Lies my Parents told me (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 17)

This episode sees two maternal backstories coming into open conflict, that of Principal Wood, and that of Spike.  Principal Wood’s mother had been a Slayer, and was killed by Spike sometime in the era of Afros and Disco.  (Spike ended up with her coat as a trophy.)  Spike had a different experience of his mother:  Soon after his own siring by Drusilla, Spike decided to make his mother into a vampire.  He unleashed a demon, who is thrilled to be rid of Spike.  Before Spike kills her (Spike seems to be a chronic matricide, it seems), Spike’s mother has a monologue in which she describes William as ‘slithering from her’ when he was born, calling him a ‘parasite’.

I figure I should have at least one post in this entire show which mentions gestation and parturition in Chinese medicine.  Overall, Angel is a better show for that topic, given the series of strange pregnancies that Cordelia and Darla experience.

In terms of acupuncture, the EVs are typically the channels most associated with gestation.  This applies both to the formation of the fetus as well as to the mother’s conception of the baby and holding the pregnancy to term.  As for labour, acupuncture on the primary channels can be used to induce labour (these points tend to be contraindicated during pregnancy, though whether or not they are strong enough to induce a miscarriage is debated).  When a fetus is malpositioned, moxa is burned at the end of the Bladder meridian, averting a breech birth situation.

Physiologically, herbal medicine has more to say on the topic of pregnancy.  Formulas abound for treating everything from difficulty in conceiving, ‘restless fetus syndrome’, difficult labour, eclampsia, retained lochia, bleeding after childbirth, and difficult lactation.

When it comes to the Channel Divergences, the most appropriate channel to discuss within the framework of early life is the Gallbladder Channel Divergence, particularly as its trajectory mirrors the San Jiao mechanism which is lit by a baby’s first breath.  The trajectory of the front San Jiao mechanism, like the GB CD, encompasses all the mu points.  Mu points are where the post-natal (qi from breath and food) supports the prenatal.

As developed by the Nan Jing (Classic of Difficulties) school, the San Jiao mechanism along the back establishes the shu points of the BL meridian. Along the front, it establishes the three Dan Tian. This occurs when the umbilical cord is cut and the infant must depend on its own breath for survival. The front mu points follow the creation cycle; the back shu points follow the control cycle. Pathology will progress either along the creation cycle (and follow the Fu organs) or the control cycle (and follow the Zang organs).

In other words, as mentioned in last week’s post, mu points are where blood supports jing.  For this reason, the GB-LV CD, which deals with blood, follows the BL-KD CD, which uses jing to contain a pathogen.  By the time a pathophysiology has progressed this far, the jing needs to draw on blood to support latency.  Harnessing the energetics of the mu points is one way to accomplish that.

As a theoretical side note, vampires, when sired, are sired through blood, not jing.  If they were to have an equivalent of mu points, they would more likely be related to Stomach, and to points where body fluids or perception (both associated with the upper orifices) support blood.  Humans enter this world through taking their first breath with the Lung organ.  Vampires re-enter through the Stomach (or possibly SP — an organ of incomplete transformation).  I wonder, would their primary channels then begin with the ST and end with LI?

In any event, I am examining Spike’s birth as a human, and to do so a little bit of information about the Gallbladder CD trajectory is in order.

The channel trajectory begins with GB30 (Huan Tiao).  This is one of the star points of Ma Dong-Yuan, and is used in alchemical acupuncture.   It is the point which allows a person to jump to heaven.  In this capacity, it also helps release grief.  In that case, what is grieved for is allowed its redemption.  Forgiveness is often the resolution of mourning.

From GB-30, the channel progresses anteriorly to the margin of the pubic hair at CV-2 or CV-3, where it meets up with the Liver primary channel.  That meeting continues onwards to the next point in the sequence, GB-25, the KD mu point.   In terms of five-phase energetics, this is the point at which wood supports water, or thought of another way, at which LV blood supports KD jing.  In terms of external medicine, this is where the sinews (yang of yang) support bones (yin of yang).  This is where the GB gains its ability to master the bones, as indicated in the Ling Shu.

From GB-25, the next point is LV-13, the SP mu and the mu point of the solid organs.  LV-13 also drains into GB-26, Dai Mai.  Looking at the physiology from a spirit-point perspective, this is the point at which mulling and pensiveness drain into the EV which will pass those unresolved thoughts to future progeny.  It can work in the opposite direction, though too, as the GB is an organ of courage and decisiveness.  In Channel Divergence physiology, this is where the GB CD is trying to draw up yuan qi of Dai Mai.  If the Dai Mai is full (i.e. cannot hold more latency), the mu points then fill, and the mu points become the areas of the body in which latency is held.  The GB CD brings blood to Mu points to support jing in its holding on of latent pathogens.  This creates mu point sensitivity.  Japanese acupuncture systems often use mu points diagnositically, relying on this type of pathophysiological process.

From the SP mu point, the channel then goes to GB-24, the GB mu point.  This point allows the pathogen and the channel to enter the GB organ.  From there, the channel passes into the Liver organ at the LV mu point, LV-14.  LV-14 is the point where the LV stores blood.  (In primary channel physiology, the combination LV-8 and LV-14 can be very effective in treating blood-deficient insomnia.)

The channel then diffuses out of the Liver and into the Heart, reaching CV-14, the HT mu point.  The physiological relationship here is one of LV blood supporting HT blood, yin, and qi.  That support continues at PC-1, the next point in the trajectory.  There, the LV is supporting jue-yin blood.  PC-1 and LV-14 are effective points in helping the body to clarify blood, in terms of six-channel energetics.  For reference, PC-1 is not the usual mu point for the PC, CV-17 is.  CV-17, however, is not on the GB Channel Divergence trajectory.

From PC-1, the channel passes upwards to ST-12, the doorway through which pathogens pass inwards or move outwards.  The channel then meets up with ST-9, ‘Welcome to humanity’.  This is a sea of blood point, so again, the relationship at this window to the sky point is one of blood supporting jing.  The point combines well with GB-30, for releasing emotions and holding patterns to heaven.

After ST-9, the channel goes to the root of the tongue at CV-23, meeting with Yin Wei Mai along the way.  If the mu points have already been filled, or if one of the upper orifices is blocked, the GB Channel Divergence will find a place to keep the pathogen latent at the next point, ST-5.   To release that latency, gua sha both this point and the SCM.  Note that releasing the pathogen in this manner may move the pathogen into the ST primary meridian, prompting a fever.  The wise physician would make certain that the ST channel is tonified enough that it can move the pathogen upwards and outwards.

After ST-5, the channel passes through CV-24 and then to GB-1.  GB-1 treats  ‘Jie’, that which binds up the eyes.  The channel has an affinity for the upper eyelids.  It is the first Channel Divergence to go to upper orifices themselves, passing by the ears on the way.

