particular serves a single purpose:  to relieve unnecessary suffering so that individuals can return and live out their lives.  The final line of the series puts this nicely:

“You’re not the one and only chosen one now.  you’ve just got to live as a person.”

Happy Slayage.

Jason Scott Johnson
2013, September 29.
Michaelmas Day.

 

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First Date (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 14)

The main thrust of this episode is discovering whether Principal Wood is a good guy or a bad guy.  Along the way, he asks Buffy out on a date.  Xander also finds a date, falling, as usual, for a demon-woman, who abducts him to the Seal.  Meanwhile, Andrew begins to integrate into the Scoobies and tries to get the First talking, without much success.  (She — I tend to think of the First in feminine gender — discovers Andrew is wired and the rest of the Scoobies can hear their conversation.)  The Potentials continue to gather and train, and a new arrival from Southern China is shown around by Giles.  Giles takes her for ice cream, but Chao, the new arrival, is lactose intolerant.  Later, when she cannot sleep, he offers her a glass of milk.  Like Episode 9 (Never Leave Me) then, this episode also features a ST/SP CD issue. In this case, it is Chao’s lactose intolerance.

The Stomach Channel Divergence is used to treat food allergies.  ST and SP CDs symptoms sometimes overlap, as TaiYin fluids support YangMing in its efforts to address pathogenic influences.  However, the ST Channel divergence is affected first.  Its symptoms include IBS, colitis, and hives from food allergies.  As the Stomach heats fluid, the fluid congeals, misting the orifices with phlegm.  Cataracts are one symptom of this pathogphysiology, but so are more acute conditions like conjunctivitis, or ‘milder’ chronic conditions like sinusitis.  In contrast, by the time the pathogen has reached the Spleen Channel divergence, fluids are already quite dry, and thus SP CD symptomology  evinces a dryness of fluids, including dryness of blood, and complicated by phlegm.  Neurological symptoms begin to appear, as the body harnesses phlegm to keep wind from moving to the head.  Nodules may appear along the neck.  The SI-HT Channel Divergence is the next channel into which the pathogen would enter, and in the previous episode I described how neurological symptoms really come to the forefront once the SI-HT CD becomes involved.

The Stomach Channel Divergence trajectory begins at ST-31 or ST-30, the upper transporting point of grains and fluids.  The point treats food toxicity, food allergies, food poisoning, and food stasis by circulating qi through the organs.  In the case of food toxicity, wei qi sometimes clumps in the interior, giving rise to inflammation and heat.  This point also happens to be a Chong Mai point, and therefore also relates to emotion associated eating patterns:  food becoming toxic by being used improperly.   ST 30 is the lower confluence of ST-SP CD.

From ST-30, the channel moves to CV-12, the mu point of the ST.  This point has an intimate relation to fluids, as it is the root of SP-1.  In the primary meridian cycle, the Spleen is responsible for bringing fluid to cool pathogenic heat.  The Spleen circulates fluids through draining and transforming, aided by the Stomach.  This point combines the features of both the ST and SP as they relate to fluid and heat.  The channel divergence, in fact, moves from CV-12 to the Spleen.  CV-12, as root of SP 1, can disperse into SP organ.  The Spleen stores the ying qi, the nourishing qi, and transforms food into post-natal essence.  If it malfunctions, it can send its pathology outwards through TaiYin, to the Lung and skin, leading to hives.  Or it can move the pathogen to the blood.

From the Spleen, the channel divergence then moves to CV-14, the HT mu.  The Stomach masters masters the blood, according to the Ling Shu, represented in this case by the movement from ST-30 (sea of blood) to CV-12 to CV-14.   From CV-14, the channel continues to CV-17, where it penetrates the Heart.

From the Heart, the channel divergence connects with the two Yin Wei Mai points, CV-22 and CV-23.  The Yin Wei Mai affects posture, and persons with colitis or IBS often have a slight crouched posture.  The Yin Wei Mai also treats accumulation, and this would include the development of phlegm nodules.

From the Yin Wei Mai, the next point in the sequence is the Window to the Sky point, ST-9.  This point has a strong effect on the sensory organs.  It also can be used for treating thyroid problems, particularly those which respond to or are influenced by food.  Remember some thyroid conditions cause a person to rapidly gain or lose weight.

The next points are ST-4 (Earth Granary) and the Nose (BiTong and BiYan), the orifices by which the body takes in substances in the form of breath, fragrance, and food.  Li Dong Yuan, the Master of the Earth School, discusses how the Heart can be brought back to joy through these three methods.  Raising the head will also have a natural effect on changing the posture, the outward form of the organs concerned.

After the nose, the channel goes to the next upper orifice, BL-1.  As mentioned in the previous post, BL-1 activates ST-42, ChongYang.  ST-42 is the source point of the Stomach.  It has a close relationship then, to yuan qi.  However, because it also guides or impels the ascension of pure yang to the upper orifices (mouth, lips, throat, nose, eyes), it is closely related to the yang and upward-outward moving wei qi.  BL-1 is the upper confluent point of the channel divergence.

To treat, carefully assess whether the patient has enough fluids to bring the pathogen to the exterior.  This includes assessing the state of blood.  If the patient has neither enough fluid nor enough blood, then treatment should build those up first, using a deep-shallow-deep needle technique on the ST and LV channel divergences first.  Treatment is three days on, three days off, for 18 days.  Carefully explain to the patient the importance of this schedule.  This is important, as the pathogen may start to come out, and as it does so, inflammation will ensue.  Continued treatment will hasten the resolution of the pathogenic process, while discontinuation will likely mean the pathogen goes back interior, and continues to consume the patients humours.

