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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go Fish (Buffy, Season Two)

Sunnydale has a chance of winning a sports event for once.  The swim team has rocketed to the top of its league.  Unfortunately, the area in which Sunnydale High most excels (its high death or mishap rate) might keep them from that goal.  Luckily for Sunnydale High (or not, considering how the episode resolves itself), Xander decides to step into the rapidly vacating positions on the swim team.

Xander continues to make homoerotic comments in this episode — this time about how great it is to be in a steamroom with a bunch of other guys.  Little does he realise what all that quality time can do to a guy.

The problem seems to be that the top swimmers turn into creatures from the lost lagoon, shedding their skin in the process.  The secret to their transformation lies in the vapours of the high school steamroom.

This is obviously a case of externally contracted summerheat-damp stagnating on the interior. Chinese medicine could have helped release these external channels so that the swimteam’s skin could have been saved. Alas, for their ignorance of the many uses of acupuncture and herbal medicine!

Aside from the more graphic manifestations of this pathogen (scales, fins, increased ability to swim), summerheat damp can stagnate the collaterals of the Lung leading to irritability, purple face (or purple-green in our case), nosebleeds (Buffy surely wouldn’t have struck a fellow classmate hard enough to cause a nosebleed, would she?), laboured breathing (I guess gills don’t work too well on land), and sometimes muzzy headedness.

The treatment principles are obviously to clear summerheat, drain dampness, cool and invigorate the blood.  Since the pathogen has led to a decided change of physiognomy, I would say it has penetrated a touch deeper than the blood level.

The herbal treatment is Qing Luo Yin jia Xing Ren, Yi Ren, Hua Shi Tang.  The herbs in this formula are honeysuckle flowers (jin yin hua), lily pad leaf (he ye), watermelon rind (xi gua pi), apricot kernal (xing ren), talcum (hua shi), loofa gourd (si gua lou), job’s tears (yi yi ren), and bamboo leaf (zhu ye).

Since the problem is obviously due to the skin not releasing the dampness (necessitating its removal by the emergent sea monsters), I would start treatment with the sinew vessels, focusing on finding ah shi points along the ShaoYang channel.  Then I would use the Gallbladder-Liver divergent channel to cool the blood and access the jing level of the body to clear both the heat-pathogen from the blood and prevent it from lodging in the jing level and causing structural changes to the body.

The Gallbladder as one of the extraordinary organs, has a connection with jing, well the GB-LV channel divergence is responsible for using blood to help make a pathogen latent.   The BL-KD channel divergence uses jing to make a pathogen latent, and so it would seem a better choice than the GB-LV CD.  However, these are teenagers, and their reserves of jing prone to variability.   Other reasons also support the use of the GB-LV channel divergence.  In addition to these young men having qi or blood-type bodies (according to the Kanpo method of sorting body types), indicating a reserve of blood, the Channel Divergences are also sometimes seen as the internal trajectory of the primary meridians with which they are associated.  Since the Sinew vessels are the externalisation of the primary meridians, by addressing both we will have strengthened the primary meridian system against this pathogen.

Therefore, treatment would proceed as follows:  Perform sinew vessel releases using Sotai on Du-4 and Du-14.  Find ah shi points along the GB and TH meridians.  Needle these shallowly with a chiselling technique.  Burn one thread of pure moxa at GB-44.

For the points along the channel divergence, I would use a shallow-deep-shallow needle technique, since we want to bring the pathogen out from the jing and blood levels through the now cleared wei qi level.  I would start with one side and angle the needles upwards until GB-1, which I would point towards the other side of the body; then I would needle the rest of the points with the needled pointing towards the jing well point on the strongest side.  Needle GB-30, which is the start of the GB channel divergence and CV-3, which is the confluent point of the GB and LV CD.  I would also choose to needle GB-25, which connects to KD source qi; PC-1 (or LV-14) which store the blood; ST-9 (“Welcome to Humanity”); and GB-1, the closing point of the sequence.  For the weaker side, I would also needle GB-44.  Needles should be retained for at least 20 minutes, and up to 40 minutes.  Treatment should occur every day for three days on, three days off, over a three week period.

