Restless (Buffy Season 4, Episode 22)

The final episode of Season Four is a coda to the climactic fight with Adam the week before.  The basic plot line of what Joss Whedon called a ’40 minute tone poem’ is that everyone has vivid and disturbing dreams resulting from their previous magical unification during the battle with Adam.

All the Scoobies (clearly minus Spike) end up at Buffy’s house after the fight.  They initially intend to watch a film, but all fall asleep practically before the cassette is in the VHS player.  The episode then follows the dreams of each character, beginning with Willow, followed by Xander, Giles, and finally Buffy.  Throughout each dream sequence, the spirit of the First Slayer seeks to kill off each of Buffy’s friends, in the belief that the Slayer must fight alone.  This notion of alone-ness will become key to Season 7’s resolution; here it is brought out in stark relief within Buffy’s own lineage.

(A recurring element in each dream is the Cheeseman, whom Joss indicates is meaningless and random.  The Cheeseman will not be the focus of my treatment in this post, although I will note that cheese is a rather yin substance.  All the characters could likely use more yin substance after their epic battle.)

Restless sleep due to dreams is a relatively common symptom seen in the clinic.  Insomnia, of which sleep with vivid dreams is a type, can have several etiologies.  Generally, sleep is related to the quality of blood and the jue-yin (LV-PC) system.  It can also be seen as the ability of wei qi to enter into the body, where it protects the body at night while the hun-souls wander about in dreams.  The ability of the hun to return to the body depends on the quality of the blood, which carries these personality-related souls.  Because the blood, which stores the hun, is itself stored in the Liver at night, the hun are also said to be stored by the Liver.

However, little explored is the relationship of sleep to jing, source or primal qi, and one’s lineage.  Since I did not delve into the meaning of primal qi in my previous post, though it would have been opportune to do so, I will set up my treatment rationale by first teasing out the physiology of lineage in the Chinese Medical body.  I will start with the premise that our characters’ restlessness is due to floating Kidney fire.

What is floating Kidney fire?  Simply put, it is the fire stored in the Kidneys when located outside the kidneys.  Floating Kidney fire thus bears a certain similarity to ministerial fire, except that minister fire is physiological, while floating Kidney fire is considered pathological.  The Kidneys, though, are considered a water-phase organ.  So where does this fire come from?  One could think of the Kidneys as that point in the yin cycle when yin-water begins to turn into yang-fire.  This yang-fire then rises upwards in a process we relate to the Triple Heater mechanism.  Indeed, the ‘fire of the gate of life’ (or ‘gate of destiny’), ming men, is associated with both the left kidney and with the TH.  Physiologically, it is the burning of jing-essence into the source qi of the body, impelling it to move outwards into the world, allowing the body to transform what it encounters and assimilate those experiences according to the template provided by the KD-jing.  The process of assimilation and transformation in this sense is the same process by which we say KD yang supports SP yang.

However, if the KD-yin or jing-essence is insufficient, it cannot contain the fire, which flares upwards.  The Pericardium (xin bao luo)  is generally responsible for venting heat which comes from the Heart; because it deals with fire outside the sovereign fire of the HT or shao-yin system, the PC is associated with minister fire as well.  It is the first defence for the Heart against fire from Kidney yin vacuity.  In the case of floating Kidney fire causing dream-disturbed sleep, the PC must deal with not only the fire which the Heart emanates as a matter of course, but it must also contend with fire which should have remained in the shao-yin (HT-KD) system.  If this process does not happen efficiently, the blood grows hot (either because the PC vents some heat into its associated jue-yin pair, the LV, or because the Heart has a build up of heat, thus affecting the blood or affecting the vessels which store the shen).  Hot blood disturbs the Hun-souls.

As mentioned earlier, the Heart, blood, and hun are all involved in sleep.  Sleep depends on the quality of the blood.  The hun wander about and govern dreams.  The Heart is the commander of blood and storehouse of the shen, which the hun follow (cf Ling Shu ch. 8).

If the internal blazing of Kidney fire were severe, the pathology would overflow into the LV, causing rising LV yang and if the blood becomes scorched by the heat, symptoms of internal wind.

So how does all this related to jing?  Jing is Kidney yin, and when it is weakened, Kidney fire escapes upwards.  Jing is also the lineage of the person, passed from parents to offspring; it binds the shen to the person and gives rise to jing-shen, associated with the marrow and through the marrow, with the brain.   Ming men is said to reside between the Kidneys, and the fire of shao-yin is the communication between the HT and the KD; the gate of destiny is thus located between the Heart-shen and the KD-essence, and is the ground wherein the two strive for harmony with one another.  Destiny emerges from the relationship between one’s lineage and the lessons one must learn in this life in order for the ‘little’ shen to return to the ling-soul located in the brain.  The formation of the original soul in the brain is one goal of Chinese alchemy.

I might also mention Buffy’s line, “I do not sleep on a bed of bones.”  The bones store the po-spirits (which, related to the rhythm of qi, are also said to be housed in the Lungs).  The bones are the most lasting of the body’s structures, and the po the most easily dissipated of the body’s souls.  (In fact, it is said that after every cycle of seven or eight years, a po-spirit exits the body; if it has trouble leaving, because it has become addicted to something, it leaves a herniation or other disruption in the vertebral column.)  In other words, the bones are one of the most lasting aspects of jing, a lineage which no longer walks in the world.  Buffy may be saying that she does not sleep on a lineage which cannot change; she is in control of where the lineage moves now.