Part of the treatment is to open the orifices, but before that, to release the exterior in this type of case, induce sweating.  If that has no result, then move to treatments which open the portals — especially with phlegm conditions like chronic sinusitis and  conjunctivitis.  Herbal formulas which release the exterior are quite common — Ma Huang Tang being the first to come to mind for this sort of situation.  Although Ma Huang Tang is generally used for TaiYang or wind-Cold conditions, it is effective as inducing sweating and releasing the exterior.  A milder formula would be Sang Su Yin, which uses mulberry leaf to release the exterior while moistening dryness.  Adding musk to Ma Huang Tang, or Shi Chang Pu to Sang Su Yin would create a dual action exterior-releasing, portal-opening formula.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one have food allergies, colitis, or other digestive trouble, and you think that Chinese medicine may be beneficial to you, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

The Killer in Me (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 13)

Kennedy finally manages to make her move on Willow in this episode.  To Kennedy’s shock, Willow turns into Warren as a result of a rather passionate kiss.  We later learn that the transformation resulted from a curse Amy had placed on Willow (setting up a conflict for Season 8), though Amy did not choose the form Willow would take.  The magic decided on the ‘Form the soul requires’ to use Amy’s phrase.  Slowly, Willow begins to adopt Warren’s characteristics, even to the point of bringing a gun to the Summer’s household and almost replaying the scene which led to Tara’s death.  Ultimately, Kennedy manages to reverse the spell with another kiss, and Willow resolves her feelings of guilt about potentially betraying Tara by moving on with life, and love, in this world.

The other storyline in this episode is that Spike’s chip has begun to misfire, causing him severe pain.  He and Buffy seek a way to have it fixed or removed.  Giles takes the potentials into the desert to meet the First Slayer.  The potentials fight over who gets to drive, and Buffy comments that she bets Giles is really regretting letting his CA driver’s license lapse after he returned to England.  (As a curious side note:  I just happened to have recently renewed my CA State driver’s license, after being away in England.  the little driver’s ed booklet notes it is illegal in CA to put people in the trunk of a vehicle.)

This episode presents a perfect means to remember that Channel Divergences treat Form, not Function: Willow becomes Warren, outwardly.  She takes Warren’s form, but she still functions as Willow, at least at first.  In contrast, Spike’s chip is misfiring: function, not form. No CDs for him.  Amy, though, seems to have a functioning BL-KD channel divergence.  Her  Jing-essence met wei qi in such a way that she was able to see herself, even if that only happened when she hit rock bottom. For Amy, the channel divergence functioned to weave together karma (rock bottom repercussions), lineage (from her mother’s magicks), and form (Amy did turn herself into a rat at one point, now that I think of it…).

Although outward form may be thought of as a jing issue, in fact, the root of Willow’s pathology lies elsewhere, in the shen, and by extension, the Heart.  Yet all Channel Divergences go to the Heart, so to make a diagnosis, first consider the ‘trigger’:  Kennedy’s kiss.  Willow has cold feet, or cold limbs.  (A psychoanalyst might even have ventured that Willow wants to be ‘frigid’ sexually.)  The trigger shows that the pathogen current resides in the sinew vessels, affected with cold.  Then, look at where the pathogen will move next:  Willow is starting to act like Warren:  the shen, affect, and brain will take on the pathology.  All elements — the source-spell, the trigger, and the progression — point to the Small Intestine – Heart Channel Divergence as the appropriate channel to treat.

In general, the SI-HT Channel Divergence is where the marrow-nourishing ye-thick fluid begins to be consumed.  Wei qi heat enters the marrow, chasing the shen and hun spirits, giving rise to increasing pyschosis, schizophrenia, or epilepsy.  Regarding the SI CD specifically, ye is drawn away from the muscles, resulting in cold limbs (sexual sense), muscle atrophy, MS, and Raynaud’s symptoms.  The cold limbs result from lack of wei qi, as the wei qi has gone interior and can no longer circulate exteriorly to keep the body warm.  Motility and mobility of muscles is compromised as they are no longer nourished by either blood or ye-fluid.  Sinew wind symptoms, such as seizures, convulsions. and epilepsy begin to manifest.

It should come as no surprise then, that the SI CD trajectory contains a variety of points which relate to the sinew vessels, marrow, and wei qi.

The channel begins at SI-10.  This point moves blood into sinews.  Here, the body can harnesses qi to move blood and expel wind, or pathologically, blood and fluid are drawn away by this point from muscle in order to keep pathogenic factors latent.  Indications for using this point include a loss of strength, and numbness.  The body needs blood to hold onto feeling.  It is a useful point to add to treatments for MS.

From SI-10, the channel moves to HT-1, ‘Ultimate Spring’, before reaching the confluent point of the SI-HT Channel Divergence at GB-22.

GB-22 is also the confluent point of yin sinew meridians of the arm.  Both the sinew vessels and the channel divergences pertain to the terrain of wei qi, and this point is a place where chronic conditions often enter the body.  GB-22 was also once a contender as the point for the Great Luo of the Spleen.  It therefore connects to the luo vessels, to blood, and to the Da Bao.  Not only is the association with the sinews and blood continued at this point (an association usually thought of as related to the Liver’s mastery of the sinews and it’s relationship to storing blood in order to nourish the sinews), but at this point the relationship between blood and essence is established:  Blood enters essence to help give rise to marrow.  GB-22 is the canyon by which ye-thick fluid supports bone, marrow, and the brain.

From GB-22, the channel moves to CV-17 and CV-14:  Wei qi homes to chest for sleep, and these to points guide the channel to the heart.  From the heart, the channel enters the diaphragm and the small intestine organ, going to CV-4.  CV-3, nearby, is the meeting of the leg yin sinew vessels and the end of the crura of the diaphragm.  The channel then rises back upwards to ST-12.

ST-12, a very common point in CD trajectories, is the basin into which trauma to the SCM — and therefore also to the Window of the Sky points — drains.  This pertains to both physical and psychological trauma.  When something cannot be ‘redeemed’ or connect to what comes from heaven, it goes interiorly at this point.  Alternately, trauma to concepts of redemption cause a counterflow into the heart, helping to create the ‘antihero’ archetype.  I mentioned the importance of neck releases in my treatment of the sinew vessels in Season Six — so again, the relationship of the SI Channel Divergence to the Sinew Meridians.

The next point on the trajectory is SI-18, the confluent point of yang sinew channels of legs.  Finally, the channel ends at BL-1, which brings the pathological dryness of a ye-depleted SI CD to the brain.  The result is that wind in brain begins to chase the shen and hun.  Brain fever is one possible symptom of this pathophysiology.  If BL-1 is too sensitive to needle in such a case, ST-42 may stand in its stead.

