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!

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Selfless (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 5)

Anya’s vengeance demon activities have returned to their old verve, and she wreaked justice upon a fraternity with a spider demon which had a particular taste for ripping out men’s hearts. Buffy goes to take care of the situation, and puts a sword through Anya’s chest.  Vengeance demons aren’t killed that way, though, and the sword through Anya’s own heart hurt, but did not kill her (technically, the swordthrust looks like it would have pierced the aorta, not the heart, but maybe vengeance demon anatomy is different from human anatomy).

Vengeance, however, is no longer so captivating to Anya. After her break up with Xander (who in my opinion is a total asshole and deserves his own heart slowly eaten out while he remains fully conscious), Anya reverted to the state in life she was in before she met him.  She couldn’t make it that way again, but neither did she have a business in the human world to return to, the Magic Box having been destroyed by Willow. That business was her ‘human’ side, and while not based on Xander’s presence, was very much tied in to their relationship dynamics.  Anya decides to ask D’Hofferan to reverse her vengeance wish, which demands the life of a vengeance demon.  Anya accepts the cost, expecting to be wiped out of existence, her dilemma solved.  Instead, D’Hofferan executes Halfrek, leaving Anya virtually friendless.  In the end, Anya asks Xander, ‘what if there is no me?’ — a question many ask when the pain of a break-up does not subside, despite attempts to ‘make it’ in the world outside.

While Anya may not have lost herself, she is no longer in touch with her own heart. Xander did a more exacting job of extracting it than any spider-demon could have hoped to match.  (In the side plot, we also see Spike’s own heart-wrenching manipulation by the first evil, who appears to him as Buffy, trying to comfort him and soothe him to her side, knowing his heart is the key to his soul.)

So what do we do? Again, I will defer actual treatment with the CDs to talk about a unique aspect of the Channel Divergences, and draw out the implications of that aspect for understanding the physiology of the CDs.  The unique aspect is that unlike any other channel system, all the Channel Divergences go to, or through, the heart.  Other individual meridians within the other channel systems (EVs, luo mai, primary channels, sinew vessels) may go to the Heart, such as the heart and small intestine primary meridians, but here all the channels of the Channel Divergence system connect with that organ.

To review some of the functions of the Heart in Chinese Medicine, in terms of how its qi is used in treatment:

The heart ‘vaporises’ phlegm.  In contrast to the Kidneys which soften phlegm, or the Lungs which expel it, or the Spleen which transforms it, the Heart just causes it to disappear.  Phlegm is a clouding of potential, so that beyond being burdensome out of unfulfillment, it thickens and becomes difficult to realise.  This can happen paradoxically because desire to succeed is frustrating potential (heat thickening phlegm), or more frequently because cold reception to one’s talents congeals one’s potential.  In both cases, the phlegm can be seen as a type of bi-syndrome inasmuch as it is a blockage caused by heat/cold combining with damp/phlegm in the face of change/ wind.  The CDs, as mentioned already, are particularly effective for treating bi-syndrome.  One could posit this is due to their unique relationship with the Heart.

The Heart stores the shen. The shen is here to direct the rectification of a lineage through the body and life of the patient.  The shen has its own lessons to learn and its own destiny to fulfill.  In their capacity to treat form, rather than function, the CDs may be useful for phlegm nodules.  Looked at another way, CDs treat blockages to the realisation or embodiment of the function of one’s spirit, that is, of one’s ‘curriculum’ in life.  For this reason, CDs are sometimes used when a patient presents a very confusing case.  Often the issue is a blocking of the expression of a patient’s joy in being able to effect their destiny or spirit’s inner knowledge of who they really are.

The Heart controls the mai.  ‘Mai’ can mean vessels, and thus by implication, the luo mai and the mai which undergird the extraordinary vessels are controlled by the Heart.  I’ve earlier mentioned how the luo mai embody emotions, and how the EVs deal with existential or ‘karmic’ issues in a person’s life.  Here, the Heart and CDs are again involved in regulating the relationship of perception, reception, and feeling to the form of one’s life.  ‘Mai’ also means pulse, and perhaps therefore the ‘pulse’ of life can be regulated by the CDs as well.  Is someone burning the candle at both ends?  On too fast a track?  Stuck?  Going at an excruciating pace?  Perhaps a CD treatment is called for.

Overall, the implication of the CD trajectory through the heart is the idea that the heart-shen-mai mediates between jing-essence-lineage-destiny and wei-defence-exterior-change.  If the body cannot defend against some pathogen or some entity which is capable of damaging the body, the CDs are called in to raise that lineage-destiny to in an effort to sequester the harm.  However, in the process, the resources to embody and pass on that destiny (jing), or to feel it (blood), or to find satisfaction (fluids) in it, is used up.  Burn out is a Channel Divergence issue.

When the Heart is thought of as the Self, we can then treat Anya’s search for herself.  I would suggest going through each of the CDs in sequential or reverse order.  Let each elemental pair find its way back to the Heart, to remind Anya of how her form is capable of living out her character.  In this regard, the Channel Divergences become the key channel system for the confluence of internal and external alchemy.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or loved one are suffering from burn-out or blockages from insults to the form of your character and desire, please seek a qualified practitioner.  As always, Happy Slayage!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Slayage!

Hush (Buffy Season 4, Episode 10)

The amazing Silent Episode.  I must confess that even years later, this remains one of my favourite episodes, especially from a cinematic perspective.