When the Scoobies united during the previous episode, the jing of the slayer was shared out between them; it called forth the Ling-original soul of the first slayer, the original blazing of qi from the union of the first Slayer’s shen with an augmented jing (the source of the slayer’s amazing physical abilities and stamina).  That Ling-soul refused to remain mixed with a jing-lineage incapable of holding her.  The jing-lineage and bodies of Buffy’s friends could not contain the curriculum of lessons necessary for the Slayer’s shen to carry out its destiny.  Primal qi could not be contained in the Kidneys and overflowed into the TH and PC, aggravating their sleep in the form of floating Kidney fire.

After a long season, a simple diagnosis and treatment protocol will recentre our characters. After all, a good sleep will definitely be needed in order to survive the dramatic reversals of fortune awaiting all our characters in the next two seasons.

We have a few components to address physiologically.  Jing seems to be insufficient; primal qi seems to be blazing everywhere.  The Extraordinary Vessels are the vessel system which deals with both jing and source qi; they are also the vessels which are intimately involved with destiny as it works itself out in this life.

Since the previous episode dealt with incorporating others into the self — and indeed, Buffy insists that she has friends in this episode — then I would suggest Yin Qiao and Yang Wei Mai as the two vessels to use.  Yin Qiao is one’s view of the self; Yang Wei is the weaving together of external time in the person’s life.  The control points for these two vessels also happen to be KD6 and TW5.  Not only does this combination activate those EVs, they also nourish KD yin and regulate the venting of heat through the blood.

For a herbal prescription, I would choose Er Xian Tang, ‘Two Immortals Soup’.  The formula is often used for perimenopausal hot flashes (experienced by women in North America, but not by women in Japan, according to a study by Margaret Lock).  Er Xian Tang is composed of Xian Mao, Yin Yang Huo, Ba Ji Tian, Huang Bai, Zhi Mu, and Dang Gui.  Together, these herbs tonify the yin and yang of the Kidneys, but also drain pathological ming-men fire.  Interestingly, the nourishing of yin is accomplished through nourishing the blood as well as the essence.  The first three herbs nourish KD essence, the last one the blood.  Interestingly for our purposes, Dang Gui is also said (by Ted Katpchuk) to cause the hun to rejoice in itself, and is well known for its effects on hormonal processes in the body.  The formula also regulates the first two EVs, the Ren Mai and the Chong Mai.

I would add Ling Yang Jiao (which treats LV wind) with an eye to preventing further progression of the condition.  The Divine Farmer indicates that the horn for warding off vicious ghosts and preventing oppressive ghost dreams, a perfect fit for our exhausted gang.

As always, these posts are for informational purposes.  If you feel you would benefit from Chinese Medical treatment, please see a qualified practitioner.  For practitioners:  For more on minster fire, see Wang and Robertson (2008).  Applied Channel Theory in Chinese Medicine.  Eastland Press.   pp108 – 133.

Happy Slayage!

Primeval (Buffy Season 4, Episode 21)

Wow. Even after all these years since I first watched this episode, I still say, ‘Wow’ at its conclusion.

The solution to defeating the Big Bad of Season 4 was simple enough, and Xander gets the credit for coming up with the idea:  The Scooby Gang would pool their talents in such a way that all would be embodied in Buffy’s Slayer-physicality.  Giles would contribute his knowledge of Sumerian (which is not a Semitic language, I might add, and is thus unrelated to either Assyrian or Babylonian), Willow her magic, Buffy her Slayer skills, and Xander binds them all through his empathy.  Together, they are able to call upon the entire linage of Slayers who have existed throughout time.

How could Chinese Medicine possibly accomplish this sort of union?  Well, let’s look at three possibilities.  The first is the Extraordinary meridian pair Yin Wei Mai and Yang Wei Mai.  These meridians are responsible for unifying the flow of all the yin and yang qi of the body.  The character for ‘wei mai’ indicates a pulsing vessel that forms a net used in trapping birds.  So the first potential treatment we could look at is a wei mai treatment (PC-6, TW-5).

Second, I recall using a treatment on one of my first patients which began by needling the yin meridians of the right hand at the jing well points, then moved to the ying points of the yang meridians on the left hand, then the jing-river points of the left leg, and ending with the he-sea/ uniting points of the right leg.  This protocol — I cannot recall whom to credit for it — engages all twelve meridians, bringing them into sync at the he-sea points of the leg.  the sea-points of the leg are intimately tied to the pooling of jing, blood, and the primal qi of the shaoyang which transforms that jing into the qi carried by the blood, uniting them to produce the shen of the body.  The source points of the LU, HT, and PC further this engagement, while the yang energy stored in the ying-spring points of the LI, SI, and TW promotes its movement — SI associated with sovereign fire, LI with the yang of wei qi, and TW with source qi.  The jing-river points of the BL, GB, and ST gather this flow and direct it strongly to the uniting points, adding to the physiology the expression of post-natal qi derived from grains, fluids, and the exterior environment (i.e the reactivity of the back shu points).

The third point for consideration is a Japanese ion-cord treatment protocol (four cords are needed) which also attempts to activate each meridian, but using the 12-hour clock instead.  The needled points are SP6 (black clip), where three yin vessels meet, to a point halfway between PC7 and PC3 (red clip).  TW8 (black clip) to GB35 (red clip) are both sea points.  All points are needled bilaterally.  This treatment protocol, named after the Tai Ji (‘Supreme Ultimate’), is usually used for ‘tired but wired’ presentations, or those in which the entire Dai Mai is reactive along the abdomen.