My favourite herbal formula to nourish the ye-fluid is Zeng Ye Tang.  To treat the sinew vessels, Niu Xi (for the legs) or Sang Zhi (for the arms) should be added.  Sang Ji Sheng pairs nicely with Sang Zhi to form a CD envoy combination, although Di Gu Pi, which cools the blood, and Sang Ye which releases the exterior, also make a good pair.  For a stronger focus on the sinews, Chuan Lian Zi, which goes to the SI meridian and regulates LV qi may also be a useful addition.  Qu Mai goes to the SI meridian and moves blood, to resolve wind symptoms.

As always these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have suddenly become your own worst enemy, please seek qualified assistance. 

Happy Slayage!

Showtime (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 11)

In this initially calm episode, Andrew gets bored and suggests playing ‘Kevin Bacon’ with Dawn. The goal is simple: name an actor or actress, then see how few actors or films separate the named actor from Kevin Bacon.  There used to be a website that would do this for you, and Kevin Bacon is even connected by just two steps to several silent film stars.  The episode goes on to reveal that the First infiltrated the group of potential slayers by taking the form of Eve (a potential slayer, not Adam-and-Eve’s Eve, though the name is evocative of that story).  The Turok-Han that was released in a previous episode attacks the potentials, and Buffy dusts it off at a construction site.  She then rescues Spike from the clutches of the First.

In acupuncture, we can play the same Kevin Bacon game: Pick a point on a meridian, then pick another point on another meridian. See how few points you need to cross in order to get there. The secret is to use ‘jiao’ or ‘crossing’ points — points which are on more than one channel. The game becomes even more fun when you bring different channel systems into the picture…

Note this is point specific, not channel system wide — that will be explored in Episdoe 19.

(Raises theoretical question of what it means for a point to be named as belonging to a particular meridian, even if it lies on more than one — e.g. why is SP-6 named as a SP point, even though the KD and LV meridians cross there, too?)

Du-14 generally takes the cake for yang meridians, and CV-3 is a pretty good bet for transferring among yin meridians.  The Dai Mai circling all the meridians is another good one.  To make the game more interesting, we can say we’ll use only primary channels, no EVs.

The Lung channel does not cross any other channels, but LU-1 is also a Spleen point.  LU-1 is thus a quintessentially TaiYin point, governing the opening of the interior outwards.  The Lungs in Chinese medicine are responsible for exhalation (the Kidneys are responsible for inhalation):  opening to the outside.

The Large Intestine channel crosses ST-4, SI-12, and SJ-20.  The Stomach channel crosses the Large Intestine channel at LI-20.  Thus ST-4 and LI-20 are very YangMing points, closing to the interior:  the nostrils and mouth as entryways into the body.  The Stomach channel also crosses ST-12, BL-1, and GB-3 and GB-4.  As pathogens enter the body through the six stages, the pivot of ShaoYang to YangMing can be addressed by GB-3 or GB-4.  SI-12, on the other hand, is a TaiYang and YangMing point, and can address the exterior yang channels; it is especially effective at addressing wind conditions, and its point name reflects that:  ‘Grasping the Wind’.  It is also a point which encompasses the fu organs of digestion:  ST, SI, LI.

The Spleen meets the Lung channel at LU-1, and the Liver channel at LV-14.  The Lungs disseminate wei qi; the Spleen stores ying qi; and the Liver is responsible for harmonising the ying and wei.  Those two points would address the transformation of qi by the Spleen as it relates to blood (Liver) and qi (Lung).

The Heart channel does not cross any other channels, in keeping with the sacrosanct nature of the emperor.  Based on the full trajectory of the channel, however, three points might affect the HT channel, however:  BL-1, because the shen can be seen in the eyes; ST-9; and LU-1.

The Small Intestine meets the TaiYang Bladder channel at BL-1, BL-11, and BL-41 (at the level of the second thoracic vertebra).  It also meets GB-1 and SJ-22.

The Bladder crosses the Gallbladder channel at GB-6, GB-7, GB-8; GB-10, GB-11, GB-12; and GB-15, all on the scalp; and GB-30 at the piriformis muscle.

The Kidney channel meets the LV and SP channels at SP-6.

The Pericardium channel crosses the SanJiao meridian at SJ-1.

The SanJiao meridian, responsible for integrating the three burners of the body, pelvis, abdomen, and ribcage, crosses the SI channel at SI-12, SI-18, and SI-19; and the ShaoYang Gallbladder meridian at GB-1, GB-3, and GB-4.  SI-12, as noted above, treats the three levels of the digestive tract, and therefore it makes perfect sense for the SJ meridian to also meet there.

The Gallbladder channel meets with the Stomach channel at ST-7 and ST-8; with the Small Intestine channel at SI-12 and SI-19 (a Window to the Sky point); and the SanJiao meridian at SJ-17, SJ-20, and SJ-22.

Finally, the Liver channel meets with the Spleen meridian at SP-6, SP-12, and SP-13.

If anyone plays the Kevin Bacon acupuncture game, certain meridians will just never seem to meet up.  The famous four gates, LI-4 and LV-3, for example, never meet up through using only crossing points.  While the LI channel has multiple crossing points, the Liver, as a very Yin organ, really doesn’t cross any other channels but the Spleen.  Likewise, the Spleen really only meets up with the Lung, Liver, and Kidneys.  The Kidneys connect to the other yin organs.

Even if the two extraordinary vessels were brought in, using their points as primary meridian points, connecting the yin and yang channels is still difficult.  the Liver channel goes to CV-2, CV-3, and CV-4.  The Spleen goes to CV-3, CV-4, and CV-10.  The Kidneys go to CV-3 and CV-4.  The Du Mai meets all the yang channels at DU-14.  It meets the Bladder at Du-20.  Du-24 sees the Bladder and Stomach meridians cross, and Du-26 is another YangMing meeting point for the Stomach and Large Intestine channels.  The Du and Ren meet at CV-1 and CV-24.  The LI and ST meridians do cross at CV-24, seemingly the only time that a yin-oriented vessel meets with yang-oriented primary meridians.

