Touched (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 20)

How sexuality impacts one’s approach to an apocalypse is explored in this episode, augmented by an excellent soundtrack.   Faith and Wood let out their physical tension; Xander and Anya find comfort in the familiarity of one another’s bodies; Willow and Kennedy finally go ‘all the way’; and Buffy and Spike achieve an intimacy which does not rely on sexual activity, but on simple holding and being held by another person.

Sexual encounters aside, the actual plot involves Faith leading the potentials into a trap:  They discover a bomb in the vineyard moments before it explodes.  Diagnostically, the episode references sweat and scent several times.  Wood refers to how when the First appeared to him, it took the form and image of his mother, right down to her perfume.  Spike tracks Buffy by her scent (despite not breathing; but then, we saw him  waterboarded by a Torakhan earlier in the season, a form of torture which should not have affected a non-breathing creature).

Overall, this episode provides a good opportunity to revisit some Channel Divergence physiologies as they link up with other channel systems.  The diagnostic entry point will be a re-examination of the five odours as they pertain to the CDs and point to other channel systems.  Then I will examine sexual form and function from several channel perspectives.

To review, the five odours and their five-phase correlates among the Primary Channels are generally listed as:

Rancid, like oil that has been too long exposed to air, is associated with the Wood phase of the Liver and Gallbladder.

Scorched, appropriately associated with the Fire phase of Heart and Small Intestine.

Fragrant, Sweet, corresponding to the flavour of earth and grains (when chewed for a long time), is associated with the Earth phase, and the Spleen and Stomach organs.  (The Pancreas are associated with the Spleen in this system.)

Rotten, Rank, or Fishy, like the breath of one who has tuberculosis or a Lung abscess, is associated with the metal phase, and with the Lungs and Large Intestine.

Putrid, Rotting, Decay, the scent of winter’s kill before it freezes, or the smell of wood left underwater and ice for a season, is associated with the water phase, and with the Kidney and Bladder organs.

The Channel Divergences link the yin and yang primary channels of a particular phase of qi (wood, fire, earth, metal, water), and in this way a diagnostic correspondence between patient odour and channel to be treated could be formed.  However, let’s complicate the picture in two different ways.  The first way is to link the CDs with other channel systems by phase.  The second way is to look at the interaction of CD fluids, channel systems, and organ-tissue relationships.

To begin with the first set, but with an eye to the second:

The BL-KD CD is associated with jing, and draws heavily on the Extraordinary Vessel system.

The GB-LV CD is associated with xue-blood, and relates in particular to the mu points and Luo Vessels.

The ST-SP CD is associated with jin-fluids, and intersects with the Heart through its own trajectory, through the Chong Mai’s relationship with blood, and through its ability to nourish the upper sensory portals, including the tongue.

The SI-HT CD is associated with both sweat and ye-thick fluid, which nourishes the Sinew Vessels.

The TW-PC CD is associated with ying qi, and moves heat out to jing-well points through nodes to terminations.  Sinew Vessels begin at the jing-well points.

The LI-LU CD is associated with wei qi,  and begins the cycle of primary meridians.

Bringing the five-phase odour correspondences into the above chart, several resonances between odour and channel systems occur:

Decaying, putrid odours point towards jing and the EVs.  (Note that decay can be associated with the teeth as the SI meridian deposits pathogens there to maintain latency.)

Rancid odours indicate the luo vessels, and emotion left too long un-aired out and unresolved.

Fragrant odours point to the heart and sense of perception.

Scorched odours, that ‘burnt out’ smell, indicate the marrow and sinews may benefit from treatment first.

Rotten, fishy odours suggest that the primary meridian cycle may be most effective in treating the pathophysiology currently underway in the person.

Next, the organ-tissue correspondences as they are associated with CD fluids:

LV is associated with blood and sinews (possibly meaning ‘nerves’); GB governs the bones.  In the CD channel system, the SI-HT CD relates to the sinews.  This comes about in part because SI-9, on the SI-HT CD trajectory, moves blood into the sinews.  The form of the sinews is felt through the movement of ye-thick fluid, the fluid of the SI CD.  The function of the sinews is brought about through blood, the fluid of the GB-LV CD.  The blood relationship of the Liver is more closely linked to the Luo Vessel system here.