The main plot line is simple enough:  the utterly refined ‘Gentlemen’ come to Sunnydale, cast a spell which prevents everyone from speaking or voicing any sound more than a gasp.  The Gentlemen then proceed to harvest hearts from select individuals, at least one of whom is a student at UC Sunnydale, naturally.

It would seem that voice loss or throat bi would be what needs to be treated.   The pathology isn’t quite so simple, however, and close attention to the episode provides us with a wealth of diagnostic information, all pointing in the same direction.  (Besides, throat bi was addressed previously in Buffy Season 3, Episode 11.)

Between orgasms and orgasm friends (provided by Anya’s current obsessive conversational topic and Giles’ visiting friend Olivia), disturbing dreams and interrupted sleep (experienced by Buffy), lost voices (affecting all Sunnydale), asylum escapees (who act as the Gentlemen’s henchmen), and monsters consumed by inordinate desire for refinement — not to mention their obsession with collecting actual, physical hearts — this is an episode full of Heart disorders.

Not all traditions in East Asia will treat the Heart channel directly for Heart disorders; often the Pericardium is the treated channel or organ.  The Ling Shu only seems to mention two points on the Heart Channel — the luo point (HT-5) and the source point (HT-7).  Everything else is referred back to the PC channel.

In Chinese, the Pericardium is the Xin Bao Luo, the ‘Heart Envelope Collateral’.  The character for ‘collateral’ is the same ‘luo’ that is used for ‘luo vessels’, so a reference to internal and blood related factors.  Taken as a JueYin organ, of course, the Pericardium is responsible, like the Liver, for the clarification of blood, especially at night, while one sleeps.  In this case, the Pericardium keeps wei qi (which circulates internally at night, while sleeping) from harming the Heart.  On another level, blood contains the emotions — and contains in the sense of constrains in a vessel — the three worms which crave lust, gluttony, and refinement .

Functionally, the Pericardium (PC) serves to protect the Heart by venting heat away from it.  Some practitioners emphasise the Pericardium’s role in protecting the Heart from emotional shocks (emotions being related to either the blood as already mentioned, and thus blood heat; or to internal causes of disease, and thus the Stomach channel, itself containing two points called Seas of Blood.  The ST channel is associated with internal, emotional causes of diseases partially because it is the first ‘internal’ channel of the primary channels, bringing pathogens to the interior at ST-12.  Like the blood heat mentioned above, its symptoms are also characterised by heat, notably the ‘four bigs’ .)

But what about the Heart itself?  A brief examination of the pathophysiology below should provide some insight into its role in the human person.

Anya and Giles

How are orgasms related to the Heart?  At climax, Heart fire (or Heart yang) descends to Kidney water (or Kidney yin; in other words, jing-essence), causing ejaculation.  While we often see cases of premature ejaculation or erectile dysfunction among men in the clinic, the other side of the physiology is difficult orgasm.  In such cases, JueYin may be shunting away too much heat from the Heart and not allowing fire to build up enough to descend to the Kidneys; alternately, Heart fire may be contained in the organ itself and herbs to address Heart bi may prove useful.  Secondarily I would address Kidney water, but through the use of warming (but not hot), lubricating herbs.  Cooling herbs might inadvertently cause the Heart to close up further, depending on the specifics of the case.  Of course, yang deficiency may be at the root, and a formula such as Zhi Shi Xie Bai Gui Zhi Tang might prove helpful in such cases.  (The other possibility is Fang Ji Fu Ling Tang, a formula which unblocks yang.)  Check the shu points around T4- T6; if redness or papules are present, this indicates heat.  If the tongue coating is white and greasy, this is phlegm from yang deficiency.  Treatment should follow accordingly.

A simple formula of Bai Shao (astringes JueYin), Xuan Fu Hua (which descends qi), and Shu Di (augments essence) might do the trick for a constrained heat presentation, but I have never tested this clinically.  Dai Zhe Shi might make an interesting addition (taking a cue from Xuan Fu Hua Dai Zhe Shi Tang), and it is said to ‘preserve the Liver’, so it may also have subsidiary effects on astringing the Pericardium.  I might be inclined to use Dai Zhe Shi if Dan Shen (goes to the PC) were used instead of Bai Shao.  Lian Zi Xin, which guides HT fire to the KD might make a better choice than Xuan Fu Hua.  Mai Men Dong could nourish the fluids and unblock clumping in the Heart (together with Shu Di, one then has two thirds of Nourish the Ye-fluids — associated with the SI, and thus also with the HT — Decoction).   As a side note, Luo Shi Teng also unblocks the luo channels, and is associated with the HT and LV; it may be particularly apt, given the trajectory of the LV’s luo channel, and the HT’s role in this particular pathomechanism.

The Jia Yi Jing recommends LU-10 for treating Heart bi, especially when manifesting with sorrow, irritability, or counterflow qi.

Buffy

I’m pretty sure I’ve covered in previous posts the interrelationship between dreams, blood, sleep, and the heart.  Dreams emerge from the wanderings of the hun-ethereal souls, which are housed in the blood.  Heat in the blood can disturb the sleep and make the hun agitated, while a deficiency of Heart blood means the hun have no place in which to rest.  One of the best insomnia-treating formulae, Suan Zao Ren Tang, is named after the chief herb, Suan Zao Ren, which nourishes the Heart and Heart blood.