Meeting points are most useful in primary channel treatments, when only three channels are needled at a time:  the channel in which the pathology originated, the channel in which the pathology is currently located, and the channel into which the pathogen will enter next.  Thus, a wind-cold condition which has transformed into wind-heat will next enter the body as interior heat.  The LU, LI, and ST channels will all be needled in such a case.  In this sense, meeting points can be used to guide qi through shorter meridian pathways back out into the exterior.  Meeting points can also be tonified with moxa in order to strengthen multiple channels simultaneously.

But how does the body know that a practitioner is needling, say SP-6, as a Liver point, and not as a Spleen point?  I would suggest that qi likes to take the shortest route between two points.  Thus, if the confluent points of a Channel Divergence are needled, rather than taking the primary channel pathway, the qi will circulate instead along the shorter or easier pathway of the CD.  Likewise with a point like SP-6:  although the repercussions may be felt along the SP and KD channels, if the only other channels being needled are LV and ST (let’s say the practitioner is working on nourishing blood), the body will respond according to where the qi is directed:  LV-14, LV-8, SP-6, ST-37 (and ST-38 or -36, perhaps) — all points related to blood on two meridians only.  I will discuss leading qi in more detail in a subsequent post.

When too many points are needled, the qi does not know where to go.  The result is that the qi goes ‘wild’.  While the four gates is effective for ‘reorienting’ the flow of qi within the meridians, Dr Hammer has developed a useful herbal formula to address the same condition.  The formula is rather straightforward:  Sang Ji Sheng at 12g; Dang Shen, Huang Qi, and Mai Men Dong at 10g; Si Gua Lou and Yuan Zhi at 6g; Wu Wei Zi at 2g; and Duan Mu Li and Duan Long Gu at 19g.  Note the Channel Divergence herbs of Sang Ji Sheng and Huang Qi, combined with the channel opening Si Gua Lou.  The CD effect is further strengthened by the Heart-oriented herbs Wu Wei Zi, Mu Li, Long Gu, Mai Dong, and the HT-orifice opening herb Yuan Zhi.  Decoct, and take until the qi has returned to a harmonious flow.

As always, these posts are meant for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you are in acupuncture or shiatsu school, get together with some friends and see how few points need to be needled in order to move from one channel to another.  Let me know how it works out!

Happy Slayage!

Bring on the Night (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 10)

Andrew has been captured by the Scoobies, and sits tied to a chair, unresponsive to all external stimulation.  According to Dawn, who wants to slap him, pour ice water on him, try boiling water on him, Andrew might be in a ‘fugue state’.   Meanwhile, Willow tries a simple spell, but the First highjacks Willow’s spell.  Willow’s own personality was nearly lost, as the First or Dark Magicks started to take over Willow’s will.  Even after the spell ends, Willow can still feel the evil inside her.

Elsewhere, in the basement of Sunnydale High, Buffy encounters Principal Wood, who is surprised to see her up and about.  Buffy tells Wood she got some cream for the oozing that was going on while she was sick.  For other people, ‘things are backing up’.  They receive news about the Watcher’s Council, and Anya theorises that all the stuffy repression of the British Watchers’ Council caused them to explode.  The weight of saving the world is beginning to fall squarely on Buffy’s shoulders alone now.  Despite that loneliness, she is told she should feel ‘no pressure’.

Technically, a fugue state is not a state of insensibility, but one of amnesia.  However, failure of the senses and sinews is a characteristic sign of the Heart Channel Divergence.  After the body has used up jing, blood, and Stomach fluids to contain a pathogen, the next humour available to the body is sweat.  At this point, the pathology has moved from being acute and has instead become a chronic condition.  Sweat is the yin and fluid of the Heart.  Physiologically, the sweat and vessels of the Heart support the wei qi of the arm TaiYang (SI) vessel, and the sinews themselves.  (The Heart controls the mai, or vessel-pulses of the body, while SI-10 moves blood into the sinews to nourish them.)  The Mai, being an extraordinary organ, are filled with yuan qi; thus, we see the relation of yuan qi and wei qi through the medium of the Heart Channel Divergence.  As the Heart begins to lose its yuan-level resources, it begins to close off the upper orifices; the shen can no longer peer out into the world, leading to failure of the senses.  As the sinews lose the blood and fluid which animate them, they, too, begin to fail.

The trajectory of the HT CD begins at HT-1, the emerging point of the Heart meridian, and a place well known as a source of sweat in the body (the palms of the hands, HT-8, is another well known sweaty area).  From HT-1 the channel then moves to GB-22, the lower confluent point.  In previous ages, GB-22 was a contender for the Great Luo of Spleen point; thus the point has a very close relationship with blood and jing.  The Great Luo of the Spleen is the last of the luo points before they pour into the jing-supplied Extraordinary Vessels.  GB-22 is also a good point for addressing ye-thick fluids, as it forms the ‘canyon’ which from which ye-thick fluid nourishes the marrow, bones, and brain.

From GB-22, the channel enters the heart and emerges at CV-17, the mu point of the Pericardium, or Heart Protector.  CV-17 is both where wei qi homes in and a place where both the Kidney and Liver circulate their energetics.  Again, wei qi and the previous humours are meeting here, and thus CV-17 can be a place where the pathogen can be redirected to another humour or channel.  From CV-17, the Heart Channel Divergence travels upwards to CV-23.  CV-23 is known for its ability to nourish yin; in a subsequent post, I will explore its relationship to KD-1.

From CV-23, the channel travels to the tip of the tongue (and thus an inability to speak or articulate the voice is a primary indication for using this ‘point’), before dispersing onto the face and closing at the Upper Confluence of BL-1.

At BL-1,  the channel has moved a pathogen upwards and can bring heat into the brain here (manifesting in mania, hysteria, brain fever, or a loss of senses); yet it also has the capacity to release heat trapped in the four limbs.  Thus, physiology and pathophysiology are closely entwined.  How the body deals with the pathogen at this particular point relies very much on the resources available to it:  can it draw on sweat to release heat in the four limbs?  Or is the body’s fluid depleted, in which case the next set of CDs the pathogen will encounter is the SJ-PC Channel Divergence.  The SJ CD begins at Du-20, at the top of the head.  The pathogen will have passed through the brain to that point and into the next channel set.