HT rules over the mai, the vessels.  This includes the arteries as well as the jing-luo mai, the qi mai, and the bao mai. In other words, the Heart rules over the primary meridian cycle, the luo mai system of collaterals, the extraordinary vessels, and the enveloping vessel.  Absent are the CDs (but all the CDs go to the Heart) and the Sinew Channels (but the Sinew Channels are associated with the SI-HT CD).

SP is associated with the flesh; ST is associated with blood.  Because the luo vessels are about how events have not been ‘digested’  or assimilated by the person in question, the ST-SP CD and the Luo Vessels have a relationship.  Looking at the relation between LV and ST in this respect may be useful, for treatment patterns.  The Yin Wei Mai, a major intersection on the ST-SP CD could bear a certain relationship to the flesh, as the inner aspect of the body’s substance, linking everything together.

LU is associated with the skin, which is the domain of wei qi and the sinew vessels; LI is associated with jin-fluids, which provide the source of wei qi.  The LU, LI, SJ-PC CD and SI-HT CD all overlap with the beginnings of the sinew vessels.  In fact, however, the SI-HT CD is more associated with the end or binding points of the sinew vessels, while the SJ-PC CD is associated with their beginnings.  The LU-LI system is associated with wei qi, which is also the domain of the sinew vessels.  However, because the LU-LI CD is also associated with the Primary Channels, the LU-LI system goes ‘deeper’ into the body than the sinew channels themselves would.

KD are associated with bones, but the GB ‘masters’ the bones; the BL is associated with jing.  This correspondence fits in nicely with the BL-KD CD association with the EVs.  However, the SI-HT CD deposits pathogens in the jing-associated teeth.  The SI is further associated with the thick fluids which nourish jing-associated marrow.  However, the BL-SI and KD-HT channels link up through their TaiYang and ShaoYin associations.

When the topic turns to sexual function, several aspects come to the fore.  First, LV-5, the LV luo point, which is also on the LV CD trajectory, influences libido.  (The BL-KD CD and its relationship to the lineage-linked jing is clearly implicated in sexual functioning.)  Second, the relationship between wei qi and jing shares an analagous relationship to ejaculation:  wei qi is the yang qi which propels jing outside the body.   In this regard, two other CDs come into play, the SJ-PC channel divergence which conveys yang qi (and links the Heart and Kidneys, essential for climax — the moment when Heart Fire is discharged downwards towards the Kidneys) and the LI-LU CD which deals with wei qi.  Third, the SI-HT CD comes into play when sensation is involved; this includes pathophysiologies like vulvadinia and perhaps also hydroceles.   The ST-SP CD comes into play with openness and making sense of the person one is relating to (or not relating to) in sexual intercourse.

Perhaps in a future post, I will take each of the couples as a case study to illustrate the interplay of each channel system.  For now, however, the post is long enough!

As always, these posts are meant for entertainment and educational purposes, and are not meant to diagnose, treat, or cure any particular conditions.  If you or a loved one have recently begun to smell different and you are concerned about what this may mean, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!


The Weight of the World (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 21)

Glory, experiencing a moment of mercy as she awaits her rebirth into the hell she came from, is restless.  She feels ‘tight in her skin’.  It should come as no surprise that such a feeling would be associated with the luo of the Conception Vessel. The Conception Vessel (or Ren Mai) is usually associated with bonding and pacing the assimilation of the world around oneself.  Here, we see Glory and Ben are both emotionally assimilating to one another’s worlds, and the pace of switching from one to the other is speeding up out of control.

In repletion, the CV luo is characterised by pain in the skin of the abdomen.  In depletion, the symptom is an itchy abdomen, a sort of restless core rather different from the ‘hot hands’ of the Lung luo.  From the luo point of CV-15, it disperses over the abdomen, and it manifests as spider veins lining the costal margin.  E Jiao and Gui Ban both go to the Conception Vessel.  Zhi Shi treats tormenting itching.  Any of the three can be added to Si Wu Tang, along with Sang Ye or Jie Geng to float the formula outwards towards the surface of the skin.