Sunnydale

Saying that HT-5 (or the herb Pang Da Hai) is good for loss of voice seems too easy.  So for lost voices, I am going to use instead a more complex diagnosis which focuses on opening the orifices, either the orifices of the Heart or the Sensory orifices.

Closed disorders also affect the Pericardium.  Both Heart and Pericardium have a relationship with blood; the Pericardium through its association with the JueYin channel system (which clarifies the blood); the Heart through being the motile force of blood and through its role in sealing the blood with the red colour.

What are closed disorders?  Bensky’s Formulas and Strategies gives a succinct definition:  “Loss of consciousness may be due either to excess or deficiency.  When the problem is one of excess, it is known has a ‘closed disorder’ in which pathogens obstruct and veil the sensory orifices,” and may be due either to heat sinking into the Pericardium and affecting Heart or cold.  Cold can constrain the qi and lead to the formation of phlegm, which in turn veils the Heart’s orifices.  Symptoms include rigid limbs, clenched jaw and fists, but NOT delirious speech, which is more characteristic of the ‘raving’ mentioned under Yang Ming heat disorders.

The treatment strategy is to use formulas which open the orifices.  Herbs such as camphor, musk, acorus, and cattle bezoar are often administered as the chief ingredients in such formulas.

I might consider choosing the very simple formula Tong Guan San for our characters in this episode, a powder made from zhu ya zao and xi xin.  A small amount of the powder is blown into the nose to generate a sneeze, which will open the jaw and disperse some of the phlegm blocking the orifices.  She Xiang (musk) can be added to increase the orifice-opening abilities of the formula.  Given that the Gentlemen were destroyed by very violent sneezing at the end of the episode (their heads exploded), I think this is an excellent formula to try — but then, this is a diagnosis based on knowing the end result, rather than one drawn from etiology.  (Tong Guan San is used in cases of collapse occurring after overwork or dietary excess.  I seem to recall Anya overindulging in some snack at the start of the show… )

Asylum Escapees

As noted above, the orifices of the Heart, which provide clarity of consciousness to humans, can become blocked with phlegm.  This sort of blockage causes a veiling of perception.  If the phlegm becomes combined with heat or fire, however, insanity and incoherence is the result.  The Asylum Henchmen may very well have been sufferers of phlegm-fire harassing the Heart (assuming they still have hearts, and the Gentlemen don’t resurrect their victims to act as henchmen…)  We will have a chance to revisit treatment options for insanity in a future episode; for now, I would simply ask what happened to these henchmen after their masters were taken care of?

The Gentlemen

The three worms which eat away at the body are associated with desire, greed, and ignorance or refinement (depending on whether one sues a more Buddhist or more Daoist oriented paradigm).  Refinement is associated with the Heart because of its role in promoting li, propriety, among the five virtues.  Refinement is li taken to an extreme, such that it ceases to be de-power or virtue, and instead becomes decadent.  A modified Zhu Che Wan could be helpful in this case; I would add some Bing Lang or other ghost  or gu-parasite removing herb, such as Tian Men Dong, if the Gentlemen seemed overly hot. (The Gentlemen do explode at the end after all, and I associate explosiveness with hot disorders, at least, more so than with cold disorders, since cold contracts…)

The acupoint prescription in this case would be PC-7 (for gu — its alternate name is ‘ghost heart’), HT-5 (for speech), and LU-7  (the command point for the head and neck).

As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from 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 Prom (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 20)

This is the episode in which Hell Hounds with a taste for the well-dressed are unleashed on Buffy’s senior prom classmates.  It is also the episode in which Joyce tells Angel that he must break up with Buffy, and do what she cannot.  While he does appear in time to have the last dance with Buffy, this is good-bye to the Buffy-Angel romance in Sunnydale.

Before the last dance, and before Joyce’s talk, if I recall correctly, was the dream-sequence scene which will be the focus of today’s diagnosis.  The context of the dream is the heart-rending decision which needs to be made between the two of them; the actual content of the dream sees Buffy explode into flames.

Clearly, the heart organ, being a fire-phase organ, is implicated.  However, I would like to suggest two other options.

First, dreams can have diagnostic significance in Chinese medicine, as elucidated by the Yellow Emperor in the Su Wen, and elaborated upon in the Jia Yi Jing (scroll 6, chapter 8).   Dreams of fire indicate an exuberance of both yin and yang; they are not anchored.  Dreams of smoke and fire, and hills indicate something going on with the Heart or Small Intestine, that is, with the fire-phase related organs.  (Technically, in the Jia Yi Jing, counterflow qi invading the small intestine would give rise to dreams of crowded streets and cities.)  In relation to the correspondence with fire-phase organs, I would extend the diagnostic possibilities to include the vessels (controlled by the Heart); the thick fluids and sweat (administered by the SI and HT); and also to the actual pathogen of fire itself.

Fire as a pathogen can affect the Heart, Stomach, Liver, Lungs, and Skin, and give rise to ‘fire toxins’.  Given the context of the dream, I would diagnose fire harassing the Heart.  Heart fire is often drained via the Small Intestine channel, or through the SI and Bladder.