In terms of Herbal Medicine, this Channel Divergence is closely related to Ye-thick fluids, the humour of the Small Intestine CD.  The formula Zeng Ye Tang is used for ‘things backing up’, i.e. to relieve constipation, and could make a nice supplementing formula for a person with dryness of sweat.  I would add musk or Niu Huang to Zeng Ye Tang if I were attempting to revive someone’s senses, however.

More specifically to the Heart, Shi Gao is a good single herb to generate fluid when the Heart is too much yin due to the ‘big sweat’ aspect of Yang Ming disease.  Yu Ping Feng San and Mu Li San are also effective at astringing the surface to stop the leaking of sweat; however, neither is especially good at generating fluid.  In Yu Ping Feng San, Bai Zhu drains dampness, but it does also have a tonification aspect.  In Mu Li San, which is particularly good for addressing day time sweating, no fluid generating herbs are included, unless one substitutes honey-fried Huang Qi for plain Huang Qi.  The original formula for Yu Pin gFeng San, in fact, calls for honey fried Huang Qi.

Of course, to guide a formula to the CDs, a wei qi oriented herb (in this case, Huang Qi) and a yuan-qi oriented herb are added to act as envoys.  Ye Jiao Teng might work, but I’d add Sang Ji Sheng as well, for a trio of Huang Qi, Ye Jiao Teng, and Sang Ji Sheng.  Finally, E Jiao might actually be the best item to add to any of the above formulas.  Being skin, sweat, and essence combined, E Jiao is an excellent way to address the concerns of nourishing and astringing.

As always, this post is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one are sweating so much you’ve lost your senses, please seek qualified assistance. 

Happy Slayage!

Never Leave Me (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 9)

Now that Spike has taken up residence in the Summers’ household, the Scoobies debate what to do with him.  Anya suggests putting something sharp through Spike’s chest to deal with his sleeper-side.  Buffy, however, decided to take a few days off work, so Dawn lets Principal Robin know that Buffy won’t be in, giving as the excuse what TCM would call ‘sudden turmoil disorder’, or as Dawn said Buffy’s words literally were: ‘I have stuff coming out both ends’.

Meanwhile, the First, in the form of Jonathan, appears to Andrew, requesting more blood to open the seal.  Andrew is having regrets at killing his best friend, but Jonathan/ the First tries to reassure Andrew:  Jonathan has become one with hope and light, but without ulcers.  To reference Anya’s solution for Spike, ulcers sometimes feel like a sharp stab in the chest.

Treating ulcers with Channel Divergences will not be the topic of today’s post.  Instead, has anyone ever noticed Anya’s particular mannerisms?  Ever notice that when she’s human she has more wind-tremours than when she’s a demon?  Is this because Liver-anger can be channeled more successfully through a demonic jing-essence-body than a human one?  Regardless, both Anya’s facial tics and Buffy’s sudden turmoil disorder can be treated through the Bladder Channel Divergence.

The CDs treat form, not function, so what ‘form’ is being treated?  With regard to facial tics, the form is one of constancy.  A facial tremour is the inability of the form to hold itself in a consolidated manner.  Likewise with sudden turmoil:  diarrhea and vomiting are clearly representative of the body’s inability to consolidate what it has taken in.  The Bladder CD excels at consolidating form, in part because as the first of the Channel Divergence sequence, it draws on the body’s jing to contain pathogenic influences (the Bladder CD can also transform jing into wei qi to expel wind from the body through its ability to hold and consolidate yang qi).  Not retaining essence through over-sweating, leaking fluids and stool, or a consumption of essence (including De, or ‘virtue’, in Han and pre-Han dynasty HuangLao thought) are signs that the Bladder CD may be involved in the pathophysiology of a patient.

How does the Bladder Channel Divergence apply these functions physiologically, as revealed by the channel trajectory?

The Bladder Channel divergence begins at BL-40, the Doorway to the Earth point and first Confluence of the Channel Divergences, bringing together the Bladder and Kidney channels.  As mentioned earlier, this point connects to BL-23 and Ming Men, allowing the channel clear access to the jing-storing Kidneys.  The point also pushes wei qi to the gluteus, and from BL-30, the channel goes to BL-36.

The area of the body around BL-36 is a primary holding area for latency.  It stores trauma, whose release can be facilitated by gua sha or through needling GB-27.  Trauma homes in here for several reasons.  On the one hand, the point controls the body’s ability to discharge via the bowels:  trauma seeking an exit.  On the other hand, it supports the spleen’s ability to ascend qi, to move things back up:  trauma seeking integration.  In a way, this is the point where pre-natal qi as jing meets post-natal qi, where the ‘template’ for forming the body meets the components which need to be assembled.

From BL-36, the trajectory goes directly to the Doorways of the Earth points at Du-1, Du-4, and CV-4. These points were all discussed in the previous post.  Du-1 relates to consolidation and the emotional build-up of individuation; Du-4 to the blueprint of life and access to jing as well as to the Dai Mai (again, in an attempt to expel the pathogen). CV-4 relates to the balance of yin and yang in the body, and can draw up more primal resources to contain the pathogen, or to transform yin into wei to expel the pathogen.

From CV-4, the channel moves downwards, encountering CV-3 (top of pubic hair margin, technically), then penetrating the sacral liao at BL-32. CV-3 is the mu point of the Bladder organ (CV-4 is the mu point of the other TaiYang organ, the Small Intestine), and BL-32 is associated with hormonal balance in the body (the ye-thick fluids of the Small Intestine).  Both points treat urinary difficulty and incontinence, seminal emission, and pain in the lower trunk.  From the sacrum, the channel moves upward to connect with BL-28 (the shu transport point of the Bladder Organ).