Glory raises some interesting points about feelings, which I’d like to relate to the idea of blood and luo vessels as repositories of human feeling.  Glory describes people as having all sorts of bile running through them.  They have no control.  Humans, she says, are ‘meat-baggy slaves to hormones and pheromones and their feelings… Hate ’em!’  What she does not tie in, however, is that the hormones she posits as a source of feelings are carried by the blood.  Pheromones, emitted by scent and sweat glands, elicit hormonal responses, again through the medium of blood. It does not seem surprising that blood was chosen as the site of ‘internal’ and ’emotional’ physiology.

Glory goes on to talk about how ‘Human emotions are useless… people getting jerked around by their emotions’.  That thought also is not foreign to many meditative traditions; hence the practice of what in Christianity was termed ‘recollection’ and today in Buddhism is called ‘mindfulness’, the cultivation of a pause to feel the body and the body and not as a feeling warranting an unthought meaning before acting.  It is a simple practice of attentiveness to the world as it is, as you experience it, before you associate the experiences with any verbal interpretations.

Another aspect of human life the episode raised is guilt, and the weight of the world as the burden of potential.  In Chinese Medicine, as I’ve described before, dampness is something good which because it has become too much and cannot be used, becomes burdensome and pathological.  Therefore, for Buffy, herbs which transform dampness or bolster the Spleen (and its ability to mull and meditate) would be called for.   I wonder if this aspect of dampness and the pain of potential is one reason why the SP-21 point was chosen over GB-23? (At the very least, it could serve as a mnemonic device.)

In this episode we also learn about the ritual bloodletting that will open the portal to other worlds.  Yes, it is true:  I chose the luo vessels for this season precisely because I knew the ending of the season.  However, I did not know how well the episodes would provide an opportunity to explore nearly all the luo points.  I hope I did well enough that the points and indications are memorable.  Season Six will likely begin with Extraordinary Vessel treatments and then move  on to using the Sinew Vessels.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel restless and have an itchy abdomen, please see a qualified practitioner of Chinese Medicine or mindfulness (which is now a secular art and researched by Mark Williams, a fellow at Linacre College, Oxford).

Happy Slayage!

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!

Intervention (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 18)

In this episode, Buffy confesses to Giles that she feels she’s turning to stone.  Every synonym she comes up with relates to hardness.  She feels she’s losing her humanity because of her mission, her going out into the world.  Giles suggests a quest.  On the quest, the guide, in the image of the First Slayer, tells Buffy that she is full of love, that the Slayer forges strength out of pain, and most important, that death is her gift.

Meanwhile, Spike gets his Buffybot.  The Buffybot causes a little confusion with Buffy’s friends and they attempt to stage a mild intervention, until Buffy returns from her quest and clarifies the issue — giving Spike a kiss in the end, for not betraying them.

My first thought when Buffy said she was turning to stone was CV-5, called Shi Men, Stone Gate  (HT-6, KD-18, and KD-19 also all have ‘stone’ in their names).  However, since we are dealing with the luo vessels, the Du Mai Luo seems most appropriate.  In repletion, Du Mai luo pathology shows up as stiffness of the entire bod  in contrast to the TW luo, which addresses only rigid elbows.  (In depletion, the head is constantly shaking.)

Why did Buffy choose stone as her image?  (As a side note, stone almost made it into the five-phase canon — we have manuscript evidence that it was being considered as a sixth phase of qi.)  Stone is hard, resilient, and inflexible.  It is too mission focused.  The Du Mai is the extraordinary vessel responsible for allowing the person to stand up and individuate his or her mission in the world within the context of the lineage he or she was given.  What is the luo or blood level of Du Mai?  It is the level at which emotion drives the person’s mission forward.  Pathologically, though, the luo vessel system, if unable to resolve an issue, will overflow into the Extraordinary Vessels, the EVs catching excess pathogens as they enter through the luo (and emotional) system.  (At least, this is how I understand the Nan Jing’s description of the EV’s.)  From that perspective, Buffy has not been able to resolve some emotional issues and now they are coming out or affecting her mission in the world.  In some respects, they are filling the mission too much — stiffness, repletion — and not allowing the flexibility which would help resolve them.

So the treatment would be to bleed Du-1, and look for any spider veins along the spine, bleeding those as well.