All this is useful for integrating the meridians of one person.  How can it be used with other people?  Some Japanese researchers tested ion pumping cords by attaching cords from needles placed in old men up to those in young men.  The results were that the old men’s pulses greatly increased.  Sounds vampiric?  Yes — but this makes the idea even more appealing for the Buffyverse.  I would suggest using ion cords to bind all the characters together, perhaps using PC-6 and TW-5 as the primary points…

Herbally, I cannot think of something that would bind several people together, and nothing I have researched seems to indicate that such an idea was ever present among the Han or Tang dynasty Chinese.  However, one herbal formula, called the Trinity of Heaven, seeks to unite heaven, earth, and humanity:  Tian Ma, Di Huang, and Ren Shen.  If Tian Ma is too cold, then perhaps one could substitute Tian Men Dong, although this substitution is my own idea, not one in the tradition.  (Tian Men Dong also happens to be cold, by the way.)  Likewise,  Tong Tian Cao (aka Tong Cao) may make an interesting assistant herb to connect the Earth (Di Huang) and Humanity (Ren Shen) herbs to the Tian Ma, and guide the herbs to the HT via the SI channel.

As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel the need to be united with your friends in an esoteric manner in order to overcome great evil in your lives, please seek out a qualified professional or source with extensive experience in such matters.

Happy slayage!

The Yoko Factor (Buffy Season 4, Episode 20)

Willow makes a sort of throw-away statement in this episode about her hope that she and Buffy will become ‘little old ladies forgetting to take their pills.’

While I could turn this into a post about patient non-compliance (and wouldn’t it be great if we had a treatment for patient non-compliance?), I will instead treat the topic of herb-drug interactions from a Chinese pharmacological point of view.  In other words, Western pharmaceuticals from an Eastern physiological perspective.  Much of this material will be derived from a seminar Jeffrey Yuen gave on the same topic in 2010.

To narrow down this particular post’s presentation of herb-drug interactions, I will focus only on the four aspects of pharmacokinetics:  absorption, metabolism, distribution, and elimination of drugs.

1. Absorption: Most herbs and pharmaceuticals are brought into the body through digestion, although some are also inhaled (insufflation).  Therefore, to assess the qualities of a drug or herbal treatment, we look at the status of the SP and ST at the start of treatment and assess how they change during the course of treatment.  Likewise, we may look at the LU and LI — both organ and channel — changes as a result of inhaled drugs.  Channel changes that would be looked for include nodules, tightness, or flaccidity.

If a patient’s tongue is red, particularly without a coat, the mucosal lining of the stomach may be compromised.  The result is an increased rate an quantity of absorption. Astringent herbs decrease intestinal motility, increasing potential absorption time, while those which move qi (especially the wei qi of the Lungs) decreases potential absorption time.  These drugs can also induce latency of a TCM-defined pathogen.  H2 antagonists inhibit wei qi, which is responsible for peristalsis.

Minerals, including calcium, mu li, and long gu, alter the acidity of the stomach, and thus should be taken 2 to 3 hours after any pharmaceuticals which reduce stomach acidity.  This will allow the normal acidity of the stomach to interact with the herbal medications.

Nourishing ST yin will likely decrease absorption of herbs and drugs, as ST yin can be thought of as including the muscosal lining of the gut; likewise with LU yin and the lining of the Lungs.

2.  Metabolism

The Liver is primarily responsible for metabolising drugs.  Drugs which increase Liver metabolism (e.g. anticonvulsants, Rifadin, long-term NSAIDS, and some sleep medications/ phenobarbitols) will mean that herbal dosage will need to be increased, in order for the herbal components to remain in the system long enough to have an effect.

The opposite case, of decreased Liver metabolism, means a decreased dosage of drugs so as not to overwhelm the patient.  Liver metabolism can slow with alcohol, sulfur dioxide (avoid those bright orange apricots), antifungals, and some antibiotics (e.g. Erythromycin) and Tagamet.

Drugs which treat neurological diseases affect Liver metabolism (via their effect on wind symptoms); in such cases do not nourish LV blood, but regulate the Liver instead.  Drugs which treat infectious diseases and which inhibit LV metabolism may give rise to damp-heat.  Be aware that this damp-heat may lead to fire-toxicity (see elimination, below).

3.  Distribution

This is the part that many scientists don’t fully understand about either herbs or drugs.  Drugs which are constantly monitored tend to be prone to improper distribution.  These drugs also happen to most often affect the blood tissue itself — e.g. Coumadin and other blood thinners.  Other drugs become active only once released from the blood protein.  Because of the relation between blood and breast milk, both herbal medicines and drugs can be released and passed onto infants through the mother’s milk.

Herbs which invigorate the blood may be change the distribution of drugs throughout the body.  Herbs which increase breastmilk may also change the distribution of drugs in nursing mothers.

Anti-hyperlipidemia drugs tend to cause blood stagnation and wind-phlegm; conversely, those herbs which eliminate wind-phlegm may interact with such drugs.  NSAIDS tend to affect the blood and give rise to blood heat and wind.