Ying-spring points are recommended by the Nan Jing to treat fire conditions, so I would think of SI-2 being a good point to treat; to make the connexion to the Heart more explicit, I might add the luo point of the SI channel, SI-7 to the treatment.  I would not bloodlet the luo point, since I am using it in its capacity as a connecting point between the Heart and Small Intestine.  This gives a simple two point combination treatment to address the fire component.  However, it does not address the underlying factors, nor does it strengthen the most likely places the pathogen would move to after the Heart.

From the Heart, fire could move to the Lungs, which are very susceptible to dryness and heat.  After heartbreak, some people experience a period of dryness and numbness.  One could also argue this post-heartbreak experience is due to sadness and grief, which can weaken the Lung and make metal susceptible to illness.  In Buffy’s case, augmenting fluids, especially thin fluids in the case of the Lung, but also the water element more generally, would be recommended.

Taking a primary meridian perspective, rather than the previous three burners or physiological perpective, what follows the HT and SI channel in sequence is the Bladder and Kidney pair of channels.  Being water-phase related channels, one might think of tonifying them to build up fluids, extinguish fire, and arrest the progression of the pathogen.  A little bit of rest and darkness after a break up is often a good thing.  Points to think about would be KD-10, a water point on a water channel.  BL-40, which connects to Ming-Men, BL-23, may also be a good point to use.  In combination with the SI points mentioned above, it may be able to draw fire back to their source in the Kidneys, much like the herbal combination Huang Lian and Rou Gui.  I would not, in this case, use KD-2, since the KD are not experiencing a fire pathology as of yet, but I might consider tonfying KD-3 or BL-62.  Regardless, the treatment principle is to ensure that Kidney qi remains firm or stable.

With regard to herbs in general, Zhi Zi is a good heart fire herb, and treats a feeling of oppression in the chest, near the xiphoid process and the mu-point of the Heart.  In fact, one way to tell if zhi zhi should be added to a formula is to palpate that area; if tenderness is elicited, zhi zi could be added with good effect.  Buffy experienced chest oppression in this episode, reflective of her acute heartbreak.  (Regarding heartbreak, I might also think of the Pericardium, in its role as ‘Heart Protector’, and therefore add Dan Shen, and Xuan Fu Hua).  The resulting base formula is thus:  Dan Shen, to invigorate blood and supplement the PC and HT; Xuan Fu Hua, which descends, and treats the Lungs as well as the Heart; and Zhi Zi, to clear the fire.  Wu Wei Zi could be used to maintain the stability of Kidney qi and Lung qi both.

If the Lungs are thought to be in particular danger, I would also augment the three herbs with Huang Qin and Sha Shen.  Huang Qin is both tonifying for the Upper Warmer and it clears heat.  Sha Shen is moist and nourishes the Lungs; since HT fire can easily be transmitted to the LU, drying the fluids of the UW, Bei Sha Shen would be my chosen variety.

The other formula I might suggest would be Huang Lian E Jiao Tang, which treats kidneys, clears lungs, and descends fire.  The ingredients are huang lian, e jia, huang qin, bai shao, and ji zi huang (egg yolk).  This is a very tonifying formula, and if yin seems to be abundant (it has been so long since I’ve watched this episode, I cannot comment on the yin status of Angel and Buffy), then perhaps the simple but effective Jiao Tai Wan (ten parts huang lian to one part rou gui), as mentioned above, would suffice.

The second alternative I would suggest, and the one I would favour most, is to look at the Chong Mai.  The pathway of the Chong Mai follows that of the Kidney channel on the abdomen, and it disperses into the chest or heart (in men, it also continues and disperses onto the face, giving rise to facial hair).  As such, a different treatment strategy would be to stabilise the Chong Mai.  Treating the Chong Mai would serve the purpose of reigning in both yin and yang, as the initial dream diagnosis would require; but having its origin in the kidneys, stabilising the Chong would secure Kidney qi, as the previous treatment strategies mentioned.

Several herbs could serve this purpose, chief among them being Lu Rong.  Lu Rong tonifies the Du Mai, but also stabilises the Ren and Chong Mai.  Gui Ban seems to have its primary effect on the Ren Mai, and thus I would not consider it as a primary herb.  However, in the formula Gu Jing Wan, gui ban is used as the chief herb.  The formula clears heat and nourishes yin.  The formula typically treats continuous menstrual bleeding, or “gushing and trickling disorder”.  The ingredients, as provided by Zhu Dan-Xi, are prepared gui ban, dry fried bai shao, dry fried huang qin, dry fried huang bai, chun pi, and xiang fu.  In our current case, chun pi can be eliminated, since it focuses on astringing blood.  

The formula Shou Tai Wan, usually used to stablise the fetus in case of threatened miscarriage, relies less on animal ingredients, but its signs and symptoms have little to do with heat.  Nevertheless, for reference, the herbs in that formula are two parts tu si zi, and one part each of sang ji sheng, xu duan, and e jiao (this last being an animal product).  Interestingly, e jiao does clear the lungs, in addition to its role in stopping bleeding.

The point prescription I would use in this case would be:

Sp-4 to open the chong mai

KD-12, whose alternate name is ‘Yin Gate’

KD-14 is named after the stars which appear around prom time, between May 21 and June 4.  It treats accumulations of all sorts, though not fire.  Nonetheless, it might be interesting to consider this point. KD-15, Huang Shu relates to the area below the heart, and thus would be considered if KD-14 is not chosen.