Herbal treatment for a Du Mai luo pathology would need to address both jing and blood; I would use Lu Jiao or Lu Jiao Jiao.  The substance is warming, not heating; it is sticky and lubricating.  It will help bring resilience and flexibility to the spine.  Yi Yi Ren is said to treat an inability to stretch and bend; it thus may be useful in these cases as well.  (As a side note, the root of Yi Yi Ren can be used for Liver luo issues, being called ‘woodworm eliminator’.)

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you feel that your emotions are causing you to focus too much on your work to the extent you are beginning to lose it, please see a qualified health care practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!

Forever (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 17)

As the Scoobies attempt to create a life without Joyce, Dawn teams up with Spike in an attempt to resurrect her mother.  We are introduced to a character who becomes pivotal in the final episode, Doc, whom we realise may not be all that he seems when Dawn glimpses his lizard-like tail.  Doc offers Dawn a tonic to help with grieving in lieu of the resurrection spell.   Meanwhile, Buffy admits to keeping busy because if she stops, then her mother is really gone.  Grief from the perspective of luo vessel physiology, then, will be the topic of this post.

Grief can be treated with needles at LU-7 (the luo point of the Lungs), due to the association of the metal phase (to which both the Lung and Large Intestine belong) with grief and sadness.  Grief due to a known cause can be treated with a luo vessel treatment using SP-4 and PC-6 to ‘activate’ the ying qi level of considered or ‘digested’ perception, followed by LI-6.

In terms of luo vessel dynamics, repletion of the LU luo vessel manifests as ADHD, a ‘hot hands’ feeling of constantly needing to be busy — not unlike Willow’s constant change of wardrobe in the previous episode, and very much like Buffy’s constant need to be busy or else it means her mother really is dead.  It seems to be no surprise that the two — the physical action of keeping busy, and the internal sensation of grief — should go together.  Xander seemed to intuitively recognise the benefits of bleeding the luo point — LU-7 — for grief, also in the previous episode.  ‘It hurts.  It means you’re alive.'(In depletion, the Lung luo is associated with yawning, stretching, and frequent urination — a sort of ‘boredom’ syndrome.)

For grief, both LU-7, and LI-7 are both useful.    Physically, the Large Intestine luo deals with tooth decay and a constant mulling over events.  This, too, seems related to grieving:  what could I have done differently?  Tooth decay is often seen as a sign that a pathogen is being stored away, and is trying to come out in some other way.  Metaphorically, this can mean the person is feeling grief, and instead of crying, the grief is coming out through thoughts kept within — although that metaphorical interpretation may fit better a depleted luo vessel symptom.  In depletion of the Large Intestine luo, the person experiences ‘cold teeth’, or perhaps we would say the person’s teeth are ‘set on edge’, and an obstructed diaphragm — again, a feeling in grief when one cannot seem to catch one’s breath, or when the crying just won’t come.

One could conceivably choose to simply bleed both LU-7 and LI-6, and any spider veins along the trajectory of each channel (the LU to the thenar eminence and the LI to the shoulder, jaw, lower teeth, and ear).  I might moxa not the luo point, but the source point, turning the treatment into a source-luo combination.  The Lu would draw on the yang and yuan qi of the Large Intestine to move grief outwards, perhaps in the form of tears (the LI controlling jin-fluids), and the LI would use the yuan and yang qi of the Lungs to close the body off to pathogens progressing more deeply into the body (the function of Yang Ming is to ‘seal off’ the body).

For a tonic to treat grieving, I could recommend several — I’ve given plenty of formulae for grief in previous posts.  Here, I will focus on envoy herbs for blood formulas and note that Huang Qin goes to the blood level of the Lungs, and thus would harmonise with other blood-oriented formulas.  For the Large Intestine luo, I would suggest Ce Bai Ye or Huai Hua.  Ce Bai Ye has the benefit of also clearing the Lungs.  The root of Prunus Japonica treats tooth decay, as does the seldom used Shu Yang Quan; perhaps a better choice for the LI luo vessel in cases of tooth decay is Mu Zei, used in European herbalism to purify the teeth and fill in shallow cavities.  Do not use Mu Zei in cases of kidney stones or gout.  The other option for a herb which moves blood and goes to the Large Intestine is Da Huang.  Both Da Huang and Huang Qin combine well together, and could conceivably be used in moderation (with a blood moving formula like Xue Fu Zhu Yu Tang) for someone who has pent up grief which will not come out, but which still causes much pain.