Ordinarily, I would think of combining a GB channel divergence treatment with Dai Mai EV treatments, or possibly a San Jiao mechanism oriented treatment.  Earlier, I mentioned that the LI CD is the wei qi which lit the San Jiao mechanism.  That implies a physiological relationship between the LI CD and GB CDs.  The treatment counsel of gua sha on ST-5 and the SCM, with the resulting possibility of using the primary channel of the ST to move the pathogen outwards — often through the LI primary channel — again highlights this connexion.  The two channels can be combined in a treatment session if the patient has enough blood to support jing, and yang is in need of resuscitation.  I would then follow that combination of treatments with a plain and simple San Jiao mechanism treatment, presented in the chart below.

The chart below describes the sequence of wei qi entering the body to ‘light’ the San Jiao fire and move jing into the respective organs, beginning the cycle of self-sufficient generation in a human body.  To treat a person, first needle ST-12, then, while retaining needles at ST-12, needle LU-1.  Needle ST-25 next, and remove the needles from ST-12.  Needle GB-25 next, and remove the needles at LU-1.  Continue in this fashion until the trajectory is completed.

At one point, after GB-25, the San Jiao mechanism splits, moving both upwards and downwards.  The treatment can either retain the needles at GB-25 and progress through either downward or upward movements to meet at CV-12, or the treatment can move simultaneously through both upward and downward trajectories.  I have not used this treatment often enough to determine which is more effective.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have discovered that your mother is a vampire and you wish to sever your umbilical attachment to her in order to live your own life, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy slayage!

Point Organ Mu Element Explanation
ST-12 Earth The basin into which breath goes from the nostrils, to enter the interior of the body and travel towards navel, where umbilical cord has been cut.
LU-1 Lungs Metal Breath travels to navel from ST-12 via this point. Breath “fans” the “pilot light” of KD Yang
ST-25 Large Intestine Metal Breath establishes connexion between LU-1 and ST-25.
GB-25 Kidney Water Goes to Dai Mai and connects to lower back (BL23, Du-4). Energy moving to KD. From here, qi goes up and goes down.

Downward movement:

Upward Parallel:
CV-3 Urinary Bladder Water Qi is still in water Needle LR-14, GB-24 while retaining CV-3
CV-5 San Jiao Water/ Fire SanJiao links Water with Fire Retain CV-17, and needle CV-5
CV-4 Small Intestine Fire Retain CV-14 and needle CV-4

Upward movement:

Downward Parallel
LR-14 Liver Wood Water moves into Wood CV-3
GB-24 Gallbladder Wood From Wood qi moves to the centre and Fire – PC CV-3
CV-17 Pericardium Fire Energy comes inwards from nipples (GB-24) and up from CV-3. Wood into Fire CV-5
CV-14 Heart Fire Heart is sovereign of ZangFu CV-4

Back into centre:

CV-12 Stomach Earth Energy returns to earth, the centre and the influential point of fu organs Retain CV-12, and needle LR-13
LR-13 Spleen Earth Influential point of Zang organs San Jiao ends at Influential points of Zang Fu

Tough Love (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 19)

Dawn has been skipping school.  If Buffy cannot provide Dawn with a ‘stable’ home as defined by ‘them’ (social workers, presumably), ‘they’ will take Dawn away.  As Buffy and Giles describe the situation, Buffy needs to put her foot down with Dawn.  Buffy pleads with Giles to be the one to put his foot down.  She needs strong feet.  Meanwhile, Willow flies off her feet after Tara is brain-sucked by Glory.

The GB luo point can be used to relieve anger, as I have mentioned in earlier posts on the emotions and luo vessels.  So I will revisit one of the luo channels to treat here  a very physical issue of the body:  the feet.

All the luo channels have at least one trajectory of their own, quite apart from the channel that connects the yin-yang pairs.  These longitudinal trajectories typically run towards the trunk of the body.  The exceptions are the LU luo, which runs to the thumb, and the GB luo, which runs to the foot.  Both trajectories are reflected in the particular pathologies associated with the channel.  The LU luo treats hot hands and stretching (depending on repletion or depletion); the GB luo treats inversion and limpness (again depending on repletion or depletion).  The GB luo vessel ends around ST-42, where it will enter more deeply into the body.

In a previous post, I suggested ‘inversion’ is akin to ‘introversion’; here, however, I’d like to suggest a more material meaning.  Inversion indicates the foot is inverted, rather than everted.  Some might call it being ‘pigeon-toed’.  It can be seen where the tibialis anterior muscle has become tight and the fibularis or peroneal muscles stretched and rigid, causing the sole of the foot, when not weight-bearing, to point sideways towards the midline.  This is an excess condition of the Gallbladder Luo:  the channel and its associated sinews are provided with too much blood, allowing the muscle to stretch more than necessary; but also perhaps with a certain degree of stagnation preventing new blood from coming to the area to restore proper balance.  The treatment, then, is to bleed GB-37.  If limpness were also present, moxa would be added to the treatment, to bring yang qi back to the area and revive it.  I would consider needling or applying moxa to ST-42 as well, to keep the pathogens from moving more deeply into the body.

Herbal treatments for the feet include Dan Shen and Wu Jia Pi, both of which treat weak feet, and Tong Cao (Caulis Akebia) treats cold feet.   I would add Niu Xi to the formula to guide the herbs to the legs and quicken the blood in cases of stagnation.  These herbs tend to the Liver and Kidney channels; so a combination treatment with acupuncture to draw qi and blood from the yin pair of the GB may be more effective than just the herbal medicine alone, in this case.  Qian Nian Jian may also be added if the padding of the feet is causing pressure on the bones, leading to breaks in the skin.  Qian Nian Jian may also be prepared as a soak.

Soaking the feet, in fact, may be one method of hardening them.  The method of hardening the skin of the hands through the use of medicinal soaks is well attested in the external medicine used by martial artists.  Usually, the formulas are given sequentially, as the person begins to train up to more intense levels.  A good beginning formula can be found in Thomas Richard Joiner’s book, The Warrior as Healer.  The first external formula for use in training is called Fang Sou Yi, and consists of  Zhang Nao, Bo He, Bing Pian (9g each), San Qi, Yu Jin, and Dang Gui (6g each), and She Xiang (3g).  Cure the ground herbs in 750 – 1000 mL of vodka (not more than 80 proof).  Cure for at least three months.  Massage the liniment into the skin before and after practice.  After 6 to 12 months, when the student no longer feels tingling from the application of the formula, he or she is ready to move on to the next level.  This formula is for EXTERNAL USE ONLY.  (The Bing Pian and Zhang Nao — borneol and camphor — are toxic when taken internally at doses more than a few tenths of a gram.)

As always, these posts are for informational and educational purposes only.  If you feel your training and practice could benefit from the traditions of Chinese medicine, please see a qualified practitioner. 