4.  Elimination

The Liver and Kidneys are primary sites of metabolic elimination. Damage to the Kidneys not only slows elimination, but can lead to auto-intoxication, which in Chinese terms can be thought of as fire toxicity (and thus treated with Jin Yin Hua and Lian Qiao).  Anti-inflammatories and drugs such as methotrexate slow elmination.  Therefore, patients taking these drugs should not only be started on a low does of herbs, which is gradually increased, but also given greater time between taking the herbs.

Alkaline agents increase the elimination of acid; citrates alkalinise the system.  Therefore, in herbal formulae which use long gu or shells, be aware that they may have a synergistic effect with alkaline drugs.

Drugs which give rise to damp-heat in the LV (e.g. certain antibacterials), or which impact wei qi can give rise to LV stagnation or exhaustion.  The LV is responsible for smoothing the relationship between wei and ying qi; if it must work harder to move wei qi, the LV can easily become deficient.  Tonifying the LV qi through regulation is beneficial in these cases.  Analgesics, when used over a long period of time, can numb the Liver.

While on the topic of hormones and hormone medication, I should point out Buffy’s impromptu diagnosis of Riley having ‘testosterone poisoning.’  Now there’s an interesting diagnosis, and one we could plausibly see in the clinic if we ever have a patient on anabolic steroids (the sort used to improve athletic performance or appearance).

One class of drugs which hasn’t been mentioned are hormone regulators and replacements.  This would include certain contraceptives, steroids, and thyroid medications.  Generally, hormones can be considered functionally similar to ye-thick fluids.  A simple acupuncture formula to regulate hormones is KD2, SP8, and KD21 and ST25.  Alternately, one could use KD20, SP18, ST42, and CV12.

KD-2 is the most yang point on the KD-channel, and it has  branch which goes to SP8, earth pivot; ST25, celestial pivot and KD21, Dark Gate (doubly yin) round out the nourishing and enlivening actions of this point prescription.

ST42 nourishes the jin-fluids of the eyes, CV12 accesses the fluids of the ST, while SP18 celestial cleft and KD20 free the grain, both relate to ST fluids and movement.

Herbally, the best ye-fluid formula I’ve come across is Zeng Ye Tang, Generate the Fluids Decoction, composed of Xuan Shen, Mai Men Dong, and Sheng Di Huang (some use Shu Di Huang), modified accordingly.  Some modifications include Wu Wei Zi and Ren Shen for yang or hormone deficiency with difficulty consolidating fluids; Ge Gen and Sheng Ma to raise the fluids and generate jin-thin fluids; Sang Ye can likewise be added for its moistening and outward moving properties. Qu Mai and Mu Tong, of course, are a good choices for moving the ye-fluids into the SI meridian; the SI meridian is responsible for ye-fluids.  To guide the formula to the SI Channel Divergence, I would also add some Sang Bai Pi.

I have never tried using this formula with Gui Zhi, Bai Shao, and Gan Cao, which have the properties of freeing the collaterals and relaxing the muscles to increase fluid absorption, but I might not rule it out.  Certainly, in Riley’s case, he perhaps needed a little bit of sedation, so a bit of muscle relaxation and cooling off might be in order — definitely add some Ge Gen (relax the upper back) and Zhi Zi (to cool the blood and go to the TW; otherwise, for heat in the blood with some stagnation, I would use Mu Dan Pi).

Zeng Ye Tang is used in cases of ye-fluid deficiency.  In cases of excess, regulate fluids through the Triple Warmer mechanism and with qi moving medicinals.  Qi moving medicinals tend to be drying, so be sure to balance the drying action on the ye-fluids with jin-fluid preserving herbs (wu wei zi, shi gao, sang ye).

As always, these posts are for informational purposes only.  If you have questions about herb-drug interactions, please see a qualified herbal practitioner in concert with your prescribing physician(s).  Do make certain all prescribing physicians are aware of all pharmaceuticals you are taking, and do not haphazardly combine herbal supplementation (i.e. in doing so you create your own formula inadvertently) without consulting a qualified herbalist.

Happy Slayage!

New Moon Rising (Buffy Season 4, Episode 19)

This rather intense episode sees Oz unexpectedly return home to Sunnydale.  Oz’s return places Willow in the position of having to make a choice — to go back to Oz, or to remain with Tara.  The resulting choice to be with Tara leads Willow to ‘come out’ to Buffy.  The coming out theme is paralleled and played upon in Buffy and Riley’s discussion about ‘unconvential relationships’.  One might also argue the theme is also continued in Oz’s capture and the subsequent experimentation performed on him to try to figure out what he his — but I don’t want this to be a post about conversion therapy.

I will say that coming out’s a bitch.  So is being experimented on or being locked away because of what you are.  But, like Willow’s choice for Tara and her letting go of Oz, no less difficult to go through are break ups, with their ironies and the delusional dreams we tell ourselves about the future to make the pain hurt less.  To make ourselves think that some good byes are not forever.

“We’ll always have Paris.”

I’ve treated Oz before, in B2.12 (Bad Eggs), B2.14 (Phases) and B4.6 (Wild at Heart).  In New Moon Rising, we discover that Oz found a way to control, or rather, integrate and make peace with the wolf within.  I suggest alternatives to the word ‘control’ because ‘control’ is perhaps not the right word for this case, given the close themes of an inner, unchosen self being expressed in Oz as a werewolf, and Willow’s coming out to Buffy as gay.  In my Wild at Heart post, I promised an examination of making peace with oneself for this episode.  Making peace with oneself, then, will be what I examine today.