KD-21, named ‘Dark Gate’, which in this particular instance I would relate to the mysterious process of love, heartbreak, life choices, and the unknown that comes with past loss and future potential.

PC-6 could be added to close the sequence, though I don’t consider this necessary.

As always, this post is meant for informational and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from Chinese medicine, please seek a qualified practitioner.  I am happy to provide references in MA, NY, FL, VT, CA, and in Oxfordshire, UK.

Earshot (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 18)

After a very long break, I am finally back to posting.  Due to my long absence, a more lengthy post is warranted.

A quick review Earshot:  Buffy’s skin gets brushed by a demon she fights in a park.  The area the demon touched begins to itch.  Eventually, Buffy discovers she can hear other people’s thoughts.  (I’m particularly fond of Oz’s thought process.)  Ultimately, while Buffy is able to prevent both Jonathan from killing himself and the Cafeteria lady from killing half the students at Sunnydale High, the intrusion of so many external thoughts into her own mind begins to drive Buffy mad.  She becomes incapacitated at her home until Angel kills the offending demon and feeds Buffy its heart.

This episode provides several interesting points to consider from the perspective of Chinese medicine.  First, and most clinically relevant would be to tease out the mechanism by which contact dermatitis could lead to acute hearing.  The second point to consider is the chosen treatment within the episode itself.  Rather than teach Buffy how to detach herself from everyone else’s thoughts, the Scoobies opt to simply end her access to other people’s minds.  I suppose that particular treatment choice was determined on a triage basis:  Buffy’s sensitivity was growing at a rate too quickly for her to sustain through training.  This phenomenon can also sometimes seen in qi gong disease (assuming one treats qi gong disease as a physiologically defined, rather than a politically defined disease).

To address the first point, what could be the possible mechanisms of acute hearing following contact dermatitis?

I would begin with the skin, which was the point of origin for the disease.  If we take a five-element approach first, we can say that the skin is associated with the Lungs, and thus with metal.  Hearing is associated with the Kidneys, and the element water.  Something which affects the skin and leads to acute hearing would indicate that the generative relationship between metal and water has been disrupted.  In this case, I would argue that the child is taking too much from the mother (or that the mother is feeding too much to the child):  water is draining metal.  Therefore, the acupuncture treatment is quite clear-cut:  disperse water and control metal.

The treatment could disperse water and control metal using either the elmentally associated points on the metal and water meridians themselves, or it could opt to address a fire meridian (or point), fire being the phase associated with both water and metal through the control cycle.  In the former situation, we would disperse LU-3 (water point on metal meridian) or KD-10 (water point on water meridian), and augment KD-7 (metal point on water meridian) or LU-8 (metal point on metal meridian).  Practitioners who dislike dispersing techniques might opt to simply augment metal by using the point combination SP-3 and LU-9 (earth nourishing metal).

However, as the episode itself demonstrates, one could opt to view fire as the key element mediating water and metal through the control cycle.  Since the heart is the organ associated with the fire element, why not literally feed a demon heart to the patient?  Taking the fire approach from a meridian perspective, one could try to sedate the fire point on the metal channel (i.e. LU-10) and tonify the fire point on the water channel (i.e. KD-2).  The rationale behind this tonification-sedation choice is that dermatitis is inflammation or heat, a manifestation of fire over-acting on metal.  Therefore it needs to be sedated.  Tonifying the fire point on the water channel would help reign in water, which seems to be going out of control.  This reckless water will eventually affect the sea of marrow, controlled by the water-element kidneys.  Marrow is the vehicle for the jing-shen, the union of water and fire.  Therefore, one must protect those physiological elements by not allowing yin (jing, the element water, or even phlegm) to overwhelm shen (fire).

The other option is to treat the fire meridians directly, and sedate the water point (SI-8) and tonify the metal point (SI-1).  I hae chosen to use the yang pair for two reasons.  The first is to avoid treating the Heart meridian directly, which some traditions forbid.  (The Heart should be empty, and manipulating it directly clouds the emptiness of the Heart).  The second reason is due to the association the Small Intestine has with ye-thick fluids, which nourish the spine, marrow, and brain.  If we wish to protect those organs from the pathology, then bringing the Small Intestine’s attention to the problem would in theory be effective.  Additionally, the SI’s ability to separate the clear and the turbid could play a part in regulating the disrupted fluid metabolism we’re seeing with the itchy rash and increased hearing abilities.

In the same vein, one could try a Luo vessel protocol, picking up on the indications of SI Luo pathology (recognition from others).  In this case, Buffy is receiving too much recognition from others, but this recognition is strictly internal (and thus associated with blood, not qi; if blood, then the luo vessels).  The TW luo’s pathophysiology (rigidity of the sense organs) also seems applicable here.  Interestingly, both these meridians luo points happen to be near where Buffy’s dermatitis began.

The above approaches focuses more on a five-element understanding of physiological dynamics.  What about a more humoural approach, one which may more easily lead to a herbal treatment plan?

The approach I will take to parsing out the humoural dynamics builds on my understanding of qi gong disease.  My perspective on qi gong  disease (or many other diseases resulting from improper meditation) is that sensitivity or perception (a yang process) develops at a faster rate than the ability of the yin to anchor it.  In other words, shen or yang increases at the expense of  jing or yin. While we could further parse this out into the relationship between the Po and the Bones (or qi) on the one hand, and the Hun and the Blood on the other, I don’t feel such a detailed analysis is entirely helpful for the case at hand.  For an actual case of someone with hyper-perception then deciding whether it is the Po or the Hun which is most affected is entirely acceptable.