Happy slayage!

Checkpoint (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 12)

The episode about power.  I love Buffy’s near monologue towards the end of the episode.  ‘I have something she wants.  I have power over her.’  Buffy’s power over the Watcher’s Council is to give meaning to their leaves.  That is considerable power.

The organ to which power relates is the Gallbladder.  Not the Heart, though this is the emperor; not the Pericardium, which functions as the Confucian minsters who tell the emperor when to act.  Not the Liver, with the office of general strategising the allocation of defensive and nutritive resources.  The Gallbladder is the ‘magic’ organ, one of the extraordinary organs embodying the union of jing and shen, particularly at GB-39 and GB-13.  It stores jing, but also moves it outwards.  As a ShaoYang organ, it directs its attention to deciding when a person should retreat and when a person should advance.  When warm and harmonious, it lends courage to the individual.  It masters the bones, and through the luo-point GB-37 affects the blood.

The GallBladder luo is concerned with redefinition and options. Like the rotational movement of the Gallbladder Shaoyang channel, the GB luo helps one to see options.  This is reflected in its name, Guang Ming, ‘Bright Clarity’.  In excess, pathology of the GB luo manifests as inversion.  The person is stuck trying to re-invent him or herself, seeing too many options for the personality to fill in the world — not uncommon during a job search, perhaps.  In depletion, limpness and an inability to sit up and take action are presenting symptoms.  The effects of prolonged job searching, perhaps!

Buffy’s GB luo seems to be functioning in perfect balance.  It does not need treatment — but it did give an opportunity to talk about its role in the healthy functioning of our heroine.

I would treat the Gallbladder luo with herbal formulae based Wen Dan Tang.  A useful variation of the base formula for deficiency conditions without heat is Shi Wei Wen Dan Tang.  The ingredients include Zhi Ban Xia, to clear phlegm and regulate stomach qi; note that the Stomach is responsible for generating blood.  Zhi Shi and Chen Pi both regulate qi. Fu Ling drains dampness and can quiet the spirit, leading the herbs towards the heart. Suan Zao Ren, nourishes the heart, calming the mai-vessel/pulses.  Yuan Zhi, clears phlegm from the heart and re-establishes communication between the Heart and Kidney. Wu Wei Zi restrains the essence, while Shu Di Huang and Ren Shen together nourish the marrow and lead herbs towards the jing-level.  Zhi Gan Cao, Sheng Jiang, and Da Zao are a common triad to regulate the relationship between interior and exterior qi, nourish the blood, and warm the channels.  Although nothing specifically goes to the Gallbladder, together, the herbs treat the functions of the Gallbladder — its relation to jing, to blood, and to marrow; its effect on the spirit (the GB is said to be the ‘tranquil’ organ), and its nourishing relationship to the heart.

As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from the wisdom of Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

Fear Itself (Buffy Season 4, Episode 4)

On the face of it, this is an episode about fear — or more precisely, a psychological study of each character’s own particular personal insecurities.  Buffy can’t protect the whole group, Oz fears the wolf inside him will overpower him, Xander feels invisible, Willow has her own fears about her ability to produce workable magic, and Anya is focused on Xander.  Like the fear demon who appears at the end of the episode, each person’s fear is only a small thing which gets magnified out of proportion when attention — in this episode, going around in circles in a labryinthine fraternity house; in real life, a perpetual mulling in the mind, heart, or soul — is fixed on it.  A closer look at the script reveals another theme emerging in bits and pieces throughout the episode:  a preoccupation with the face.  This post will therefore treat the topic of Chinese medical facial diagnosis.

(For those interested in fear and mulling, as separate phenomena, please see my earlier posts on Season 3, episodes 8 and 13, and Season 2, Episode 6.)

The episode begins with Xander’s attempt at creating a ferociously scary expression on his pumpkin ending up merely dryly sardonic.  Willow and Oz chip in by noting its mocking eyes and nose of self-loathing.  A perfectly systematic face reading, though geared strictly towards expressiveness, rather than medicine.  Meanwhile, Buffy is going through a post-Parker depression and ‘what’s wrong with me’ self-perception.  (My post on the Season 2 Halloween episode treats comfort with one’s self.)  Buffy’s pumpkin is left as a  “freak with no face”.  Later, Joyce gets “nostalgia face” in a mother-daughter encounter over Buffy’s Little Red Riding Hood costume.   Eyes come back into the picture when peeled grapes turn into literal eyeballs at the now haunted frat house.  After the gang arrives, Willow lashes out at Buffy, saying her face is 50/50.  Xander himself cannot be seen, due to his fear of his own invisibility to his friends, although he does note that bloody face in corner can see and speak to him.  Oz fears his wolf-face, although in this instance ‘face’ isn’t mentioned as such.  Finally, we note the illustration of the fear demon’s appearance (actual size) led Buffy not to want to fight it, if possible.  Of course, once they discovered the demon’s actual size, thoughts changed…

Facial Diagnosis in Chinese medicine consists of two aspects:  quality and quantity.  Quantity is governed by dividing up the face into sections which reflect parts of the body (or life). Several systems emerged during the course of Chinese history, the most popular of which superimposes a figure over the face so that its abdomen covers the nose, the arms wrap the eyes, the legs cross lotus-style around the mouth, and the head is at yin-tang or just above, in the centre of the forehead.  This system therefore treats the nose as the site at which the state of the viscera is ascertained, while the bowels or external areas are viewed along the edge of the nose.  The Lungs are uppermost, between the eyes, below which is the Upper Pivot, then the Heart (some texts place the Heart in between the eyes, and the Lungs in between the eyebrows), a place marked ‘On the Road’, the Liver, the Spleen, and the tip is called ‘wang mian’.  Beside the nose are the stomach; beside the corners of the mouth, the small intestine, and above that and towards the corner of the jaw is the large intestine.  The Kidneys are just in front of the ears, near the ‘Three Silly Geese’ acupuncture points (TH21, SI19, GB3).  Manuscript P. 3390, housed in the Biblioteque Nationale offers some illustrations of medieval physiognomy charts from Dun Huang, and are reproduced in Lo and Cullen’s book treating the Dun Huang medical texts, Medieval Chinese Medicine.

Quality is found by looking at lustre, colour, suppleness, blood (vessels), and blemishes with regard to the skin of the face. While lustre gives an indication of fluid balance in the body, and the presence of spider veins indicates pathology in a particular channel (e.g. along the zygoma would indicate a Small Intestine Luo Vessel issue, dealing with discomfort at or desire for attention from others), by far the most important aspect to look at is the overall colour of the complexion. The colours of the complexion differ from mere skin colour.  Just as the state of blood can be seen as if through the gauze of the skin, so also can the sort of colours described in the classics be seen ‘through’ or ‘reflecting out of’ the facial complexion.