From the cycle beginning at the Bladder Mu and moving to the Bladder Shu points, the channel then traverses the Hua Tuo points. The Hua Tuo points in particular are the terrain of wei qi; but as they are associated with biomedical nerve-roots, they also have an effect on how jing-qi is distributed to organs.  Pathophysiologically, they can be thought of as diverting wind to an organ, and then, to make the wind and cold latent, the Hua Tuo are the points through which the body sends jing to the organ in question.  The development of masses and tumours in those organs,or hormone disruption more generally, can both be explained in this manner.

At Du-11 (Shen Way), the channel wraps through BL-15 (HT shu point) and BL-44 (Door to the Shen) to CV-17 (mu point of the Pericardium) to form the external Bao Mai and connect with the Heart.  If jing has begun to degrade in phlegm, which is one way to think of cholesterol in the blood, the channel will utilise the Heart to ‘vapourise’ (Am: vaporize) the phlegm.  Psychologically, this wrapping of the vessel is the jing meeting the shen to form jingshen before it moves to the Sea of Marrow.

From CV-17, the channel goes to BL-10, the Window to the Sky point and upper confluence of the BL-KD Channel Divergence.  Some texts list the channel as stopping here; others theorise that it moves to the brain and from there to BL-1.  BL-10, in the context of the Bladder Channel Divergence, has the ability to descend excess yang in the head and draw it to the chest, to the most yang of the solid organs, the Heart.  BL-1, as one of the upper orifices, as the ability to release wind from the body.

Treatment and point selection vary by case, but all would include BL-40 and either BL-10 or BL-1.  In Buffy’s case, the points selected would focus on consolidating:  BL-36, CV-3 or Du-1 for diarrhea; CV-17 for vomiting.  Needles would be inserted in a simple ascending order:  bilaterally, beginning with BL-40, angled towards the head.  Needle technique would be deep-shallow-deep, with vibration at each depth.

In Anya’s case, the treatment goals are to expel the wind, so a looping order would be called for.  Points would be selected based on their ability to transform jing into wei or yang qi.  The needles on one side would be angled upwards until BL-10, whose needle would point to the paired BL-10 point on the other side of the body.  The other side of the body would be needled with needles angled towards the feet.  Finally, the jing well point of the Bladder would be needled.  Begin on the side of the body which has pain, needle the jing well point of the side which does not have pain or tics.

The herbal formula associated with this Channel Divergence is Da Cheng Qi Tang.  In Anya’s case, I would add Chi Shao, to move blood and expel wind, and increase the dosage of Hou Po, for a similar reason.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one are suffering from sudden turmoil disorder, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

Conversations with Dead People (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 7)

This composite episode follows our characters through several non-interacting plotlines.  Dawn, at home alone, microwaves a marshmallow and is confronted by the ghost of her mother.  Willow, studying late at the library, converses with the ghost of Cassie, discovering at the end that the ‘ghost’ was, in fact, the First Evil.  Buffy gets psychoanalysed by a former classmate turned Dartmouth psych major, before slaying him.  Andrew and Jonathan uncover the Seal of Danzalthar, and Andrew sacrifices Jonathan to open the seal.  Finally, Spike gets his feed on in a series of scenes which have no dialogue.  In combination with the soundtrack, those scenes highlight the actor’s craft of physicality:  we know what is going on without a word being spoken.

I have to admit, this was initially one of the most difficult episodes for me to diagnose.  However, among the Channel Divergences is one which fits all the plot lines quite nicely:  The Spleen Channel Divergence.  In fact, I have not started thinking of it as the ‘psychoanalytic channel divergence’.

Ordinarily, the channel, like the Stomach CD, treats blood and food stasis (think of Dawn’s marshmallow dinner), especially as its trajectory passes through the ST mu point at CV-12 (where Andrew stabbed Jonathan).  However, because the Spleen CD also connects the Chong and Yin Wei mai, it has the capacity to treat not only problems with post-natal qi, but pre-natal qi as it is expressed in the external world through form (the First as Cassie’s ghost) as well.

How is the Spleen CD ‘psychoanalytic’?  The answer is found through examining the trajectory of the channel.

It begins at SP-12, Chong Men (‘Pulsing Gate’ or ‘Gate of the Chong [mai]’).  This is the point at which the Chong Mai emerges from the interior.  The Chong Mai, as noted in the previous season, is the sea of blood.  Blood includes the emotions, anything ephemeral which has taken on form and substance as part of one’s identity.  The Chong Mai accesses the emotions as they have been passed down through a lineage.  When the Luo Vessel system has reached capacity, the overflow of pathogens, including emotional ones, are ‘drained’ into the Extraordinary Vessels.  Thus, the start of the channel is much like the start of psychoanalysis:  What happened to you in childhood?  what did you receive from your parents?  Who’s fault was Buffy’s parents’ divorce?

From SP-12, the channel moves to ST-30, the first confluence of the ST and SP Channel Divergence.  This point is called ‘qi chong’, and is the transporting point of grain and fluids.  How are the early emotions embodied in the Chong Mai going to affect how the person takes in the resources of the world?

From ST-30, the next points on the channel are CV-12, CV-14, and CV-17.  These points correspond to the Stomach, Heart, and Pericardium.  A person ‘digests’ experiences at ST-12, where Jonathan got stabbed in the gut, right after his own ‘digestion’ of his high school experiences was completed.  The Heart mu point helps orient a person’s own emotional heritage to time, place, and context at CV-14, while CV-17, where vampires get stabbed, is responsible for clarifying the blood and emotions in order to protect the heart and further the heart’s destiny in life.

The channel emerges at CV-22 before progressing upwards to CV-23, both of these being Yin Wei Mai points.  The Yin Wei Mai is responsible for continuity in one’s life.  How do the experiences gained in the world at CV-12 to CV-17 reflect the early formation at SP-12 and ST-30?  How do they show up in a person’s posture?  How has a person behaved inwardly with respect to early patterns, such that contingency plans are always made?  What new burdens have accumulated, as a result of the early emotional patterning affecting one’s path in life?

From CV-23, the channel goes on to ST-9, Ren Ying (‘Human Pulse’ or ‘Human Prognosis), a favoured spot for vampires to engage with their victims, as Spike does towards the end of the episode.  Spike does not recall what he did; as a Window to the Sky point, memory and memory loss can be treated here.  However, its usual application is for thyroid problems.  Thyroid issues often show up as Heart fire or Stomach fire issues (think of Dawn’s marshmallow, or the microwave blowing up).  If Heart fire were the issue, the point would work nicely with CV-14; with Stomach fire as the chief symptom, CV-12 would be a good pairing.

