Potential (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 12)

This episode is all about finding the remaining potentials, committing to the mission even if you are not a potential, and getting prepared. The episode begins with Buffy training the potentials and teaching them the tools they’ll need in order to survive:  how to fight vampires, how to get information from your demons, how vampires lair.  Meanwhile, Willow and the non-combatants attempt to locate the Potential who lives in Sunnydale.  Willow’s spell seems to indicate Dawn is the next Potential, but the episode later reveals Amanda to possess that role.  The episode ends with a scene between Xander and Dawn, as they discuss how difficult it is to be part of a group in which everyone else seems to have ‘superpowers’, but you yourself do not.

In acupuncture, the Channel Divergences are like the potentials:  they are the groundwork of the primary meridians, but are not yet the primary meridians themselves.  This is particularly the case with the Large Intestine/ Lung Channel Divergence.

Physiologically, the Channel Divergences can be thought of as unfolding jing into the full person:  First, jing is provided by the parents of a person, and the jing embodies the Extraordinary Meridians.  The first CD, that of the Bladder-Kidneys begins to move this jing externally, to meet the world, wei qi.  Jing develops into blood (GB-LV CD), then blood begins to provide fluid for the opening of perception (ST-SP CD).  The fluid thickens, nourishes the brain, marrow, and sinews (potentially including the sinew vessels, through the formation of couli, pores), by providing the body with sweat, the yin of the Heart which anchors the shen in the Heart and in the Brain (SI-HT CD).  After the sinews and couli are in place, the nodes of the primary channels begin to form, and the San Jiao mechanism begins to combust jing to provide for the solid and hollow organs (SJ-PC CD).  Then the final transformation of jing into wei qi occurs, and the primary channels themselves begin to form with the LI-LU Channel Divergence.  The LU meridian then begins the cycle of twelve primary meridians, and itself gives rise to the sinew and luo vessels.  The sinews move exteriorly, the luo move pathogens interiorly, and back to the yuan level of the EVs.  The CDs continue to mediate between wei qi and yuan qi, however, and the organism functions as a complex, integrated being.

These transformations are able to occur because the Channel Divergences provide points at  which yin substance and yang transformative capacity meet.  The CD confluent points are exactly that, the confluence of yin and yang, the place where the yin and yang of a particular element come together.  As I pointed out in the previous post, no other channel system really allows for that sort of meeting.  (Although one could argue that the Sea of Yin, Conception Vessel, and Sea of Yang, Governor Vessel, do meet.)

Preparation, like training, can also mean tonification, making something stronger and more resilient.  The Channel Divergences are not only useful for removing latent pathogens and bi-obstruction syndromes from the joints; they also can be used to tonify the humours associated with them. The manner in which the CDs are able to make a pathogen go latent relies precisely on this physiological trait of augmenting particular humours.  The needling technique in such cases is deep-shallow-deep, with vibration at the deep levels.  The points are needled on each side, beginning at the start of the channel, then needling bilaterally the next point in the sequence, and so on, until the upper confluence is reached.

(As a side note, the humours, like Xander and Dawn, support the emotion and virtue (or power) associated with each of the five phases.  I will explore this theme later, in Season 7’s episode 16.)

In the Channel Divergence system, the LI CD is the perfect channel for overall tonification in absence of pathology.  It is also used in cases when yang has collapsed.  If Buffy really wanted to strengthen the Potentials, nourishing yang and securing the primary meridians through the LI CD is a good place to start.

The YangMing mechanism of physiology, associated with the LI and ST and characterised by ‘closing to the interior’, relies on the internal branches of primary meridians.  At this point in the Channel Divergence system, only wei qi is left to maintain a pathogen’s latency.  Jing, Blood, and Fluids have already been consumed, and finally the San Jiao-KD yang has failed.  As will be discussed in a later post, the San Jiao mechanism is ‘lit’ by wei qi at the first breath after birth.  This implies that as a pathogen consumes humours from within, the San Jiao’s humour will be consumed before wei qi, which initially came from the exterior.

LI/LU CD symptoms include spontaneous sweats depleting the LU, HT, and ST of fluid,  poor, poor digestion, and the collapse of yang (in the primary meridian cycle, collapse of yang begins to appear at the Bladder meridian, though the exact symptoms are slightly different; in the primary meridian system, the body still has fluids, possibly even phlegm.  Kidney jing may have begun to degrade and enter the bloodstream as cholesterol.  Here in the CD progression of pathology, the body is dry).  Oddly, the LI-LU CD is good for treating hair loss patterns.  Perhaps this is because of its relation to wei qi, the cou li, and exterior portions of the body, like hair.