The colours noted in the classics typically follow a five-phase pattern:  cyan indicates wood, red fire, yellow earth, white metal, and black water.  However, facial diagnosis also paid attention to prognosis, and these colours were distinguished into auspicious and inauspicious colours.  For example, if the complexion was black like double lacquered boxes or a crow’s feather, the patient would live; if it was a dull black like coal, the patient would die.  Likewise, cinnabar red or cockscomb red was positive; a complexion of ochre, coagulated blood, and dry red leaves foretold death.  Indigo indicated poor prognosis, but as did the colour of young or wet grass and lichen.  However, cyan like the wings of a mandarin duck, a wheat shoot, foliage, jade, or a blue-green wall were all positive signs of health.  White like quicklime and dried bone was inauspcious, while soft white like a goosefeather, or lustrous white like porkfat and precious jade signified recovery.  Yellow earth like the hearth was a poor prognosis, but that like silk thread or a crab’s belly was better.

Eyes are sometimes looked at, too, for their overall expression, catchlights, and sclera colour.  Glassy or shiny eyes indicate a shen disturbance, usually one needing to be anchored.  Dull eyes indicate that the Heart needs nourishment.  More detailed analysis of the eyes, or specifically the iris, falls into the realm of iridology.

Huang Fu Mi writes, “Complexion,pulse, and cubit skin correspond with one another… So it follows then that a cyan complexion will be accompanied by a wiry pulse; a red complexion by a hook-like pulse; a yellow complexion by an interrupted pulse; white by a hair pulse; and black by a stone-like pulse.  If one observes a certain complexion and it is not accompanied by its pulse but rather by the pulse of its restraining phase, then this portends death.  If by the engendering phase, recovery.”  (Jia Yi Jing Scroll 4, Chpater 2, Part 1, section 1.)

Taking the Jia Yi Jing approach, treatment would then follow a five-phase approach, in which the meridian to be treated corresponds to the facial complexion; points would be selected based on the pulse indications of generating or controlling cycle.  Alternately, a Ling Shu approach could follow the same method of diagnosing an elemental pair of meridians, but the points selected for needling would then nuance the treatment to address whether the illness varied by time of day, whether it was hot or cold, affected the meridian or organs, or was due to some form of blood stagnation.

As always, this post is for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from Chinese Medical approaches to health, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

The Harsh Light of Day (Buffy Season 4, Episode 3)

Ah, the beginning of college.  So many people to meet, so many interesting personalities to encounter.  Looks like the time for all sorts of new sexual relationships to begin, too, at least in Sunnydale (Xander-Anya; Buffy-Parker; Spike-Harmony).  And with those new sexual relationships come the possibility of infectious diseases.  As one clinician commented to me once, ‘this is what happens when you put college men and women together at the start of the year.  Everyone just goes [sex-]crazy.’

(As a side note, this episode made me realise that Spike is the embodiment of Buffy’s relationship shadow.  He’s the one who always spoke clearly about her relationship with Angel, and in this episode he appears right after Buffy is figuratively punched in the stomach by Parker.)

Lucky for Spike, he prefers syphilis to Harmony.  Given Harmony’s petulance, I can see why.  While I might suggest a Japanese KD channel treatment for Harmony, to centre her enough that she is no longer needy, has a sense of self that she can manage, stop her whining (the sound of Kidney water is groaning, which could include whining, like ice giving way in the winter), and give her the confidence to be alone and at peace, it is Spike’s syphilis, and another spirochete bacteria, Lyme’s disease, that I want to address in this post.

Syphilis was difficult to treat, both in Asia and in Europe (and later, after colonisation, the Americas and Africa as well).  Today, powerful antibiotics have proven fairly successful in treating syphilis, and I typically refer patients I suspect of having an STI out to an allopathic clinic.  Since herbal medicine acts more slowly than pharmaceuticals, and since STIs are very easy to transmit, it makes more sense from a public health perspective.

Historically, one reason syphilis was difficult to treat is because it appears to goes away, becoming latent in the body, only to re-emerge as ‘secondary’ and ‘tertiary’ syphilis.  Therefore, it is difficult to know if a cure was effected.  Interestingly, mercury was used in both Western and Eastern medicine, and a homeopathic tincture is still given to people who have inherited a certain syphilitic pattern from their grandparents.  The indications for this medication remarkably parallel descriptions of when mercury was indicated for use in the Shen Nong Ben Cao.  Because homeopathic tinctures have no identifiable active substances — the poisons have been tinctured away into incredible minute quantities — it raises the question of whether a purified form of mercury, amalgamated with other substances to destroy its toxicity, was used, similar perhaps to how mercury-containing compounds are still used in Tibetan medicine today.  This idea becomes all the more potent when one considers that homeopathic tinctures often have the opposite effect of what their constituent substances have.  In other words, if the description of mercury’s effects in the Shen Nong Ben Cao parallel those of the homeopathic materia medica, it stands to reason that actual mercury was not being used, but rather some modified form of it.

Speculations about mercury aside, both syphilis and Lyme’s disease are caused by the rather novel class of bacteria called spirochetes.  Both have a tendency to go latent.  Therefore, the Channel Divergences, which are specifically concerned with latent pathogens, are an ideal place to begin looking for diagnostic clues.  Since we don’t have an actual case in front of us, let us turn to the herbal tradition first, and see what possible channels we can derive from there.

Herbally, Tu Fu Ling, or smilax glabra, was used to treat syphilis (in addition to mercury).  Tu Fu Ling relieves toxicity, eliminates dampness, clears heat, and goes to the Liver and Stomach channels.  Interestingly, in the Buddhist tradition, heat is a form of desire; so this herb may also help regulate sexual desire (although by the time someone contracted syphilis from over-frequenting brothels, or from a partner who did so, such regulation might be considered too late; at the very least, it may stem transmission, however).  For these purposes, it was often combined with Jin Yin Hua (which also relieves toxicity, and goes to the LU/LI and ST channels) and Bai Xian Pi, cortex Dictamni.  Bai Xian Pi goes to the Spleen and Stomach channels and eliminates dampness and damp-heat, including dampt-heat bi.

From these three herbs, we can think of the ST/SP, LI/LU, and possibly the GB/LV channel divergences as possible places to start.  However, since only one of the herbs is specific to bi-syndrome, namely Bai Xian Pi, I would suggest we look at the ST/SP channel divergence first.

Usually, I think of the ST/ SP channel divergence when I am confronted with someone who has food allergies, IBS, or other digestive problems.  However, the opening point for this channel divergence is ST-30, which happens to be associated with the Chong Mai, and thus with the blood.  The ST/SP CD is particularly concerned with using fluid, usually to support blood, but also to allow the opening of the upper orifices.  the sensory orifices rely on pure yang fluids to function properly.