As always, this post is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you are grieving, or know someone with ADHD whom you think would benefit from Chinese medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

I was made to love you (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 15)

The ‘B’ plot of Season 5 which will become the ‘A’ plot of Season Six enters in this episode.  Did anyone else notice how everyone seemed to be smiling much more than usual during the first two-thirds of the show?  Was this a set up for the final scene?

Warren, a former Sunnydale High classmate who went to a nearby Tech school, created a robot to love him.  She shows up in Sunnydale looking for the man she was made to love.  Meanwhile, Spike tries to get in good with the Scoobies by showing up at The Magic Shop, but Giles tells him to move on from his — whatever it is — that he feels for Buffy.  Although Buffy and the Scoobies eventually disable Warren’s robot, towards the end of the episode, Spike shows up and commissions the now famous ‘Buffybot’.  At the very end of the show, Buffy discovers her mother’s lifeless body.

So it seems Spike is still obsessed.  Perhaps our treatment in episode 14 wasn’t successful. Perhaps instead of obsession we should have treated Spike for excess sexual arousal, a Liver luo issue. (Clearly, we could have treated puffy Xander for ‘drum distention’ in this episode.)  Before I differentiate Liver and Spleen luo physiology, let’s look at the symptoms of Liver luo pathology a bit more closely.

In depletion of the Liver luo, symptoms include itching of the genitals; this can also be interpreted as ‘itching to get laid’ in colloquial speech.  In repletion, persistent erection is the key sign — a lack of satisfaction in terms of metaphorical interpretation, priapism (due to an overdose of herbs like Lu Jiao, for example) in terms of actual physical signs.  In counterflow of the Liver luo vessel, swelling of the testicles (and thus perhaps also vulvadinia) is the result.  This can happen in the case of ‘blue balls’ (or ‘pink ovaries’), or the orchitis can be comorbid with other conditions, such as mumps.  Spike seems to have a replete Liver collateral vessel.

Therefore, the luo point of the Liver, located one third of the way up the medial aspect of the tibia, at the notch, should be bled.  This point is called ‘Woodworm Canal’, and is today numbered as LV-5 (or LR-5 for people whose handwriting makes ‘V’ and ‘U’ look similar).

So what is the physiology of the Liver luo? What does it regulate, exactly, and how? In the case of the Liver luo, we see a convergence of an acupuncture system focused on the blood, emotions, and hun, with an organ system traditionally said to store the blood.  At night, the blood returns to the Liver, allowing the hun-ethereal souls-personality to wander about, while providing a yin anchor to which they can return.  The Liver is not ordinarily associated with reproductive functions in men, although the trajectory of both the primary channel and the collateral vessel both pass through the genitals.  Despite this trajectory, neither are associated with jing-essence (semen in men, menstrual fluid in women).

The name of LV-5, woodworm canal, does provide a clue.  The body is said to have three worms in it, as I’ve detailed in other posts.  The blood serves to contain them.  When the blood in the channel is not sufficient to keep them contained, the body begins to ‘itch’ with desire, greed, or ignorance.  The hun have a difficult time keeping the worms contained.  When replete, the implication is that the worms have multiplied to such an extent the blood has had to also increase to keep them contained — or the balance between them is disrupted to the point that they are not receiving the bare minimum they need to keep the physiology of the system functioning; they are not receiving their ‘satisfaction’.

The Liver luo, in other words, functions to provide the proper channeling of the three worms — into one’s lineage, if necessary.  The LV luo is the last before the luo vessels begin to empty into the extra-ordinary vessels.  This is the principle link the LV has with jing-essence, so it may be that a dysfunction in the LV luo is an effort to produce an heir to the lineage who will not inherit whatever pathology has been going deeper into the parent’s system…

For herbal treatment of Liver luo pathophysiology, we have many options to choose from.  LV blood is one of the most commonly addressed blood issues in the clinic. Any number of formulae can address it — but how to focus it on the LV luo, and disperse qi, wind, or blood from the genitals, while also taking a clue about worms from the point LV-5 is another matter.  Bai Tou Weng treats swollen or itchy testicles, and would therefore be a useful guiding herb for LV luo depletion and counterflow, as would Yin Yang Huo (but do not use Yin Yang Huo in cases of priapism).  When used over a long period of time, Bai Tou Weng tends to elicit anger, and has been used to treat Liver yang deficiency.