From ST-9, the channel goes to the Middle of Tongue.  (This could include the previously mentioned point, CV23).  Typically, this trajectory would imply the channel can treat  wind-phlegm blocking the tongue, possible trouble with verbal association, or again, poor memory (Yin Wei’s task of ensuring continuity of self).  Spike’s memory is poor; Buffy is only now beginning to open up, after an initial diagnosis was made at ST-9.  Jonathan also found his ability to express what he had digested earlier and how he now integrated it into his all too short life.

Finally, the upper confluence and end of the channel is at BL-1.  This point is the famous meeting point of the Yin and Yang Qiao Mai, the place where one’s view of self and the world meet.  It is the point at which the earliest emotions, and how they have influenced one’s assimilation of the external world into a coherent identity, are brought to ‘light’ to be seen.  From here, the person is enabled to change his or her viewpoint, either of the self, or the world, or both, in order to approach the world differently.  In the process, the inherited emotions or tasks embedded in the ‘curriculum’ or ‘blueprint’ of the Chong Mai are resolved, and the person is free to make his or her own choices in life.

The Spleen Channel Divergence is thus one of the most powerful treatments available to acupuncturists, treating those pathologies which consume us from within, whether autoimmune digestive disorders, or feelings we about people in the world when we were little.

Needle technique in this case is a shallow rattling technique, followed by a deep rattle, and a third, shallow rattling.  The idea is that one is stimulating the external wei qi to come to the defence of deep jing- or yuan-qi, in order to chase the pathogen back outwards to the surface of the body for final expulsion.  Treatment is three days in a row, followed by three days off, for a total of nine treatment days (or 18 days total).  The patient is then reassessed.  Point selection along the trajectory varies by what exactly is being addressed, but at a minimum the lower and upper confluences should be needled.  In the case of deep psychoanalysis, I would begin with Chong Men, SP-12, and then move to ST-30, and on upwards.

As always, these posts are meant for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you would benefit more by psychoanalysis by needle rather than psychoanalysis by vampire, please seek out a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

 

Help (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 4)

Welcome to Buffy’s first week of actually interacting with the students! In this episode, we are treated to a variety of student problems, from the real and serious (a student whose older brother has joined the Marines during the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2002) to the surreptitious (a student who says he thinks he’s gay proposes that Buffy go on a date with him to disprove his feelings) and the amusing (Dawn sees her counsellor to complain how Dawn’s older sister steals her clothing). The principle focus, however, is on Cassie, a beautiful girl who writes poetry, creates art, speaks eloquently, and has a sincere presence. She also ‘knows’ things, and something she knows is that she will die the following Friday. The rest of the episode sees Buffy and the Scoobies trying to untangle the mystery of how she’ll die.

(Willow uses the term ‘pre-cog’ to describe Cassie, a reflection of high school and college abbreviation of terms like ‘pre-cal’ for pre-calculus, or here, ‘pre-cognitive’. However, I like to think of the term as being analogous to Pink Floyd’s ‘Brick in the Wall’ — a ‘cog in the machine’. Cassie is ‘pre-cog’ in that she hasn’t been molded to fit the machinery of society yet.)

Unfortunately, although Buffy manages to disrupt a demon-summoning group of students, and even catches a crossbow bold before it strikes Cassie, Cassie still dies. It turns out a heart condition ran in her family. The final scene shows the Scoobies on the couch, mourning the death of this beautiful girl. Buffy asks the question, ‘What do you do when you can’t help?’

That will be the topic of today’s post. How does Chinese medicine know when it cannot help, and what does the practitioner — or patient — do then?

First, I want to stress that this post is not about how Chinese medical practitioners know when to refer their patients to biomedical or other medicine practitioners for treatment.  Rather, the focus is just within the scope of the Chinese medical tradition’s diagnostic and prognostic paradigm.

In some medical traditions, learning how to identify what diseases and conditions can be treated and which are terminal is the first lesson a medical student studies.  The quintessence trantras of Tibetan Medicine, for example, put it as the second lesson, after a cosmological introduction to the medical tradition.  (‘The whole world is a garden of medicine if prepared properly’, is the short version of that cosmology.)  Chinese medicine, though, has its references to death as a prognosis scattered throughout its medical texts.  In general, however, the the patient’s pulse, hara, and shen tell the practitioner whether the patient will live or die.

The most commonly understood pulse pattern indicative of death is a separation of yin and yang.  This happens in terminally ill patients as they approach their final days.  However, Cassie would not have had such a pulse; rather, in her case, the Heart or Pericardium pulses would have felt different.  In Contemporary Chinese Pulse Diagnosis, an area on the wrist just to the side of the HT pulse is related to diagnosing the quality of the heart valves.  The practitioner in this case, could make note of it, send the patient for biomedical measurements, and then work as part of a team to address the underlying issue.

With hara diagnosis, even if a patient has stopped breathing or is turning blue, if a stirring near the umbilicus can still be felt, there is hope the patient will live.  The ‘moving qi’ between the kidneys is still active, and can still deliver the necessary qi to the organs and spirits of the patient.  If this moving qi is absent, the prognosis leans towards death.

The shen, or affect, is also a means for assessing whether a disease can be treated.  If the shen and qi does not correspond to the patient’s bodily form, the Jia Yi Jing states, the prognosis is death.

So what happens if the patient is going to die and medicine can not cure them?  Is there nothing medicine can offer besides pain-killers?  (As a side note, Chinese Medicine avoids the use of opiates as pain-killers, and instead relies on qi moving medicinals like Yan Hu Suo, Wu Ling Zhi, and San Qi, none of which impair mental functioning.)