To explain the process more chronologically, Lung breath moves to the Large Intestine wei qi to circulate interiorly; the interior circulation of wei qi then ‘light’s the San Jiao mechanism like a flame receiving oxygen.  Eventually, the process of supplying organs with jing and qi reaches the outermost sinew vessel, the TaiYang-Bladder channel.  At this point in the pathophysiology of the patient, the SJ mechanism has failed due to a full combustion of jing-fuel.  Therefore, the treatment principle is to build essence and yin to combust and keep the patient’s physiology going.  Once essence and yin are built up, treatment can be followed up with a front mu/ SJ mechanism treatment.  (I will elaborate on the SJ physiology at birth in Season 7’s Episode 17, which will examine the front mu points as they relate to the SJ mechanism.)

The LI CD trajectory is rather short.  It begins at LI-15, ‘shoulder bone’, from which it then splits into anterior and posterior branches.

The anterior branch moves from LI-15 to ST-15, ‘room screen’.  This is a reflex point for SP-15, and is good for treating lumps in the breast.  Because SP-15 is good for treating fullness in the abdomen, I would wonder if the point may also have an effect on uterine fibroids and other masses in the lower warmer.  From ST-15 the channel the moves on to ST-12, the lower confluent point of the LI-LU CD.

The posterior branch moves from LI-15 to DU-14, the meeting point of all yang channels, and a point well known for expelling wind; the point is closely associated with the body’s wei qi.  From Du-14 the channel goes on to GB-21, ‘shoulder well’.  This point has the capacity to release the jing well points of all the arm primary meridians.  Again, the association with wei qi is present.  From GB-21, the channel moves on to ST-12.

ST-12 is the lower confluence of the LI-LU CD, and is the place were qi enters interiorly.  The point has associations with the diaphragm, which draws qi inwards.  It should come as no surprise then, that from ST-12, the channel meets the Large Intestine organ, which can be interpreted as plunging to ST-25, the LI mu point.  From here, the LU meridian begins to take its shape.  The Lung primary meridian begins in the middle warmer at  CV-12, then goes to ST-25 before moving upwards to CV-13 and CV 17 (where wei qi homes to) and emerging at LU-1.

From ST-25, the LI-LU Channel Divergence moves to the Upper Confluence at the Window to the Sky point, LI-18.  This point is also called ‘Shui Xue’, ‘water hole’, which in the case of the CD physiology, indicates the relationship of wei qi to fluid.

The LI CD continues upwards from this point, if the neck is not blocked.  From LI-18, the channel moves to LI-20 and ST-1, from where a pathogen can be expelled externally.  LI-20, of course, is located by the nostrils, and is associated with breath.  ST-1 is associated with taking in and digesting the sight of the world outside.

Points are needled deep-shallow-deep in order to tonify, or if the body has enough resources to expel a pathogen, needling can be done in a shallow-deep-shallow manner.  However, as mentioned above, at this point in a pathophysiological case, the body is very weakened.  Both fluids and essence need to be built up.

Several herbal formulas can be used to moisten dryness:  Zeng Ye Tang for thick fluids; Yi Wei Tang for ST fluids; Mai Men Dong Tang for sweat; Sang Xing Tang for thin fluids.  Because at this point the organs themselves are weakened, I would suggest using another Shen/ Hammer herbal formula for what they call “Organ system weak”.  A diagnosis of organ system weak can be indiacted when the entire pulse is slow and deep, and the left (HT-LV) side is feeble or absent. The formula consists of twelve herbs:

Shan Yao and Ji Nei Jin at 12g;

Dang Shen, Bai Zhu, Shan Zhu Yu, Fu Ling, Da Zao, Sang Ji Sheng at 9g;

Yuan Zhi, Yu Jin, and Bai Shao at 6g, and

Rou Gui at a dose indicated by the state of KD yang.

On the other hand, if a formula is needed for training purposes, several formulas can be taken both before and after working out.  I’ve already given a post-workout formula, however, so will not revisit it here.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one have been weakened by illness, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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Becoming, Part Two (Buffy, Season Two)

Leave it to Cordelia to clearly state what she exactly what she sees.

Never underestimate the perceptual powers of people who judge by appearance — they can make incredible diagnosticians.  After all, it isn’t the perception of these people which is in doubt, it is their priorities.  With a little reflection or compassion, which may come with experience and maturity, these people can be valuable allies to any practitioner.

Of course, that doesn’t make their offensiveness any more palatable when you’re on the receiving end, as Willow was in this episode.  (Neither is it guaranteed that the shallow and vapid will ever learn from experience, or grow up.)

A quick recap of the episode:  While Buffy is distracted by a false message, Drusilla and her cronies walk into the school library, kill Kendra the Jamaican Slayer (that is, the Slayer who is Jamaican), and steal Giles away to be tortured by Angelus.  In the melee, a bookcase is toppled, knocking Willow unconscious.  (For post-concussion treatments, see my post for Bad Eggs.)  Willow is taken to the hospital where she wakes up, surrounded by her friends and Cordelia.  When Willow suggests trying to cast (or recast) the Soul Restoration spell on Angelus, her friends try to disuade her.  After all, she is in a weakened state — and as Cordelia points out, Willow’s hair is all flat and lifeless, and she looks horrible.