On the surface, the idea that yang is increasing at the expense of yin seems like the complete opposite of the five element treatment approach outlined above.  I would argue that while it is true that the two are opposite in treatment plan, this does not mean the theory itself is contradictory.  Five element theory works as a system of correspondences.  Humoural theory operates more along the lines of mutual transformation and interaction, much like basic yin-yang theory.  While the two can and do overlap to a certain degree, this need not always be the case.  From the perspective of acupuncture and herbal medicine as a craft, what matters is the correspondence between chosen theoretical approach and actual treatment.  From the perspective of the clinician, what matters is less the theoretical-treatment approach chosen, and more whether the patient gets better or not.

In the particular example of Buffy, the upper orifices are not being supplied with enough jin-thin fluids to buffer the yang energy being received by them from the exterior.  The solution, then, is to increase the fluids going to the ears.  This would naturally occur in the body through the production of wax, which in Chinese medicine can be considered a form of phlegm.  Phlegm, however, is often the body’s sign of trying to hold on to whatever yin fluids it has at its disposal.  In other words, it is a sign that a pathology has already progressed quite far.  The herbal treatment I would suggest co-opts the process.

The herbal treatment must increase thin fluids and guide them to the orifices without opening them.  What herbs go to the ears?

The Shen Nong Ben Cao notes several herbs which sharpen hearing or open the ears:  Chang Pu, Yuan Zhi, Ze Xie, Shan Yao, Bai Hao (Artemesia Argyi, i.e. moxa), Shi Long Chu, Di Fu Zi, Xiang Pu, Qing Xiang, Cang Er Zi, Shan Zhu Yu.  Some herbs open the orifices directly (Chang Pu, Yuan Zhi); others clear fluid from the ears (Ze Xie, Cang Er Zi); while the remaining nourish the ears through astringing fluids (Shan Yao, Shan Zhu Yu).

My favourite herb for nourishing jin fluids is Sang Ye, present in several formulas addressing cool cry and warm dry conditions.  To augment yin,  I would choose to combine the simple formula Sang Ma Wan (Sang Ye, Hei Zhi Ma, and honey) with Shan Yao.  Shan Yao is binding, preserves pure fluids while ridding the body of dampness, and is said to sharpen the ears with protracted taking.  Together with Sang Ye and Hei Zhi Ma (and the associated herb Qing Xiang, sesame leaves, which also open to the ears), the yin, and specifically the jin-fluid, is nourished.  Sang ye also has the property of releasing the exterior, which will treat the rash and perhaps guide the wind-phlegm absorbed from the demon out of Buffy’s body.

The herbal treatment is in line with the physiology of the Channel Divergences.  I would think of using channel divergences because the symptoms Buffy presents involve wei qi (skin, inflammation) and yuan qi (hearing, KD).  The divergences to be chosen could be the ST (upper orifice issues) or the HT (brain, speech).

While I might consider the same herbal treatment in the case of tinnitus, I am not confident I would treat tinnitus with Channel Divergences in quite the same way.  I see the locus of tinnitus not in the organ (bones, membranes, etc) of the ear, but in the brain itself.  In the case of tinnitus, whether low (KD related) or high (LV-yang related) pitched, I would choose a treatment which affects the Du Mai, and its regulation of the KD and yang of the body.
As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from the Chinese Medicine, please seek a qualified practitioner.

Innocence (Buffy, Season 2)

I think it was my first year of acupuncture school.  We had a course called diagnostic skills in TCM, and we were invited to bring in a demo patient to assess in small groups.  One of the two patients in my group mentioned in passing that she had just broken up with the person she’d been dating for about a year or so, and she referred to a broken heart once or twice during the intake.

When it came time the students to present the relevant symptoms of the case to the supervisor (who had been present during the entire group intake), we included the broken heart.  It certainly seemed significant to us.  The supervisor,who happened to be from mainland China, disagreed.  We don’t treat broken hearts with acupuncture, she claimed.  Several of us protested, surprised.  Why can’t it?  Because patients don’t come to us to be treated for such things is the reply I recall.

Now, years afterward, I am here to disagree.  Acupuncture and herbal medicine may very well prove useful in helping to heal the broken heart, and I have actually seen in clinic one or two cases where a broken heart was part of the overall picture.

Certainly both Willow and Buffy could use a little help to overcome their broken hearts.  Buffy’s was broken when Angel turned evil and cruelly cast her aside.  Willow caught Xander making out with Cordelia behind the stacks in the library.  I would use slightly different treatments for each — I think Buffy’s experience was the deeper, energetically speaking, or at least more shocking.  Willow at least doesn’t have to kill Xander.

A broken heart most often affects the Pericardium first, as the Heart Protector, and the trauma goes to the blood level.  As a retained pathogen, heartbreak would likely manifest as blood stagnation first, and qi stagnation subsequently.  The qi stagnation impairs the full expression of emotions, while the blood stagnation is the emotional stagnation itself.  Depending on how the heartbreak occurred, it may consume Heart blood or lead to heat in the blood.  Therefore something to nourish blood is in order.

I would compose a simple formula of four herbs: Dan Shen, San Qi, Suan Zao Ren, and Zhi Zi.