Wu Ling San with Wu Yao added treats blue balls, and thus is a good option for counterflow in the Liver luo.  Any of the above herbs can be added to Gui Zhi Fu Ling Wan or Shao Fu Zhu Yu Tang to move blood in the lower warmer.

I have not recently come across any specific herb to treat persistent erection, although I have encountered such properties in my reading.  In such a case, I might use herbs to relax blood vessels, and would consider a formula such as Gui Zhi jia Shao Yao Tang.  If anyone has other suggestions for such a case, please leave a comment below.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you know anyone with a persistent erection, or erection lasting more than four to six hours, please see a qualified health care practitioner. 

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!

Fool for Love (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 7)

I had forgotten about this episode as a full piece, until I rewatched it last night. I had remembered Spike’s backstory, of course, and the amazing beauty make-up done for Drusilla and Darla. And who can forget the kick-ass Slayer Nikki from the 1970s?

What I had forgotten was the framing of the story: Buffy staked by her own weapon, Riley’s slow movement towards the shadow sides of his character, and Spike’s vulnerable side. Although Doug Petrie, in the commentary, says the episode is about people telling one another things they need to hear but don’t want to hear (and therefore reacting badly to those statements), it is also about how a person’s character does not really change, even if the externals accumulate into creating a new persona. Spike remained the broken-hearted romantic; Riley still has the character of someone who needs to get the mission accomplished. While Spike’s changes are obvious, what changes in Riley’s case is the means and willingness to work with other people. I would argue though, that he remains true to his character — the classic ‘tragic flaw’ placed in a 21st century context.

What can be diagnosed in this episode?  I had thought about treating Buffy for her abdominal injury (SP luo treats ‘lancinating pain in the intestines’), or her inability to defend herself (BL luo treats that, although this is phrased as ‘sniveling’ in the Jia Yi Jing), or even Spike’s obsession with Buffy (again SP luo could come into play). Certainly, the death-wish that all Slayer’s have would be something to pre-empt (perhaps with the Great Luo of the SP), but I already addressed that in an earlier episode. Riley, however, provides a more interesting case.

Looking at Riley, nothing particularly physiological is going on. His adrenal overload is gone. He’s recovered well from Season 4’s events. But something is happening to him internally. His usual optimism is being blocked somehow, and unable to keep up with Buffy, he’s beginning to slip. A certain sadness at not being heroic (which is different from being the hero), a frustration at no longer having a well-oiled team to be part of, a disappointment from the lopsided relationship with Buffy (because he thinks Buffy is the one for him — and he knows he’s not the one for her) all conspire to move his personality to extreme behaviours, slowly but surely.

In a sense, we could argue that the po-corporeal souls are gaining dominance over the hun-ethereal souls, or more physiologically, his blood has begun to flow erratically upon itself, ying and wei qi mixing improperly.  The po-spirits are the ‘bone souls’ which seek to drag humans into their mortality. They are the souls which become dominant in cases of addiction and reckless behaviour, when the severe qi of the Lungs ceases to govern justly and evenly. They number seven, originally, and are lost after each cycle of seven (for women) or eight (for men) years, travelling down the spine to exit through the anus.  If something severe happened to a person during that cycle, or if the po-soul has something to hold onto, it will displace a portion of the vertebral column as it leaves.   The hun, as mentioned before, are more the personality-like souls, the souls often honoured at the ancestral altar, surviving for three generations before fading away or re-entering the family lineage.

We can therefore choose to look at Riley’s case either from a spirit-physiological perspective and figure out a way to harmonise the hun and po, or we can look at it from a psychological point of view.  In the latter case, we can give a simple diagnosis:  Riley is vexed.  He doesn’t know what to do, but he cannot break character.  Vexation and oppression is the sign of counterflow in the Kidney network vessels (foot shao yin luo).  Counterflow movement thus supports the above statement that the blood has begun to flow back upon itself.  Interestingly, of all the luo-channels, the only one to enter the bones is the Kidney luo.  The SI goes to ‘shoulder bone’ — some would read this as LI-15 — but the Kidney luo actually enters the lumbar spine.  Treating the Kidney luo by re-establishign its proper flow thus could have an effect over the po-souls which exit through the spine.  One could theorise that counterflow in the KD luo allows the po-souls greater freedom and draws them into the blood, where they reside as parasites or the three worms, but that would be a theoretical stretch which need not be explored in depth here.