First, though, the foundations must be laid.  We’ve addressed self-cultivation recently, in the Jonathan Superstar post from Season 4, as well as in the Phases post from Season 2.

Willow and Tara

It seems the treatment we gave Willow back in Season 2, during the first Hallowe’en of the Buffy series, seems to have positive ongoing effects.  That treatment was designed to help her become comfortable with expressing herself.

When we turn to coming out, we could continue with the same treatment.  Physiologically, however, one might think of the the Shen, stored in the person’s heart and charged with expressing the pattern of destiny in this life.  In such a case, the ShaoYin aspect of the Heart’s communication with the Kidneys comes into play, inasmuch as the shen works hand in hand with the will-within-the-will. The will-within-the-will or zhi, was explored in a previous post; it is relevant here because that will is governed by the Kidneys and can be interrupted or disrupted by fear.

Coming out is also very much tied to jing, to sexuality, to the lifecourse, and to choosing a mate (creating ‘fictive kinship ties’ in social anthropological terms).  In the case of homosexuality and coming out, I would note that the Kidneys usually cycle jing (the lineage of one’s ancestors) in order to perpetuate a lineage (as more jing; that is, Kidney fire — ming men — impels the person toward combining his or her jing-lineage with another person’s jing).

In the case of homosexuality though, we have an example of jing being channeled into social reproduction.  (I am reading into Classical Chinese Medicine here, since in ancient times it was expected that one would procreate regardless of sexuality.  For more on that topic, see the book The Passions of the Cut Sleeve by Bret Hinsch (1990).)  Social life is represented by the Spleen and its transformation of food into post-natal qi and flesh.  The relationship between the Kidneys and the Spleen is usually treated in terms of Kidney yang supporting Spleen yang.  The directionality of this support can go the other way also, which we usually frame as ‘Earth controlling Water’ — Confucian morals channeling the expression of individual identity within a lineage along very specific lines .

A person having trouble coming out may express several different physical pathologies.  The first might be Earth over-controlling Water, in which case KD water would need to be strengthened.  One could also say that the real problem is that external influences are entering into the person too easily, and the exterior needs to be secured so that jing is not dispersed.  This is the pathology we will examine in more detail.  The third option would be to ensure that the HT and KD are communicating with one another, and that the ST/ SP yang — which pivot that communication through the diaphragm — is being supported by the KD.  We will return to this themes in a moment.

For Oz:

Meditation and moon phases.

It is apparent that Oz’s struggle is with keeping the inner wolf from manifesting outwards; for him, the struggle is somewhat the opposite of Tara and Willow.  Oz must keep things in.  We know herbal medicine is not necessarily a one way street.  Herbal formulae can work both ways — in Oz’s case, to keep the exterior cool and human-like; for Willow, to secure her sense of self from any potential changes blowing in from the outside.

The formula to do this is Mu Li San.   The formula is composed of mu li, huang qi, fu xiao mai, and ma huang gen.  Usually, this formula is used for excessive sweating, either during the day or at night, and heart palpitations.  Mu Li itself is used for fright palpitations, fullness in the chest, and thirst due to mental vexation and fright.  It also secures the essence, anchors the spirit, and softens hardness through its salty nature.  Zou Shu (according to Dr Huang Huang’s zhang Zhong-jing’s Clinical Applications of 50 Medicinals) suggests Mu Li be used “for yang that does not return to yin and fails to transform qi” causing generalised vexation that does not localise in any particular area of the body.

Here, I want to engage the properties of Mu Li San in order to keep the heart and kidneys secure.  This is achieved by calming the spirit — calming the fright (KD) which comes from not knowing how others (SP) will react to you (HT) or your appearance.  Fear and fright can lead to nocturnal emission because the fire of the Heart, in the form of the shen descending to harmonise with the jing, disturbs the water of the Kidneys, which cannot contain that fire.  Thus Mu Li, rather than the two herb combination of Rou Gui and Huang Lian, are used.  (Huang Lian, though focuses on the centre of the chest to calm anxiety, and Rou Gui on the Kidneys.  The three together would not be a bad prescription, actually, though I would be sure to add Huang Qi to secure the exterior as well as the interior.)

Huang Qi of course, secures the exterior, boosts the qi, and strengthens the centre.  In other words, Huang Qi strengthens the SP and ST, raises the yang qi (from KD through ST and SP; from SP/ ST to upper orifices, governed by the HT and bathed in the pure yang fluids of the ST).  Huang qi is one of the key herbs in Bu Zhong Yi Qi Tang, a formula which can also be used to calm the spirit.

The other two herbs are Fu Xiao Mai, which calms the shen and floats outwards, and Ma Huang Gen, which restrains sweating.

I would consider removing the ma huang gen, as this concerns sweat.  However, sweat is the yin of the Heart, and for communication to occur smoothly between the HT and KD, not only does KD yin in the form of jing need to be secure, but so does HT yin, in the form of sweat (and sometimes also as HT blood, which can be nourished by suan zao ren).  What we are trying to do is harmonise ShaoYin, in both its water and fire aspects.  Ma Huang Gen, along with Mu Li, helps to harmonise the water aspect.