Dan Shen goes to the pericardium, nourishing and invigorating blood.  San Qi stops pain, stops bleeding, and also invigorates blood.  The ability to stop bleeding helps close up the wounds the heart has experienced.  Suan Zao Ren is well known for its ability to nourish Heart blood, while also calming the shen.  (An emperor would be prone to disturbance if he discovered his advisers had all nearly been murdered.)  Finally, Zhi Zi is said to be useful for all conditions of vexation to the Heart, and since it goes to the Triple Warmer, it also has an affinity for Minister Fire.  It would also help cool any heat which would result from the stagnation of qi and blood.

For acupuncture, although Luo channels would work well, I would actually use a variation on the Japanese ShaoYin-JueYin protocol.  I reason that the injury was pretty direct, so I would start with the Pericardium channel as the JueYin channel to be treated.  PC-6 actually fits the picture, will its affinity for blood.  ShaoYin in this case would be Kidney, which houses the Minister Fire that was injured.  Physiologically, then, an injury to the Pericardium could spread to the Kidneys through this relationship.  Therefore, tonification of KD-3 would be in order.

If I felt the need to add more points, I would choose either or both KD-24 (“Spirit Ruins”), the front shu point of the Liver and KD-22 (“Spirit Walk”) the front shu of the Kidneys.

As a side note, Angel suffered a rather severe kick from Buffy.  The particular site of the injury leads me to believe he might end up suffering an acute attack of testicular torsion.  This is a condition in which the spermatic cords and the blood vessels which nourish the testicles twist around one another causing incredible pain.  In severe cases, treatment by surgery is required.  In very mild cases, one could try one of several herbal formulae:

Tian Tai Wu Yao San (grind equal parts of the following and take 3g as a draft before meals:  wu yao, mu xiang, dry-fried xiao hui xiang, qing pi, dry-fried liang jiang, bing lang, and chuan lian zi which has previously been dry fried with ba dou until both ingredients turn black; the ba dou is then thrown out).

Ju He Wan (Tangerine Seed Pill), which has too many ingredients to list here, but is noteworthy for also using seaweed among its ingredients.

Acupuncture treatments would focus on warming or moving qi in the Liver channel.  LV-5 has a direct connexion to the genitals.  Since the Liver channel is usually not invaded unless the Kidneys are already weak, KD-10 might also prove useful.  Additionally, it too connects to the “little” or “external” kidneys.  Points on the low abdomen could also be chosen — Ren-3 is the meeting of KD and LV channels, for example, or KD-16.

As always, these posts are for theoretical use only.  If you feel you may benefit from the assistance of Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

Ted (Buffy, Season 2) Post One

Can acupuncture really solve your problems with electronic equipment seeming stuck in the 1950’s leading to a lack of sleep thus providing you with an excuse for obsessive eating at night?

I wish.

Frankly, I avoided the use of electroacupuncture as much as I could for the simple reason that I usually don’t enjoy operating machines which have no literary or artistic value.

And I have never stuck an acupuncture needle in one to see if that would fix it.  So alas, I cannot fix Ted.

He was the villain of the episode, anyway.

This episode has so many other options to choose from, however, that I’m going to divide it into two posts.  Perhaps this will make up for my having collapsed “What’s My Line” into one post.

First, let’s pick up from where we left Ms. Calendar.

The demon was expelled (if short of shamans, summon vampires, is the philosophy of this cast, apparently).  However, it left our favourite computer teacher with a bit of a shock, and now she isn’t sleeping well.  Nor does she quite seem as romantically inclined to Giles, and she certainly has lost some of the playfulness which characterised her in earlier episodes.

This is no surprise.  Shock scatters the qi and particularly impacts the Heart, which rules sleep and manifests joy.  I would not be surprised if her pulse registers a fine vibration.

The treatment is relatively straightforward.

Ht-5 and Ht-7 are my favourite points for treating sleep disorders.  Usually, I choose HT-5, and combine it with Spleen or Stomach points to help nourish blood.

In this case, however, I will use what is called the “golden triangle” of HT-7, PC-6, and LU-9.  HT-7 treats the Heart, which is where the pathology is located now.  The origin was twofold.  On the one hand, the demon came in through the skin, which is ruled by the Lungs; on the other hand, it was a demonic infestation, and the Pericardium is concerned with parasitic infection.  Therefore, this particular combination is perfectly suited to the case at hand.  I would not worry about adding any points on the legs in this particular case.  If I were to choose any lower body points, I would select KD-3 or KD-6 and remove either PC-6 or LU-9 from the wrist.  (I would be prone to removing PC-6, personally, even though this channel is sometimes called “circulation sex” by Five Element practitioners and could help Jenny restore her romantic interests).

For heart shock, one effective herbal treatment is Sheng Mai San, composed of Ren Shen, which is very rooting and nourishes the primal qi; mai men dong, which clears the heart and calms the spirit; and wu wei zi, which nourishes the kidneys and heart, absorbs phlegm and anchors the shen in the jing.

Tomorrow:  how to treat someone stuck in a previous decade, and what to do about obsessive eating leading to food allergies.  Finally, a Channel Divergence treatment!

As always the diagnosis and treatments presented in this post are for theoretical purposes only.  If you think acupuncture or herbal medicine can help treat insomnia due to shock, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

“The Puppet Show” (Buffy, Season 1)

I always like shows which feature creepy and murderous dummies. Alfred Hitchcock had a great one, in which the puppeteer fell in love with his dummy. That was creepy.