Nothing a little Chinese Medicine can’t fix — both in terms of helping restore vitality and bounce, fullness and luxuriousness to Willow’s hair, and to help promote the growth of facial and eyebrow hair for a little revenge potion on Cordelia.

When it comes to hair, Chinese Medicine makes several distinctions.  Head hair is a manifestation of Kidney energy.  Body hair is ruled by the Lungs.  Facial hair is governed by the Chong Mai (an interesting passage describes why eunuchs can’t grow facial hair).  Tonics can be devised to blacken hair which has gone grey, to make hair growth fuller or thicker, and to regrow lost hair.

Hair loss on the head can be due to excess yang ascending to the scalp and burning the hair (or turning it white), which can be seen in martial artists and men who eat too much meat.  This type of case need not be identical to a LV-yang rising case; red eyes and anger are not necessarily seen here.  Rather, the martial training has built up yang in the body, without a corresponding amount of yin to fully contain it.  Hair loss on the head can be caused by too much heat in the blood, as seen in areas where hot and spicy food is the norm.  thinning hair can also be due to a lack of nourishment.  This can be caused by either not enough blood or not enough jing ascending to the head, or it can be due to blood stasis in the head and scalp.  Finally, it can also be an issue of KD deficiency in general — what we might call “genetics” today.

Alopecia on the body is more complex, but is likely a manifestation of not enough ying qi moving outwards to nourish the skin and body hair.  this would be regulated by the Tai Yin system — Lungs and Spleen.  Incidentally, it is this system which can be called into play when trying to overcome a Kidney-based loss of head hair.  In this latter case, what we would want to do is harness post-natal qi and essence to support pre-natal qi and essence.  However, the real issue is that the prenatal essence isn’t imposing its pattern on the post-natal qi as well as it should, and so the Kidneys still need to be rectified, the minister fire addressed (perhaps via the Du Mai), and the TaiYin system clearly coupled to the ShaoYin channel.  In the case of loss of body hair, the TaiYang system would be called into play, since the TaiYang channel moves things to the exterior — including the nourishment needed by the body hair.

Hair herbs thus come in several varieties.  The Divine Farmer recommends that to prevent hair from turning white, one should consume Lan Shi and Qin Pi.  To blacken hair which has already turned white, use Bai Hao or Hei Zhi Ma (black sesame seed).  For preventing grey or turning hair back to black, He Shou Wu has long been regarded as the supreme tonic.

For baldness, Shen Nong refers us to  Ci Huang and Shi Liu Huang (sulphur).  i’m not certain how to use the latter herb, although I have heard of it being mixed with salt and placed in the navel, where moxa is burned on top of it.  This will strongly warm Kidney fire.  One of my herbal instructors also recommended a combination of Bu Gu Zhi, Gu Sui Bu, and a guiding herb such as Gao Ben to apply topically and take internally for baldness.

For more generalised hair loss, we could use Bai Xian.  Bai Xian Pi is used to relieve toxicity and damp heat, so this might be a very good herb for those undergoing chemotherapy (although I’ve read recent advances in drug technology can block the hair loss effect in chemo therapy).

As for an herbal formula to regrow head hair, Wang Qing-Ren makes a very strong claim for Tong Qiao Huo Xue Wan, so long as it is made with She Xiang, musk.  Since this formula is a very strong blood invigorator and opens the upper orifices to help expel wind cold, we may have another pathophysiology to consider in cases of baldness.

Qin Jiao is also said to help grow hair — whether one is bald or not — and could thus be used to help thicken the hair.  It relaxes the sinews and unblocks the collaterals, in cases where hair is simply blocked from sprouting out.  Together with He Shou Wu, we can regulate the LV and GB channels and a tonify the Kidneys.  Additionally, the two together will move and cool the blood and clear deficient heat.

What about acupuncture?  I’ve heard plum blossom on the scalp helps bring new blood to the area and release old and stagnant blood.  With a nice distal point on the Kidney and Liver channels, we could easily treat above and below, interior and exterior.

And the revenge on Cordelia?

Sang Ji Sheng, the mistletoe like herb which grows on the mulberry tree, is said to make one’s beard and eyebrows grow.  A little of that and Xander might realise he really is attracted to men…

Of course, with our luck, Cordelia with a beard will look like Salma Hayek as the bearded lady in Cirque du Freak, beautiful with or without facial hair.  But high schoolers might not be able to see that!

As always, this post is for theoretical and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from acupuncture or herbal medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!