In a previous post, I gave a formula which can help allow one to look at one’s shadow side and not recoil:  Gou Qi Zi,  Ju Hua, He Shou Wu.  Rather than use He Shou Wu, which in the prior case was specific for making peace with one’s place in the cycle of ageing, I might decide to pick an ingredient from Mu Li San to secure the exterior while strengthening the centre and the interior.  Thus, another formula I might consider for longer term usage in Oz’s case is Gou Qi Zi, Ju Hua, and Huang Qi.  (Maybe even Mi Zhi Huang Qi, honey-fried to augment its tonic and satisfying properties.)

So much for herbal recipes to make peace with oneself.  Note, the above formulae are specific for certain forms of self-peacemaking, but not necessarily for making peace with unresolved grief.  If Oz experiences such grief, I would want to turn to other formulas.

The use of acupuncture to make peace with oneself?  Inasmuch as I should give a treatment different from using the Yin Qiao Mai, I might consider a luo vessel approach.  The luo point of the Gallbladder concerns redefinition and seeing options.  The Gallbladder is also the extraordinary organ of transformation, a ‘magic organ’ as it were.  Therefore, I would bloodlet GB 37, Guang Ming or ‘Bright Light’.  “In the case of vacuity there will be atonic limpness and inability to sit up.”

I would also burn several cones of moxa on GB-37 after bloodletting, and perhaps also three cones on LV-3.  Before bloodletting and moxa’ing GB-37, I would bloodlet the luo points on the KD and San Jiao meridians, since these meridians deal with the constitution; or I might choose the SP and PC luo points, since these concern living out one’s life (PC) in society (SP).

For any ongoing grief Oz might feel, having lost a dream of being with Willow again, I might mix PC-6 and SJ-5 (to secure the inner and outer gate), before continuing to bloodlet GB-37.  If Oz’s pain was particularly acute, I would use SP-21, the Great Luo of the Spleen instead of SP-4.  SP-21 treats unbearable pain.  I would also consider GB-22, which is the ancient location of SP-21 as a possible addition or combination with GB-37.

Following up on the above treatment, which would be administered every other day for about ten days, I would use the combination of Du-20, KD-1, and CV-17 to bring the patient entirely back to centre.

Looking ahead to Seasons 8 and 9, it would seem that Oz does make peace with himself, eventually, residing in a monastery and engaging in the practices of tranquility. He is responsible for teaching Buffy and crew how to conceal magical natures from being discovered.

Before he found such peace, however, Oz had to face Willow, and say goodbye.

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

Where the Wild Things Are (Buffy Season 4, Episode 18)

Make up sex seemed to be the theme of this episode, and Riley and Buffy are at the core of the supernatural problem to be overcome.  Their incessant need to be closer to one another began to generate some strange events at Riley’s place, first manifesting themselves right before a big party.  When the party gets underway, some of the women begin to cut their hair, a glass bottle used in playing ‘spin the bottle’ explodes, and a G-spot appears in a wall for the amusement and wonder of party-goers.  Eventually all this fecundity leads to faster-than-kudzu vine growth throughout the corridors of the place, and the Scooby gang must figure out how to rescue Riley and Buffy from the death-by-sexual-exhaustion that awaits them.

It turns out that the dorm where Riley lives used to be a foster home of sorts.  The lady who ran the home used to reward the children when they were ‘good’ and punish them when they were ‘dirty’.  Anya understands this to mean ‘not dirty-muddy’, and the lady confirms Anya’s suspicions:  the children were punished when the girls were vain about their hair, or the boys lustful after other girls.  The result is a house filled with powerful energies which never got released.

[As a completely separate digression, more for the theology portion of my blog, something the old woman who used to run the foster home made something click in my mind:   She said that if she had not punished the children, or rather, if they had continued in their paths, ‘they would be kept out of the kingdom.’   The implication is of a specific sort of heavenly kingdom in an afterlife.  What clicked for me was that in the medieval period, when Christian theologians wrote about the ‘kingdom’, very often (at least for the monastic writers), they were referring to the kingdom entered through contemplation and stillness.  In some ways, this is simply a Christian continuation of the philosophical ideal of the ancient world.  For the monastic writers, a focus on distractions of any sort — vanity or sex — led away from entering the fulness of that contemplation, and disrupted the stillness of body and mind that was sought.  With a loss of monasticism and mysticism after the sixteenth century in certain parts of Europe and the Americas, the result was a much more literal take on the ‘kingdom’.  Instead of being a direction for or place of repose in meditation, it became literalised as an otherworldly place in the future.  It became not simply something unattainable in this life (unlike the accessibility of contemplation), but the dungeon of a most beautiful castle (to allude to the writings of a sixteenth century Spanish mystic, Teresa of  Ávila).]

In one of the initial Angel episodes — the one which started these blog posts, in fact — I treated the idea of the three types of ghosts:  wandering hosts, hungry ghosts, and horny ghosts, any of which can take possession of a person, often after traveling somewhere, and use them to attempt to fill the ghost’s needs.  Therefore, I will not revisit those ideas here; instead, the diagnosis I will give for this episode is simply excess libido.  (‘Libido’ means sex drive.)

In case readers think no one wants a lowered libido, I would mention that I have actually had patients in the clinic present with this concern.  I will mention two briefly, below.  I will also include a link to a recovering sex addict:

Martial artists often advise their students to refrain from ejaculation during particularly intense training months.  What is the reasoning behind this advice?