The other function of the ST/ SP CD is to treat cases of phlegm misting the orifices, both the upper orifices in the case of cataracts, and the orifices of the Heart.  In this respect, one can see how an unresolved pathogen like Lyme’s disease can progress to the SI/ HT CD, symptoms of which include neurological problems.  These problems, from the point of view of Classical Chinese medicine do not begin spontaneously; they have a history.  That history involves the consumption and drying of fluids.  The first signs may be fever and thirst, middle signs numbness and tingling of the limbs, and the latter signs occur after the pathogen has depleted the thin fluids, and the body must now draw on thick fluids supplied by the SI/ HT CD.  In the case of the SP CD, phlegm-fluid is trying to block wind, that is, neurological symptoms, from moving to the head.  The treatment goal, then, is to release the wind and generate fluid.

The point selection would then be ST-30 (opening point), ST-9 (opens the orifices), CV-23 (for poor memory), BL-1 (closing point).  CV-12 or CV-14 could be added, depending on symptoms; CV-12 disperses into the Spleen (being the root of SP-1), while CV-14 would help any HT or Shen related symptoms.  The points would be needled in pairs ascending the body, or looped from healthy side to unhealthy side, so that the final point ends up being SP-1 or ST-45.  The needle technique would be shallow-deep-shallow, if trying to expel the pathogen.  If the person has no fluids in reserve, then the needle technique would be deep-shallow-deep, in order to promote latency.  I would then consider nourishing the HT and ye-fluids with herbal medicine (Zeng Ye Tang comes to mind:  Xuan Shen, Shu Di, Mai Dong).

Regarding the GB/LV channel divergence, which is the other possibility based on herbal theory, I would note that in Europe a small purplish node sometimes occurs on the scrotum, near the nipple, or on the earlobe not long after infection.  All these areas are associated with the LV or GB channel divergence.  The GB/LV CD is usually affected before the ST/SP CD.  This might come about in the case of Lyme’s disease when the person has adequate physiological fluids, or when the pathogen enters directly into the blood, which is stored by the LV.  (Thus, from the tick’s connection to the blood, a pathology can manifest in the Sea of Blood — the Chong Mai, ST-30; or in the LV, which stores the Blood.)

The treatment points would then be CV-2 or CV-3 (top of pubic hair is what the Ling Shu states); LV-13 (SP mu point, drains into Dai Mai); ST-5 (holds latency); GB-1 (closing point)

Finally, if we think of the skin as the point of entry, we could look at the LI/ LU channel divergence.  Only two points are common to both channels, ST-12, LI-18.  I might use this for the initial stages, perhaps, when infection is only skin-deep, but once a rash has developed, I would stick to either the ST-SP or GB-LV Channel Divergence, if treating exclusively with acupuncture.

As always, although based on actual Classical Chinese medical theory, this post is for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from the traditions and techniques of Chinese Medicine, please find a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

The Freshman (Buffy Season 4, Episode 1)

It’s that time of year again:  Fresher’s week is approaching at my University; many other Universities are already a month into the school year. Buffy is bewildered by college life and having difficulty adjusting to classes (not having signed up for them in time), while Willow is immersed in her element, ecstatic over being penetrated by knowledge, letting it spurt all over the place. I particularly liked the audio choice when she walks into the library for the first time.

UC Sunnydale, though, looks suspiciously like UCLA…

This episode was filled with conditions which can be treated with the use of a single primary channel, the Foot Shao-Yang, Gallbladder meridian, and we will focus on a few key points along that channel.

Like freshmen, being a little bit lost in life and constantly twisting about is an attribute of the ShaoYang sinew channel. It particularly allows one to rotate externally, to go out in the world and make choices. It sounds like Buffy could have used a little bit of release along the ShaoYang at the end of last season — she was so focused on moving straight ahead (a TaiYang attribute), that she didn’t see the other tasks beside her: like making a course selection at UC Sunnydale. GB-44 and GB-37, in combination with ah-shi points on the GB channel, could be used in a sinew vessel treatment for this restrictive attitude.

I would note though, that from going too tight, the sinew vessel in Buffy has gone too slack — a classic inversion of yang to yin. In this case, perhaps adding GB-34, the meeting point of the sinews, would help even out the balance. GB-29, on the Yang Qiao Mai, the extraordinary vessel used when the yin is slack and the yang is tense, could also be considered. (The opening point for the Yang Qiao Mai is UB-62.)

Buffy’s wrist gets broken, or at least seriously twisted by a vampire in this episode. The Nei Jing mentions that the Gallbladder ‘masters’ the bones. This attribute can particularly be seen in the point GB-39 and GB-34, which, along with BL-11, are useful in treating broken bones. GB-39 is the meeting point of marrow. According to Classical Chinese physiology marrow gives suppleness and nourishment to the bones, while the sinews help stablise and shape them as they grow.

It is interesting to note the centrality of psychology class in this episode. My freshman pysch professor told us all the first day that he gives out only 2 ‘A’s in the entire class of 300. (I have it on good authority that he also gave out two ‘A-‘ grades.) We were also required to sign up during the course of the semester for a certain number of experiments to be performed on us by grad students… The Gallbladder itself, like the Brain, is a curious organ, and its channel is an access point to those extraordinary organs. We’ve already mentioned GB-39, which is the meeting point of marrow; the brain is the ‘Sea of Marrow’. At least one commentator (N. Sivin) has called these two extraordinary organs part of the ‘medullary system’ in Chinese Medicine. This is not the only point to affect the brain, however, and I would point the reader to GB-13, ‘Ben Shen’ or ‘Root of the Affect’ as a key point for any patient struggling to change or stabilise their mind. GB-18 ‘Cheng Ling’ or ‘Spirit Support’ and GB-19, ‘Nao Kong’ or ‘Brain Hollow’ are two points to think about when someone is overwhelmed by too many ideas and can’t think ‘straight’, impeding the ability to make decisions. Both are also used in the treatment of vertigo and epilepsy.

The other aspect by which the GB can ‘master’ the bones is reflected at the start of the Gallbladder’s external channel: GB-1, GB-2, and GB-3 all line the zygoma, which is considered the Master Bone in the body (and is usually associated with the Small Intestine meridian and the Ye, or thick fluids). This bone’s function in Chinese Medicine bears some similarity to the sphenoid bone’s importance in osteopathy. The sphenoid’s movement, floating amid other bones, reflects or relates to the overall movement and breathing patterns of the body. Further down the channel, at the mastoid process, GB-12 is called ‘Completion Bone’, and should not be overlooked in regard to the GB’s relationship to bones.

Willow’s comments about thrusting, spurting, penetrating… knowledge make me think that her Dai Mai could be regulated. GB-41 is the opening point of the Dai Mai, while GB-26 bears that name, and is itself located on the channel. She may have a little bit of damp-heat in the GB channel, which could be drained by using the Ying-Spring point at GB-43.