As always, this post is for theoretical purposes only.  If you feel you have something stagnating inside you that just wants to break free, and you feel that Chinese medicine may help you, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered (Buffy, Season 2)

This was actually the first Buffy episode I ever watched.  I caught the middle of it at a friend’s house, just as Amy was invoking “Diana, goddess of love and the hunt.”

I thought to myself, “That is not the right goddess to be invoking.  Who wrote this?”  After all, one doesn’t invoke avowed virgin goddesses asking them to provide women to sate one’s lust!  (This is Xander we’re talking about — pure chaste love isn’t on his radar.)  So, I wasn’t surprised when the spell backfired.

To be honest, I chalked the series up to a Xena like disregard for any semblance of historicity, despite my friend telling me that Amy was just a “beginning witch” — and thus her ignorance was quite in character.  Getting hooked on Buffy would have to wait until years later, when a friend would physically put in my hands the DVD set of the third season and tell me to watch it.  (So I watched it, and the next season, and the first two seasons, and the last three seasons, plus Angel and the comic book for season 8… not to mention other JW productions… and now I’m writing blog posts as I watch the series yet again.)

Despite my initial doubts, this particular episode certainly offers a wealth of diagnoses: wounded pride and revenge, obsession, and “the pimple patrol.”

I’m afraid I don’t have any solutions for the wounded pride aspect yet.  On the other hand, I would think of treating it as an insult to the Kidneys (self) and Heart (joy) manifesting outwards through the Wood channels (desire for action) — the Liver fighting back against the Spleen’s (society) insults to the communication between the Heart and Kidney.  This mechanism is not dissimilar to what I’ll discuss below.

As for obsession, since all women were apparently obsessed with Xander, treating each of them would overly tax the available resources, so I will not be pursuing this option as a solution.  (Triage wins again).

That leaves the pimple patrol.  I will help Amy out by addressing the symptom which Ms. Calendar threw at her.

Acne can be due to various causes according to Chinese medicine, but is most often associated with heat or heat toxins in the blood.  Wen Qing Yin, which is a combination of Huang Lian Jie Du Wan and Si Wu Tang, is often an effective treatment for several skin conditions, including acne rosacea.  The formula clarifies the blood by eliminating heat toxins while simultaneously encouraging the production of new, vigorous blood.

As for acupuncture, we can clear fire toxins from the blood.  While we could use the SI channel since it relates to fire toxicity and also to the process of separating pure form impure, I think a closer look at the physiology at issue is warranted.  (If I were to still focus on the SI meridian, I would add points on the Stomach meridian, since it is the source of blood and the external venter of heat;  I would address the blood which is stored in the Jue Yin level and treat either the PC or the LV.)

Acne during puberty is likely the result of either the last fetal toxins being burned off or the body’s attempt to vent the heat being generated by the increase of jing-essence and the awakening of ming men fire.  This internal fire is contained in the ShaoYin level of the Heart and Kidneys.  Usually this fire is vented either through the JueYin Pericardium channel or the ShaoYang Triple Heater channel.  Since the JueYin level is the reservoir of blood, this would lead to a manifestation of heat in the blood.  The treatment then would be to facilitate the removal of heat from the ShaoYin system.  I would choose PC-7 and LV-8 as points on the JueYin channel, and I would add TH-5 on the ShaoYang channel.  This particular combination will clear heat from the blood as it is stored in the Liver, while moving heat from the blood level outwards through the Luo point of the TH channel.

The mechanism by which wounded pride manifests as a desire for revenge in Xander’s case is similar.  ShaoYin was insulted or closed off by TaiYin — that is, the Kidneys-Self was shut out by the closing of TaiYin-Spleen-Society, forcing heat to enter the JueYin level, from which it could be vented via the ShaoYang Gallbladder channel.  In this case, I would think of using GB-41 or GB-25 as the ShaoYang point, since it more clearly reflects the presence of the insult to the Kidneys which store the jing and relate to the extraordinary vessels.

As always this is a theoretical discussion.  If you feel you could benefit from the use of Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.