The acupuncture treatment for Riley’s vexation and oppression would then be to lance KD-4, and check to see if any broken blood-vessels lie along the trajectory of the channel as it ascends the leg.  I might consider bleeding SP-4 and PC-6 as well, since the cause of the condition is known, but I think I’d actually lance those in a follow-up appointment, once Riley really begins to acknowledge what is going on.  For now, relieving the vexation and counterflow could help him re-establish a proper movement in his life.

Herbal treatment would focus on the gathering qi of the chest, rather than a strictly blood-moving formula for the Kidneys.  The po-souls are held in tension in the body, anchored between both by the solid bones and thick jing, and also by the yang qi which gathers in the Lungs.  When the qi is weak, the bones continue to store the po-souls, but they are allowed to wreak havoc.  One could argue that when the bones are weak, the po-souls begin leaving the body pre-maturely, having no strong residence; whether this could lead to earlier mortality or not is debatable.  Regardless, the greater danger is weak qi.

Herbally speaking, I would select a variation of Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang:  the early twentieth century formula, Sheng Xian Tang (Raise the Sunken Decoction).  The formula contains only five herbs: huang qi (four parts), zhi mu (two parts), chai hu (one part), jie geng (one part), and gan cao (two-thirds a part).  The formula tonifies the gathering qi in the chest, opening all the body’s physiological processes.  Currently, the formula is also used to treat cardiovascular disorders.

In Riley’s case, I was suggest his previous experience in the hospital when he had a heart rate well above normal led to an exhaustion of qi in the upper burner.  This in turn led to a backing up or counterflow of qi and blood in the lower warmer — his Ming Men- and Jing-related physiology seems to be functioning just fine, given his core strength and energy.  Tonifying the qi of the chest will help raise the blood back up and re-establish proper flow.  Additionally, the huang qi secures the exterior, while the jie geng floats qi to the surface, unmixing wei qi from ying qi.  This will give Riley some psychological balance as he negotiates his path between his love for Buffy and his conviction (whether misplaced or not) that he is not the one for Buffy.

It is unlikely that the formula would need to be taken long term in Riley’s case, unless Riley has the weak pulse indicative for the formula.

As always, this post is for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have cardiovascular conditions and would like to seek herbal treatment under the supervision of your regular physician, please seek a qualified local practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!

School Hard (Buffy, Season 2)

In this episode we are introduced to a very blond, very bad vampire.  Who will stay with us until the end of the television series, it turns out.  A very interesting trip down memory lane, this episode.

Spike does not come alone.  He brings along Drusilla, brought to amazing life (if you will excuse the pun) by the incredible acting of Juliet Landau. But Drusilla has a problem.  The problem is not that she is a seer.  No, her symptoms line up under another, rather common, pattern.  Let’s see how:

Drusilla is experiencing anorexia — a lack of appetite.  (This is not the same thing as anorexia nervosa, which is a psychological diagnosis).  She also complains to Spike of cold limbs, while he comments on her wan complexion.  No appetite. Unclear thinking, unformed intent.

Drusilla doesn’t even finish her meal, and presumably loses more blood in the process of turning her dinner into a playmate.

Sorry folks, but this sounds like a clear cut Spleen issue to me.  No interesting diagnosis today.  Let’s see if we can make the treatment interesting.

Clearly, Drusilla could use some more blood, and to do that why not strengthen her Spleen?  This case can use the prosaic Ba Zhen Tang as an herbal base (but replace the Ren Shen with Dang Shen if you want to keep Dru a vampire).  Add E Jiao for more substance and so that she can keep her blood to herself.  No need to over-run Sunnydale with vampires.  (It’s already too late for that.)