The Gallbladder channel’s realm of influence does not directly translate into herbal medical terms related to the Gallbladder. That is, one wouldn’t think of using herbs to address the Gallbladder in the case of broken bones; instead we would use herbs which work on the Kidneys, or possibly on the Yang. However, two herbal remedies which would prove useful for this episode include Wan Dai Tang — Secure the Dai Mai or End Discharge Decoction — which, aside from Chai Hu, does not really have any Gallbladder oriented herbs.  The other option is Warm the Gallbladder, which, following its original formula with 12g of Sheng Jiang and no Zhu Ru, might help Buffy’s self-confidence and courage return.

 

As always, although based on Classical or Traditional Chinese Medical theory and thus applicable in the clinic, these posts are for entertainment purposes only. If you feel you could benefit from the insights of Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

The Zeppo (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 13)

The previous episode was the first intimation that it is all about power.  This episode, however, seems to be all about fear.  We see Xander afraid and hiding at the beginning of the episode.  Later, Buffy, Willow and Giles are afraid for Xander, as they battle the apocalypse.  Finally, we also see Jack O’Toole (yet another zombie) make a decision out of fear (or self preservation, really).  Ultimately, the episode portrays not just fear but also the courage to act in the face of fear.

The episode also portays Oz being unable to remember what happens when he turns into a werewolf, and he complains of being mysteriously full at the end of the show.

What is the physiology of fear and courage in Chinese medicine?

In terms of the seven emotions, fear and fright are differentiated by their effects.  Fright scatters the qi; fear causes it to strongly descend (as in, “I’m shitting my pants” descend).  In five element correspondences, fear is associated with the kidneys, which also correspond to cold.  We all know what it feels like to have one’s blood run cold when we’re frightened by something.  But if someone is afraid, we wouldn’t necessarily treat the kidney channel — we would treat the GallBladder channel.  Why?

The Liver and the Gallbladder are paired wood organs.  The Liver is often associated with anger, the drive to move forward, like a general commanding the armies.  The Gallbladder, on the other hand, is the yang organ of the pair, and is like the soldier in the thick of battle, the one who must show the most courage and make the actual decisions.  The Gallbladder, then, is the organ of courage.

In fact, in former times, the formula Wen Dan Tang, Warm the Gallbladder Decoction, was prescribe for Gallbladder and Heart qi deficiency, one of whose key signs was timidity.  The Gallbladder was cold.  It preferred to stay bundled up and not face the world.  It also could transmit that chill to one’s marrow — and feeling fear deep in one’s bones is a manifestation of that type of physiology.  In this case, the chill would have been transmitted through the Gallbladder points which control the marrow — GB-39.

Note that a Song dynasty commentary on this Tang dynasty formula attributes cold to a blockage of the warming ability of minister fire due to the build-up of phlegm.  We mentioned phlegm in an earlier context, concerned with guilt and the kidneys.  Here we see one possible progression of that pathophysiology.

The original formula of Wen Dan Tang, according to Bensky contains 12g sheng jiang, 9g chen pi, 6g zhu ru, 6g zhi shi, 6g zhi ban xia, and 3g gan cao (plus one da zao), a considerably warmer formula than today.

In terms of acupuncture physiology, I would look at jiao-hui points and treat the liao points on the sacrum and the points on the back of the scalp.

Why those places?  Have you ever wondered why the back of your neck prickles when you’re scared, or why you get a tingling feeling at the base of your spine when you watch a scary movie?  Those are the two areas of the body where the Bladder and Gallbladder channels meet.  The Bladder is summoning the qi of the Gallbladder to help the body prepare for making quick decisions in the face of fear.

The Bladder, remember, is TaiYang, which is the channel responsible for going out into the world, for facing one’s fears.  The Gallbladder, of course, is ShaoYang, responsible for twisitng and turning, making choices — like fight or flight.  Together, we have the dynamic of manifesting destiny in action, the movement of minister fire outwards into life.  In this way, we can understand how phlegm blocking the minister fire mechanism will impact a person’s ability to live out their destiny.

We can thus choose from the following crossing points BL1; GB15; GB7, GB8, GB9, GB10, GB11 (yin portals of the head), GB12; BL11 (hui of bones and sea of blood); GB-23; BL31, BL32, BL-33, BL34; GB-30.

Of these points, GB11, GB12 and BL-11 would make a nice triplet to release neck tension for people who feel they are constantly fighting battles and consequently don’t sleep well.  Most people love warming needle technique on BL31– BL34.

Most jiao-hui points, that is, points in which two meridians cross, can be looked at in terms of the physiology I’ve just pointed out with regard to the Bladder and Gallbladder.  What are the two meridians responsible for?  When do those two areas of responsibility overlap?  When do those areas tingle or respond to events and situations?  What might the association between those channels and those situations be?

As for Oz’s mysterious case of fullness following the eventful night, a little Hawthorne berry tea — Shan Zha — will help with food stagnation due to excess meat consumption.  Hawthorne berry is also said to be beneficial for hypertension and high cholesterol in the blood.

As always, this post is for entertainment and theoretical purposes only.  If you feel Asian medicine may help you show more courage in life, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

It’s all about fear.

Xander is afraid. O’Toole is afraid. The Scoobies are afraid for Xander. But Xander faces his fears. His Gallbladder is strong.

Wen Dan Tang.

Homecoming (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 5)

Gotta love Faith.  When she’s loyal, she’s loyal.

In this episode we see her notice Buffy’s recent and sudden ex, Scott, dancing with a new girl.  So Faith approaches Scott, puts her arms around him and tells him that she went to see the doctor about that itchy, burning, swelling (motioning to the pelvic area) will go away if only they keep using that ointment he gave them.

Talk about nipping a romance in the bud.

I’ve encountered this sort of presentation in the acupuncture clinic, and usually I refer the patient to an allopathically trained doctor for tests to clarify the condition.  In cases of STDs, antibiotics are administered.  I would love to test the efficacy of herbal preparations in these cases, but I’m a pragmatist, and the line of work these patients are sometimes involved in would not permit such a study without posing a risk to public health.  In cases of Urinary Tract Infections, however, herbal medicine can be of some use.

Itchiness, burning, and swelling in the lower warmer — sounds like symptoms of damp heat or wind heat.  The pathogens may be trapped in the lower warmer, and can cause yellowish or whitish discharge in men and women, painful urination, swollen genitals and itchiness in the groin.

If these symptoms are accompanies by headache, hypochondriac pain, irritability and a bitter taste in the mouth, then we would diagnose excess heat in the Liver and Gallbladder meridians.  Long Dan Xie Gan Tang is the typical herbal remedy that would be chosen.

