Potential (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 12)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shan Yao and Ji Nei Jin at 12g;

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Slayage!

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Band Candy (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 6)

I wonder if it is every teenager’s nightmare:  Parents turning into their children — while the kids are still at home.  Or perhaps the nightmare is seeing what those parents were like as teenagers.  Might shed some light on why parents act the way they do during the teenage years, but some things are better left unknown.

Alas, on the Hellmouth, such things are not to be, as Buffy and her friends find out.  After selling candy bars to all the adults, who find the candy quite addictive, the Scoobies discover just what that candy does to people:  makes them all act like teenagers.  The only people acting their age in this episode are the high school students, who seem to be immune to the effects of the chocolate bars.

One might think this would be a straightforward food allergy diagnosis.  I have another idea.  (Who in their right mind is going to entirely stop eating chocolate?)

Not acting your age.  It is true many people might wish to be young again.  It is equally true that many young people wish to be or look older.  While most people are sensible enough not to want to go through any particular decade again, not acting one’s age is considered undesirable and disruptive.

I’m not saying that 30 year olds must act one way, 50 year olds another, and 70 year olds still somehow different.  Age is in many ways just a number.  But the responsibilities and expectations which go with various period of life are also conditioned by social norms and practices, and a 70 year old who acts like an impulsive 19 year old manifests a pathology just as any child who isn’t growing physically.

So, like the inaugural season three post for the episode “Anne”, this post will also treat the topic of aging — but with a twist.

We know that the herb He Shou Wu is famously used for premature greying of the hair.  While this might seem to be a straightforward indication, a little reflection points us to something more.  What does it mean to be prematurely  grey?  One interpretation suggests premature grey is indicative of those who are old before their time — both physically as well as psychologically.  The one reflects the other, and it is not necessary that both be present.  He Shou Wu can therefore also be used for high school students who speak and act like they are 60, just as much as it can be used for 30 year olds whose hair has gone silver.

He Shou Wu is not alone in this reputed effect.  Other herbs which have a similar properties are Mo Han Lian, Nu Zhen Zi, Sang Shen (mulberry fruit), and Shu Di Huang.  In addition to tonifying the Liver and Kidneys, the first three herbs also happen to cool the blood, a characteristic we earlier noted seems to be associated with herbs which slow aging.  Mo Han Lian is also used in the treatment of bloody urine, and disinhibiting urine to expel heat from the body was one method of slowing aging.

The problem in this episode isn’t that Giles and Joyce and Principal Snyder are acting older than they are, however.  The problem is that these adults are acting like teenagers (and rather violent teenagers at that).  This seems to be the reverse of what He Shou Wu is indicated for.

Luckily, as Ted Kaptchuk has pointed out, Chinese herbs are not unidirectional.  In our case, the herbs can help someone who feels to old to feel younger, and they can help someone who is acting immaturely to grow up and accept responsibility for their actions.  In fact, we know this already when we look at herbs which treat childhood developmental disorders.  In those cases, we want the child to act or grow older.  The herbs we typically use for slowed development nourish the kidneys and essence.  Other herbs which catalyse the expression of essence through either the Shao Yang Triple Warmer mechanism or through the outward movement of the Wood-Liver phase are then added to the formula.  The end result is a formula which addresses the body’s physiology entirely, from supplementing its source qi and essence to opening the channels by which that source qi can nourish and express itself outwardly through the rest of the body.

A similar principle would hold here.  We could use the herbs which treat premature greying, and instead of dispersing jing (which the adults seem hellbent on doing anyway) through the ShaoYang or Liver, we could add herbs which reverse the process — herbs which restrain or calm the Liver’s expression.

Thus, if L were concerned that the nourishment of the Liver and Kidneys would in fact be too great and therefore counterproductive, I could add Tian Ma to level the Liver and Gallbladder.  The ability of Tian Ma to reign in the overexuberance of the Liver as it manifests as wind is well known.  Since it also supplements the Liver through its warming qualities, it will not have an antagonistic effect on the previous herbs, although it may moderate their coolness.  Interestingly, this herb is also called “Parting Mother” in the Shen Nong Ben Cao, indicating its usefulness in helping a child move out into the world and become self-responsible.

For acupuncture, I would want to choose a channel system which has relatively quick effects.  Thus the Extraordinary Vessels would not be used; they take up to three months to fully manifest a deep and lasting change.  The Channel Divergences take three weeks.  Primary Meridians can have quite rapid effects, as can Luo Vessels.  Sinew Vessels also provide a means to address pathologies quickly, since they conduct wei qi, which renews its course every day.

I think I would use a primary meridian system to treat this particular case.  The source of the pathology is diet — that is, the Stomach is the first to be affected.  Currently, the pathology is manifesting as either fire harassing the Heart (leading to the mania we see in the streets) or the Kidneys (an unsettling of the Self).  The next meridian the pathogen would move to are the Triple Heater and Pericardium — although one could argue those meridians are already affected.  If one makes that argument, then we must see the last stage of the pathology as ending at the Liver.

The meridians I would end up needling are therefore the Stomach, the Heart, and the Triple Heater.  To make the acupuncture treatment align with the herbal formula, however, one could choose the Stomach, Kidney, and Liver meridians.  The points I would choose to disperse are ST-4 (the pathogen entered via the mouth), ST-36 (treats pathologies related to diet), HT-8 (to clear fire) or an even technique on HT-1 (to calm the spirit and settle the will).  I would use an even technique on the Kidney channel, if I opted to use it instead of the HT meridian.   I would think of KD-3 and KD-22 (Corridor Walk, to remind the spirit what its path in life is) or KD-23 (Spirit seal, to seal the spirit back to its residence) as appropriate points to needle.  I would then also tonify with moxa TW-5 (to regulate the outer gate of expression).  If I were to choose the Liver channel, I would tonify LV-14, Cycle door, to regulate the expression of age-related cycles of life.

Somehow, this point prescription does not satisfy me; perhaps I would choose a sinew vessel treatment to clear the exterior enough to let the interior pathology express outwards.  I would use the sinew channels to draw out wei qi from the interior, where it seems to have lodged (via consuming the drugged chocolate), giving rise to symptoms of Stomach and Heart fire (i.e. mania).  Perhaps I will explore that option at a later time.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and theoretical purposes only.  If you feel you or someone you know with grey hair or a tendency to pedantic outbursts may benefit from the tradition of Chinese acupuncture and herbal medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!