The puppeteer in this episode, however, meets a somewhat untimely end, although not the end he might have been expecting. Instead of death by brain cancer, his brain was harvested by a demon which needed to eat the heart and brain of a human every seven years in order to retain its human form. I seem to recall Anne Rice writing about vampires who ate the heart and brain of their predecessors. I think this was in Queen of the Damned.

Why a demon would want to retain the form of a high school student is somewhat beyond my comprehension. I’m sure Anyanka would have some rather interesting points to make in this regard.

The deceased’s dummy, it turns out, had a mission: to slay all these seven-year itch demons, after which his soul would be able to move on (and out of the creepy puppet body). He had already disposed of six. His last mission lay at Sunnydale High. Instead of (over)killing the demon with a guillotine and kitchen knife, however, he might have tried a different approach.

I think the diagnostic signifiers are the combination of seven years, heart, and brain.

First, seven years.  This particular demon clearly operates on a regular cycle, one which corresponds to the female cycle of seven years.  Although the Nei Jing indicates that women’s lives unfold along a seven year, and men’s lives along an eight year cycle, for some people, these lives can be shorter or longer.  What is important is that a clear pattern emerge.  This cyclical unfolding results from the triple warmer mechanism manifesting what is contained in prenatal jing, outwardly moving the most simple forms of yin, yang, and blood in a person.  In other words, the triple heat mechanism is in a certain sense determining how much the resources of the Ren, Du, and Chong Mai come into the world at any given cycle of life.  The San Jiao acts as a sort of guard to the treasure room, or even financial officers, permitting only a certain amount to be withdrawn at a time.

The cycles of seven therefore point us to three areas:  the jing, the Triple Heater mechanism, and the extraordinary vessels.  Also involved in this process of unfolding one’s life according to cycles are the Wei Mai.  Specifically, I would think the Yang Wei Mai is active in this situation, since it’s role is to integrate the exterior (“human high school student”) with the interior (“seven-year itch demon”).  Conveniently, TH-5 is the opening point for the Yang Wei Mai.

The eating of the Heart and Brain present their own twist on this diagnosis.  The Heart is the residence of the little shen, usually translated generically as “spirit.”  According to one interpretation, this little shen comes about after a ling, or soul, merges with the mixing of the jing of one’s parents.  The ling separates into five spiritual entities, termed the yi (intent), zhi (will-within-the-will), shen, hun (ethereal souls), and po corporeal souls).  (The hun and po are also considered to be plural in number, bringing the total fracturing to thirteen.)  The goal of the person’s life, according to the ancient Chinese alchemists, is to reunite these fractured entities into the Yuan Shen, the Original Spirit.  The organ which houses the Original Spirit?  That would be the Brain.

These seven-year itch demons, then, are consuming the fleshly residences in which the Little Shen and the Big Shen are stored.  It seems that their jing needs to unite with some shen in order to maintain an external appearance.  The treatment principle, therefore, is to keep the yin (jing) from separating from the existing yang (shen).  If this can be achieved, the seven-year itch will be relieved, and at least a few Sunnydale students will not die needlessly (this week).

The acupuncture treatment I might give would be to combine a Yang Wei Mai treatment with a Triple Heater Channel Divergence treatment.  A bit unorthodox, since I like to keep my channel systems separate, in general.  My reasoning for combing the two is this:  The Triple Heater Channel Divergence symptoms are concerned with yin and yang losing their ability to harmonise; treating the TH CD can help push the yang aspects of physiology back to the jing level.  The TH CD begins at Du-20, which is where the hun leaves at death, where the hundred spirits meet, and in some texts, is a point on the Yang Wei Mai.  It has a downward trajectory (to the heart, so, unless the demon is eating hearts because its previous heart has begun to decay, we should be in the clear.)  We activate the wei mai to engage its role in the seven year cycle and harness the energy of the TH mechanism through the opening point, TH-5.  The points I would use are:  TH-5, SI-10 or GB-20, Du-20, TH-17, CV-12.  I would use a deep needling technique for the TH-5, SI-10, and GB-20 points.  From Du-20 onwards, I would use a deep-superficial-deep needling technique.  The Yang Wei Mai treatment protocol can be continued daily with rosemary oil.  Unfortunately, EV treatments usually take three months to show results, and CD treatments can take three weeks.  That means the demon should really have planned ahead.  That whole, “I’m going to use the body of a high school student” has its drawbacks — frequent lack of forethought being one of them.

For an herbal treatment, I would be tempted to try Ren Shen Ge Jie San (Ginseng and Gecko powder).  At first glance, this formula does not meet the treatment criteria.  It is not used to consolidate yin and yang.  It has no sticky ingredients to make the shen adhere to the jing.  It doesn’t even include the heart and brain of the gecko from which it is made, using only their skin or tails.  However, sometimes infertility is due to the jing being unable to grasp the shen.  Physiologically, this is analogous to the Kidneys being unable to grasp the Lung qi.  This formula does exactly that — augments the Kidneys to grasp Lung qi.  It also contains Sang Bai Pi, which is used in Channel Divergent treatments, usually with the addition of E Jiao.  That would be the one modification I would make to the formula.

As always, this post is for theoretical and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you have a seven-year itch which might receive benefit from acupuncture or herbal medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!