On the other hand, if the pathogen seems mostly external, with scanty urine and weakness of the legs and back, red and swollen knees, and a thick yellow tongue coat, we could be lead to a diagnosis of damp-heat in the lower warmer, and opt to choose Er Miao San as the herbal remedy of choice.  This is also reputed to be an effective option for treating jock itch.

In either case, I would want to work with the Dai Mai in order to drain damp heat from the Gallbladder, Liver, or Lower Warmer regions.  The opening point for the Dai Mai is GB-41.  I would follow this up with either GB-27 when heat is greater than damp or GB-28 when damp is greater than heat.  Both these points lie on the Dai Mai channel itself.  I would likely choose to close the treatment with points on the Ren Mai, in order to nourish yin.  CV-3 (mu point of the Bladder), CV-4 (mu point of the Small Intestine, which can drain heat from the Heart and out through the urine), and CV-5 (mu point of the Triple Heater, which regulates the amount of heat and moisture in all three portions of the body — chest, abdomen, pelvis) all are appropriate in this case.  I would then close with LU-7, which happens to not only be the opening point for the Ren Mai, it also activates the Lungs ability to disperse fluids.

A note on why I would want to nourish yin in this case.  Heat (and wei qi) has a tendency to consume yin.  If the pathology were to continue unchecked, yin would eventually become depleted.  If, on the other hand, the heat is a result of the body trying to burn off dampness, then we coudl surmise that the body was holding onto dampness in an effort to compensate for a lack of yin physiological fluids.  Either way, in cases of damp heat, one should carefully evaluate the state of yin prior to the onset of current symptoms.

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

Happy Slayage!

What’s My Line, Parts One and Two (Buffy, Season 2)

It always used to baffle me in school when the Liver was targeted as the source of all emotions.  At least any emotion which could in any way be linked with Anger — frustration, rage, irritation, annoyance.  Even when these emotions could be manifestations of heat harassing the Heart, heat in the blood, be rooted in fear, or grief, or guilt — treat the Liver, we seemed to be told.  Especially LV-3, unless you really wanted to calm things down, in which case you would be advised to choose LV-2.

I hated having these points used on me, and they always seemed counterproductive to curing me from my ills of frustration at what I perceived as a superficial evaluation of various situations.

Unfortunately, in a closed system like the 5 phases, with a little massaging, any ailment can be pegged down to any phase; certainly, if one phase is out of balance, it has the capacity to affect all others.  This is one reason why I prefer to focus on physiology and invoke the full set of channel systems, especially in these theoretical treatment plans.

Anger comes in many forms, and between the two episodes which comprise “What’s My Line” we have several examples, to examine, each of which will get its own short summary, diagnosis and treatment.

We first see Giles snapping at Xander’s constant wisecracking.  I’ve worked in an office with someone who has a continual shtick, and frankly, I can related to Giles.  Sometimes one needs space in order to think — and while the Liver rules boundaries, Giles’ explosion of frustration at Xander cannot be termed a pathological reaction.  It was quite appropriate, especially seeing that Giles immediately apologised (and Xander shut up).

An inability to focus and concentrate can be attributed to the Spleen not gathering, or not housing intent.  (In school we would then be led to the conclusion that the Liver was obviously attacking the Spleen, causing it to be disrupted.)  The Spleen also stores the ying, and I wonder if one could postulate that the intent resides in the ying?   Its movement is upward, and it links with the gathering and concentrating forces of the Lung through their Tai Yin relationship.  Therefore, I would treat Giles with LU-5 and SP-10, the he-uniting points on the Tai Yin channel.  These points invigorate blood (and ultimately the marrow or brain), and treat issues whose origin is diet, that is, stimulation one takes in from the outside.  The herbal treatment would be Yu Ping Feng San, in which Huang Qi secures the exterior from distraction, Bai Zhu strengthens the Spleen’s intent, and to mollify those who still insist on LV involvement, I’d switch out the Fang Feng with Bo He or Sang Ye, to release the exterior and soothe the Liver.

Buffy has a very nice outburst against Oz, pinning him to the wall.  Good thing it wasn’t Cordelia; Buffy’s already made the impression of being high strung on her in Season One.  Oz diagnoses Buffy as merely “intense” — and I would say this is actually a case of Kidney excess, which is described in the Nei Jing as an excess of courage.  We could also see it as a hyperactivity of Kidney yang, such as we see in patients right before they come down with adrenal exhaustion.  Since we don’t want to disperse the Kidneys, as they tend to deficiency, we can choose instead to use a Sinew Vessel approach and release the exterior to vent some of the excess yang energy.  I would needle ah shi points along the Shao Yin channel, especially since our heroine is confronting the need to rotate quickly and effectively in defending against the assassins sent out against her (and this rotation is inward, martial, not outward, balletic — in which case we would use ShaoYang, which does bear a relationship to both the LV via GB and to KD yang via TW).  Treatment can end with KD-3 being needled, after KD-1 has been moxabust, in order to consolidate the yang in her kidneys.  Herbal treatment would be form the Tang Ye Jing Fang and consist of Zhu Ye, Fu Ling, and Mai Men Dong to cool the blood, calm the Heart, and mildly drain the Kidneys.

Cordelia and Xander get angry at one another and then get passionate with one another.  This is clearly Liver in all its variations — including its connection to the organs of generation.  This is physiology:  KD water giving birth to LV wood (no pun on Xander intended).  It need not be treated, since the two are being discreet and observing the proper social boundaries of a fictitious Confucian village in Southern California.

Kendra gets angry at Buffy for insulting her lack of imagination.  In some ways we can see this as Kidney water being insulted by Spleen earth — the self at war with society.  Or we can simply  assume the shedding of blood is inevitable in this sort of situation and treat it with a luo vessel protocol.  PC-6, SP-4 are first bled, since the cause of the anger is known (otherwise, LU-7 and LV-5 would have been chosen).  GB-37 is used since anger is the outward manifestation of the emotion associated with the Liver.  If I were using a sinew vessel approach to treat an acute emotion, I would have chosen the Tai Yang channel since the Bladder defends the Kidneys, or self.  I would not choose an herbal remedy for this, except perhaps Wu Wei Zi tea, just to calm the heart and bring things back to centre.