In terms of Chinese medicine, we know that Jing is transformed into qi and by assimilating the qi of food to its template is also transformed to support blood.  However, the focus in the case of martial arts is really not on the usual aspects of Chinese medicine — the zangfu or three humours — so much as on the tissues of the body.  (This paradigm much more in evidence in Ayurvedic rasayana tonics).  Although we can derive relationships between the tissues and the internal organs — the Spleen controls the Flesh, the Kidneys are associated with Bone, the Liver with Tendons, for example — in a more direct path, we can say that jing nourishes the marrow (‘sui’ or, in Jeffrey Yuen’s tradition, ‘jing-shen’), which allow the bones to be supple and the tendons to be strong.  Jing thus supports the density of bone and the limberness of the joints.  Although practitioners debate whether jing can actually be nourished or ‘regained’, it is said the jing is formed (or released by ming men) after about 90 days or 3 months.  Because the Extraordinary Vessels are filled with jing, EV treatments are typically given for three months before results are seen.  In my clinical experience with an older woman with slight damage to jing, it took  four months, at which point some rather profound changes came about in her life and her outlook on life.  I might have advised continuing with that treatment for another few months, but clinical rotations changed, and I did not see her as a patient after five months of treating her.

To return to martial arts:  Not all students feel up to the task of withholding their essence, and so the masters have come across several formulae which seem to have beneficial effects.

Gui Zhi Long Gu Mu Li Tang is the usual formula used by martial artists when they are training but wishing to have an aid to retaining their jing.  Gui Zhi jia Long Gu Mu Li Tang is made by decocting equal amounts of Gui Zhi (‘cinnamon twig’), Bai Shao (‘white peony root’), Long Gu (‘dragon bone’), Mu Li (‘oyster shell’), and Sheng Jiang (‘fresh ginger-root’), with 12 pieces of Da Zao (‘red dates’) and two-thirds the amount of Gan Cao (‘licorice root’).

Gui Zhi and Bai Shao together regulate the qi of the interior (ying qi) and exterior (wei qi), ensuring that the interior is astringed, and the exterior is dispersed and properly moving.  Sheng Jiang and Da Zao serve a similar function, with Da Zao nourishing the heart and blood, and Sheng Jiang warming the qi.

The Divine Farmer indicates Long Gu for treating “heart and abdominal demonic influx, spiritual matters, old ghosts, cough and counterflow… in females leaking, concretions and conglomerations, hardness and binding, and in children heat qi and fright epilepsy.”

The Divine Farmer says Mu Li — with protracted taking — kills evil ghosts, fortifies the bone joints, and prolongs life.  “It eliminates tuggings and slackenings, mouse fistulas, and, in females, red and white vaginal discharge.”  It also treats cold damage.  Today, however, it is also used to clear heat and astringe, and for this reason is used to treat seminal emission.  “With Rehmannia as its envoy, it boosts and astringes the essence and stops frequent urination,” according to Wang Hao-gu.

In both cases, ghosts are referred to; but so is ‘leaking’ in females.  This is sometimes interpreted as leaking of essence, or the female equivalent of spermatorrhea.

As a whole, the formula treats (dreams of) sex with ghosts in women, and spermatorrhea (i.e. masturbation) in men, according to Zhang Zhong Jing, the physician under whose name this formula was passed to us.   Ted Kaptchuk has explained that ‘sex with ghosts’ can also mean having a ‘dream lover’ in the sense of Mariah Carey’s song:  ‘Dream lover, come rescue me.’  This is a formula for the sort of person who can never be satisfied with one person because her ideals can never be fulfilled by an actual person.

Interestingly, the obverse of excess libido can be a fear of intimacy.  Having ‘ghost lovers’, in the sense of being ephemeral, here one day and gone the next, is another way of articulating that phenomenon.  As the article on sex addiction noted, this is precisely the sort of psychological mechanism articulated by the writer of that column.

But what produces the libido?  In Byzantine or Galenic medicine, it was thought that semen built up and caused friction within the vessels of the testicles and spinal chord.  This friction generated heat within the body, which in tern was interpreted — as the English phrase still reflects — as being ‘hot and bothered’.  A similar logic can underlie the explanation of how slippery medicinals which usually nourish jing, can in fact be used to regulate the sexual appetite:  they lubricate the vessels, thus preventing the build up of heat from the friction of too much substance; yet they can also be seen to quell empty fire, when yin deficiency from loss of essence is the root.

For speculative purposes, I would also note that in Galenic medicine, semen was thought to be composed of little homunculi, little tiny fetuses (or as Giles expressed it, ‘tiny, tiny babies!’).  Extending that thought process, one might posit that herbs to calm the fetus and address ‘restless fetus disorder’ in Chinese Medicine might work in men to calm libido.

One patient I had was an elderly man (in his 80s) who came in complaining that after about a week or so, he gets very testosterone-y, and the only way to release it is through masturbation.  He was not satisfied with this solution, and sought herbal medicine to help.  I prescribed a very simple formula:  Wu Wei Zi Tang.  Composed of Wu Wei Zi only, in a rather small dose, it was designed to astringe and nourish (male’s) essence, as well as calm the shen.  He did not return to the clinic, so I do not know what his experience with this formula was; however, he had presented to other practitioners beforehand without lasting success.  My assumption is that he either gave up, it worked, or he went somewhere else.