For acupuncture, if we are dealing with blood, let’s see what can be done using Luo Vessels.  I don’t usually think of bloodletting to generate blood, even though I have tonified luo vessels with moxa following the bloodletting.  I’m not sure how a vampire would react to burning moxa, actually.  Do you think they might be afraid to have flame around?  (The Master certainly wasn’t — did you see all the candles and torches he decorated his home with?)  A more immediate concern is that moxa was once used as an exorcistic herb, kind of like how North Americans (whether they are descended from the indigenous peoples of the Great Plains or not) use white sage.

Since I’m unlikely to ever use this treatment on a blood-deficient vampire (I doubt I’d have time to whip out my moxa and needles), I’ll leave the discussion for a later time, and focus on an actual treatment.

I’ve chosen to use Luo Vessels, because I’ve never thought to use them in this sort of case.  Extraordinary Vessel treatments can easily be used to generate blood and support Spleen qi via the Chong Mai (SP-4, ST-30, ST-37, LV-1, SP-1, and if you want to bring it up to the face via the Ren Mai to help the complexion, ST-4.  I would avoid CV-24, which is a ghost point).  Divergent channels can also be used to generate blood (I would use the LV-GB channel divergence), but in this case, we need to generate blood, not bank blood so much.

The Luo Vessels follow a sequence very similar to the primary channels, and pathology can enter either from a primary channel directly, or from the sequentially preceding luo channel when it drains.  When luo vessels become full, they appear as spider veins, which are bled; when they drain, they leave behind little nodules.  Those nodules are treated by bleeding followed by moxa.  The luo vessel of the channel on which these veins or nodules appear is also bloodlet with either lancets or plum blossom needles.  Typically, I think of using luo vessels for internal, emotional based symptoms, but they can be used for physical complaints as well.  After all, pain is due to blood stasis, whether physical pain or emotional pain, and pain can be resolved by moving blood.  The emotional-based treatment is somewhat different from what I’ve given above, however.

If we take Drusilla’s lack of appetite as the key symptom, we could begin thinking of using the Large Intestine luo.  It’s symptoms include constant chewing — but if the luo vessel were empty, the opposite would hold:  a lack of chewing.  (Upon reflection, that symptom applies to most vampires.)  Because the LI luo is empty, we would expect to find a subsequent one to be full, unless a primary channel was strong enough to deal with the pathogen in some way.  That does not seem to be the case here.  Drusilla does manifest fullness in the Stomach luo, whose key symptom of fullness would be feelings which are out of control.  Mildly out of control in her case, perhaps — she also manifests an inability to defend herself, a symptom of BL luo fullness.

The treatment then, would be to look for spider veins along the trajectory of these channels and bleed them.  (Maybe this is how her meal got turned into a vampire — self treatment is not recommended.)  BL-58, ST-40, LI-6 can all be bloodlet.  Start with the BL luo point and trajectory, then move back along the sequence.  Use moxa on LI-6.  I would also consider using moxa on KD-3, the source point of the next channel in the sequence, to keep the pathology from going deeper.

Let’s see if we can parse this treatment out in TCM terms.  Although it fits the symptoms being manifested, from a Classical point of view, could we convince a TCM practitioner that this will treat SP qi and blood deficiency?

ST-40 is usually thought of as dispersing phlegm.  Phlegm often results when dampness coagulates due to heat.  Bleeding this point will release some of that heat, certainly, and may help clear the phlegm.

BL-58 is recognised as an empirical point for treating hemorrhoids.  Hemorrhoids could be thought of as Spleen qi sinking, leading to prolapse.  Heat in the blood and wind can also cause hemorrhoids, however.  BL-58 harmonises upper and lower by resolving excess above and deficiency below.  If the Spleen and Stomach harmonise above and below, then it can be reasoned this point could have some effect on those organ-functions.  The point also treats mania, which we know is a symptom of Stomach or Yang Ming heat.

Finally, LI-6 opens and regulates waterways, so could help with dampness if that impedes the Spleen.  It also treats mania, interestingly enough. And cold teeth.  I’ve never thought of vampires having cold teeth before.

While I’m not entirely convinced this would treat an underlying Pi Xu pattern, I’m confident this series of treatments would resolve the symptoms which are giving Drusilla her wan complexion and poor appetite.  Spike should thank me.

As always, the above discussion is for theoretical and entertainment purposes.  Please see a qualified practitioner if you think Asian medicine may benefit you.

Happy Slayage!