In Cassie’s case, she is resigned to dying early; but this does not mean she gave up on living, nor did she try to rush her life experiences before their proper time.  In a moving monologue, Cassie tells Buffy that Cassie would like to fall in love, go backpacking, see the Mona Lisa… but she knows it will not happen.  She knows she must live her life as it comes to her, and right then, she was in high school, dividing her time between her parent’s houses.  She was cultivating the life she had then.  Her self-cultivation took the form of introspective poetry, expressive artwork, and an online gallery in which to feature it.  She cultivated a world that would outlive her.

As I’ve mentioned earlier in these posts, the highest calling of Chinese Medicine is on the cultivation of destiny.  If a technique allows a person to continue completing their relationship obligations to family, to themselves, and to the world; if it helps them honour or hone their talents, even when life is ebbing away, Medicine still has a place.  For many, that place is called hospice care.  Acupuncture has a place here.  Points used to comfort the dying include BL-62, CV-17, Yin Tang, and Du-23.  PC-6, HT-5, and LU-7 are also useful to open the heart and free the tongue, to work through grief into acceptance.  ST-25 (Heavenly Pivot) and various Kidney points are also commonly used to move the metal-qi of death into the stillness of water.

In the past, most people died through the metal meridian:  Lung conditions and Large Intestine (dysentery, cholera) conditions were rampant.  Now, people die through other meridians, often HT and PC for men; PC and LV for women.  Following five-phase and six-channel theory, expression through Tai Yang and out into the world (and proper closing off of some outer-worldy factors), or a movement to experience joy would be recommended for PC and LV cases (as, for example in various gynecological cancers).  A gathering to earth and society is the energetic movement to aim for in cardiac cases.  This was how Cassie herself achieved the serenity — a sad serenity, to be sure — that she did.  She focused on friends, even when she knew some, like Dawn, had initially become friends with her just to keep an eye out or get more information.

It is the role of the practitioner to know and understand when each of these movements is the next step on the patient’s path, and to arrange for support in guiding the patient there as necessary.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one feel that Chinese Medicine may provide a means to helping make peace with life and death, please see a qualified practitioner.

Villains (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 20)

Events really begin to pick up pace as the Scoobies try to come back together:  Xander tries to save Buffy (Willow removes the bullet from Buffy once she’s in hospital), Buffy and Xander try to disuade Willow from going after Warren; Buffy tries to get Spike to help (but he’s left Sunnydale); and Anya tries to stop Willow when she goes to the magic shop to gain power.  Dawn is left alone to find Tara’s body.  The two poetically together as the ones who don’t quite fit in with the others, reminiscent of an early episode in Season 5, but tragically different.  At one point, Xander says he’s had blood on hands all day.

Initially, Xander, Buffy, and Willow chase a decoy:  a Warren Robot.  That robot ends up with a deviated eye, before being dispensed with.  Ultimately, Willow disappears on Xander and Buffy, finds Warren, and chases him through the local forest.  After briefly and mildly torturing him, Willow flays him alive, thus rendering us unable to treat him using the sinew vessels…

The Jia Yi Jing mentions a sinew vessel treatment for deviated eye:  foot yang ming with hand tai yang.  If the deviation is due to heat, the sinew will be slack and there will be inability of the penis to produce an erection.  If the robot was made for Andrew, who hinted he was in love with Warren in the previous episode, heat symptoms are unlikely to be present.  Arched back rigidity is a feature of both cold and yang tension in the sinew, and needling with a red-hot needle is indicated.  Yin pathology features a forward bending posture with an inability to stretch out, as in the case of acute appendicitis.  Therefore, to treat the robot, use hot-needle, or in this case, perhaps electro-acupuncture, at tender areas along the ST and SI meridians, particularly as they meet on the face and at the extremities.  In a human subject, the goal is to warm wei qi enough to expel the wind-cold causing the deviation of the eye, which is often accompanied by deviation of the mouth.

The real treatment which needs to be done, however, is to resolve Willow’s pain over the loss of Tara, or rather, the horrid twist of fate that stole Willow’s hopes just as they were tender in the bud.  That pain is a stagnation of qi, blood, and body fluids, and Willow’s rampage can be seen as an effort to get all those humours flowing strongly again.  In a sense, what we see in her transformation is the yin stagnation of all humours suddenly transforming into a very powerful and outward directed yang magic.  Since the humours have already begun their transformation, the appropriate strategy would be to drain the yang, or otherwise hasten the complete transformation of yin into yang, so that the body can then be regulated once again.  In the meantime, a decoction of dan shen, mo yao, ru xiang, and dang gui (15g each) may be effective at relieving pain and opening the collateral vessels.  In Willow’s case, I would add strong exterior releasing herbs:  Ma Huang is the strongest of these; Jing Jie is useful for its blood moving properties and thus would blend with the formula easily; Ge Gen or Fang Feng help move fluids upwards and outwards.

The other herbal treatment I would suggest is for Warren.  The Chinese pharmacopeia contains several herbs specifically indicated to regenerate or restore flesh.  The top two most well known herbs for regenerating flesh are Huang Qi and Ru Xiang.  Huang Qi is often combined with Rou Gui and Dang Gui for this purpose, while Ru Xiang is either applied topically with Xue Jie (Dragon’s Blood, a resin), or internally with Mo Yao and She Xiang.  Zi Hua Di Ding is also an appropriate addition, as it’s penetrating action is most effective at resolving clove sores; however, given Warren’s total lack of flesh, this would be more appropriate once tissue was actually in place.  The formula used for Willow, thus would also be a good formula for Warren, with the addition of Huang Qi and She Xiang, if consumed internally.  Externally, powders of various tree resins — myrrh, frankincense, pine tar, and dragon’s blood — are appropriate.

The internal formula, because it also invigorates the collaterals, may be an effective one to use for people who have ‘thin skin’, both in the emotional sense, and in cases of sarcopenia.  In the latter case, Rou Gui, Jin Yin Hua, and Lian Qiao may be good herbs to add, as a preventive against developing fire toxins.  Fire toxins in the case of sacropenia will quickly lead to the development of clove sores and cellulitis.  The combination of Huang Qi and Jin Yin Hua, meanwhile, mildly generates blood.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have had their flesh flayed by a dark witch or warlock, please see a qualified practitioner to restore your skin to its usual thickness.

Happy Slayage!

Huang qi, ru xiang and zi hua di ding.

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