Drusilla is clearly, if dementedly, angry at Angel, still grieving the loss of her family to his predations before he sired her.  We’ve already diagnosed her as having Spleen weakness, but it has been at least a century since all this happened — during which time she accompanied Angelus and Darla across Europe.  So obviously, she has trouble letting go, and since this is something which was embodied in her around the time of her “birth”, I would be tempted to use an EV approach.  However, I think we could use the luo vessels of the Extraordinary Channels and combine an EV with a Luo vessel protocol.  Bleed CV-15 and Du-1, to release the emotions which were embodied in her “blueprint” for life.  One might consider bleeding KD-4 and TW-5 first, since we are working on the pre-natal, constitutional level, but I’m not sure this is necessary.  Lu-7, one of the best points to treat grief, also opens the Ren Mai, so why not throw that in as a needled point?  SI-3, an earth point on a fire channel might help bury some of the simmer emotions Drusilla still carries.  Herbs I would give Drusilla would be E Jiao )to stop the emotional hemorrhaging and resonate with the EV level) and Fu Xiao Mai.  This latter herb calms the shen and is also used in the Orthodox Church at memorials for the Dead, prepared into a dish called “kolyva” in Greek.  It thus serves a dual role, and would be appreciated by a nun of the Catholic Church, even one in Drusilla’s state.  I actually had a Greek patient who was mourning the death of her husband of several decades, and after the forty day memorial at which kolyva was served, the grieving became more peaceful.  Ever since I have associated Gan Mai Da Zao Tang with mourning unsettling the shen.

Finally, we also see Spike angry at his Grandsire Angel for insulting his manhood.  Spike apparently isn’t pleasing Drusilla the way Angel could, and Angel can feel her frustration.  Spike lashes out at Angel and nearly stakes him, but for the intervention of Drusilla.  Herbally, I would consider Si Ni Tang, to warm the ice-cold extremity giving Spike his problems, but while that may be the source of his issues, it doesn’t touch the emotional outburst we are considering.  The physiology in this case is one of fear giving rise to anger; the points I would use are along the sacrum, where the Bladder channel meets with the Gallbladder, or along the neck, where the same phenomenon occurs.  Usually, I think of the tingling at the base of the spine or on the back of the neck as fear (the emotion of the Kidneys as carried by the Bladder) trying to mobilise courage (the virtue of the Gallbladder).  Perhaps all Spike’s pent up jing is generating heat to arouse the more forceful aspects of the wood element.  In any event, I would also root this emotional outburst in the Kidneys.

So, to recap:  we have used sinew vessels, primary meridians, extraordinary vessels, and luo channels to address the various manifestations of anger.  We have discovered root causes in the Spleen not gathering, the Lungs not releasing, Kidney water being disturbed, and Liver acting outwards in a non-pathological manner.  We have not addressed heat in the blood whereby we could cool the heart via the small intestine, nor have we yet used the Channel divergences, but I’m sure a later episode in this series will present us with just such an opportunity.

Happy Slayage!

“Prophecy Girl” (Buffy, Season 1)

Tough bones.

That’s what I thought at the end of Season 1’s finale.  Why do most vampires crumble into dust and blow away, not a trace of their undead bodies remaining?  Or more to the point — if most vampires’ remains do not, in fact, remain after being staked, why did the Master’s bones survive?  True, they aren’t strong enough to survive a sledgehammer, as we later discover — but how did the Master avoid any sign of osteoporosis at his age?

In a previous post, we discussed the viability of his po — the corporeal soul resident in the bones of the deceased, and thus often termed, “bone souls”.  With a well-made vessel to house them, those po-souls never needed to return to the earth.   Chinese alchemists in ancient times sought ways to preserve the body, and failing that, the bones, for just such a reason.  Martial artists continue a tradition of strengthening the bones, and this post will examine ways Chinese medicine can be used to give bones increased resiliency.

I think the Master would have favoured qi gong and nei gong techniques, rather than herbal medicine or acupuncture.  One should remember that Oriental Medicine is more than just those latter two modalities, and I think often times we as practitioners forget that teaching our clients these techniques is a form of treatment in and of itself.

Kenneth Cohen, in his book Qi Gong, contains detailed instructions of the simple method of Bone Marrow Cleansing.  Four simple postures — the first a standing posture which moves into a prayer pose and concentrates energy within — this is the movement dynamic of metal, which resonates with the po, and thus the bones; then an outward stretched movement, like the prayer posture of ancient Mediterranean figures — this movement imitates the outward movement of wood, which resonates with the hun and the tendons.  In martial arts techniques, strengthening the tendons is one way to strengthen the bones.  The third movement brings PC-8 of one hand in contact with Du-4, resting there, while the other hand moves up to hover above Du-20 — Ming Men being distributed by the minister fire of the Heart Master to the place where the spirit (and possibly pathogens) will ultimately exit, the place where all marrow gathers.  The final movement brings both hands down in front of the body, that any pathogenic qi may be returned to the earth.

Mantak Chia has an entire book devoted to strengthen the bones and bone marrow, Bone Marrow Nei Kung.  The first exercise, after the basic microcosmic orbit has unblocked the Du Mai, brings external qi in through the jing well points, spiraling them around the bones, to be rooted in ming men (from which place it will travel to the brain).  This is known as bone breathing, and actually seems to rely on sinew vessels being clear in order to function most effectively.  Then the qi is consolidated within the bones through tightening the muscles — again using the tendons to strengthen the bones.  Chia’s book has much more detailed descriptions of how this is done.

The bones are considered an extraordinary organ, conducting essence int he form of marrow.  Marrow, also an extraordinary organ, moistens the bones, and can be thought of as the union of jing and shen, of qi and blood.  Formulas which strengthen the bones often also focus on tonifying both yin-jing and yang, as well as blood.  In fact, in Bisio’s book “A Tooth from the Tiger’s Mouth” one formula used in treating rib fractures actually begins with the four ingredients of the blood building tonic Si Wu Tang.

The simplest formula I know of which can be added to Si Wu Tang is Qing E Wan, which is composed of Du Zhong, Bu Gu Zhi, and He Tao Ren.  The first two herbs are well known as bone strengtheners, while the last (walnut) tonifies yang.  Walnut is a great example of an herb known through the doctrine of signatures:  it resembles the testicles, thus tonifies yang; cracked, the kernel resembles a brain, thus it augments the marrow.  I might add Xu Duan to the formula as well, to combine the bone building, blood and marrow augmenting powers of the previous herbs with a tendon-strengthening herb.

Acupuncture could also be used to strengthen the bones of the Master.  One could theoretically take some tips from the qi gong Bone Marrow Washing and needle Du-4, PC-8, and Du-20.  I would add UB-11, the meeting point of bones, and then burn thread moxa along the intervertebral spaces of the Du Mai in order to clear it of blockages.  I would also consider adding GB-39 and GB-34 because of their relationship not only to the marrow and tendons, but also because the Gallbladder is said to master the bones.  Although this would seem to violate my tendency not to exceed three meridians, I am working at the jing level, whereby the power of the Du Mai is administered through the body by the power of minister fire (in this case, the PC).  Alternately, one could consider that UB-11, because it meets with the Du Mai, is itself a point on the Governor Vessel.  Finally, I would note that SI-18 gives access to the zygoma, which is considered the master bone of the entire body.

As always, the concepts discussed in this post are purely theoretical and not meant to be applied, except by qualified practitioners.

I liked Buffy’s dress, too.

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