Since the good physician also looks at the future injuries which accrue should a pathology continue, I would briefly refer the reader to a chapter in Hua Tuo’s treatise on the internal viscera.  In a section on bi (‘obstruction’) syndrome (often correlated with various types of arthritis today), the Tang dynasty physician Hua Tuo describes ‘bone bi’ as “due to injury of the kidneys by inordinate sexual desire.

I have seen this in the clinic.  One patient, a man in his 50s came in complaining of severe gout and kidney stones.  His history indicated that he never went a day without sex (either with or without someone, he specified) since his late teens, and often several times a day.  While he was quite impressed with the quality of his physical presentation at those times, overall, his case illustrated exactly the sort of  ‘bone bi’ that Hua Tuo alludes to.  I used a formula to dissolve bone spurs (in the hope it would also affect gout deposits and kidney stones) and augment the kidneys.  I also advised him to refrain for sex, or at least curtail his activities while on the formula.  Returning to the clinic, he indicated his ‘kidneys felt stronger’ or more ‘full’, and subsequent clinicians kept him on a variant of the same formula.

Hua Tuo continues the progress of the pathology: Dispersed internally, kidney qi is not able to shut and confine,” leading to leakage and chaos in the interior, specifically the centre and upper jiao.  This in turn leads to qi glomus of the triple warmer, which impacts the ability of food and water to be transformed into essential qi.

Interestingly, that glomus and blockage of proper assimilation of food qi can be correlated with the phenomena of certain foods being particularly prone to aggravate attacks of gout.

The inability of food to be properly transformed allows evil qi to invade ‘in a wanton way’, leading to four possible scenarios:

1. Evil qi surges to Heart and tongue giving rise to aphasia; or

2. Evil qi affects the SP and ST, causing them to be unable to replenish the flesh; or

3. Evil qi flows to low back and knees, leading to paraplegia; or

4.  Evil qi attacks the lateral limbs creating numbness or insensitivity in the limbs.

To address the inability of the Triple Warmer to aid in the assimilation of food, and to rectify the glomus qi in the chest and upper back, I would use Hua Tuo’s Asafoetida Free the Qi Pills:

Asafoetida, 2 liang; Chen Xiang, 1 liang; Gui Xin, 0.5 liang; Qian Niu Mo 1 – 2 liang.  Boil Asafoetida in wine down to a paste.  Add the other ingredients, powdered and form into pills the size of a plum.  Dosage:  one pill dissolved in wine.  (Note the original formula coats pills with zhu sha.)

Once the qi is rectified and the libido flows spontaneously rather than in a libertine fashion again, the essence should be replenished.  This can be accomplished with a medicinal wine designed to strengthen the tendons, also drawn from the Martial Arts tradition:

Jin Feng Jiu:

Sheng Di, Shu Di, Dang Gui, Mai Dong, Di Gu Pi, Yin Yang Huo, and half an amount of Sha Ren.  Grind or use whole to make wine.  Add to a fifth of 80 proof alcohol or less; steep for 60 – 90 days.  Like Wu Wei Zi alone, this formula increases jing and quiets restlessness.  It should go without saying that refraining from a loss of seminal essence while taking this formula is advised.

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


Yang Shou-zhong (1993).  Master Hua’s Classic of the Central Viscera.  Blue Poppy Press.

Yang Shou-zhong (1998).  The Divine Farmer’s Materia Medica.  Blue Poppy Press.

Superstar (Buffy Season 4, Episode 17)

The Jonathan episode!  It is amazing how much difference a change of clothing, hairstyle, and habitus — the way one holds one’s body and moves it through space — makes.  Actors are consummate artists in this respect, able to shift from one habitus to another convincingly.  Body language reveals much about a person’s character.  Sarah certainly did it in the previous episode, when Faith had taken over Buffy’s body — Sarah adopted the mannerisms that Eliza used to portray Faith.  In so doing, she demonstrated the history Faith had lived through, how she felt about herself and the world.

If the key words of Chinese medicine are change and transformation — the harmonious movement of qi and blood in the person (giving a shen spontaneously in tune with its environment), the transformation of qi from one phase or type  into another — than this episode demonstrates exactly the result at which treatment in Classical Chinese medicine aims.  While acupuncture and herbal medicine will generally have an effect on the body regardless of a person’s belief in their efficacy, treatment proceeds much more quickly if the patient is also working on self-cultivation.  Medicine and self-cultivation go hand in hand, regardless of what sort of medicine one is using.  Both Riley and Jonathan demonstrate such synergistic work in this episode.

Obviously, in Jonathan’s case, his self-cultivation was a short-cut, and thus unstable and short lived.  He cast a spell which altered the history of Sunnydale (if not other places).  In the process, he not only begot a monster which embodied his darker aspects, he also came to some realisations about the process of healing.

Both Buffy and Riley ask for relationship advice from Jonathan.  What Jonathan tells Buffy then, she tells him again at the end.  Jonathan recognises the truth of that advice for himself as well.  Things take time.   It does not happen all at once.  But it is worth it, in the end, if one extends effort slowly, consistently, in small steps.  As the tattoo of one friend reads, “A little bit, every day, with devotion.”

Forgiveness is a form of healing.  For me, I often view forgiveness as a resolution of grief.  In terms of Chinese medicine, lack of forgiveness is a holding pattern, a type of stasis in a body which benefits more from movement.  With movement, change and transformation can occur, grief can be resolved, and though life may never be the same, it can flourish once again.  Indeed, from the point of view of Classical Chinese Medicine, it is best not to return to the state in which one found oneself before trauma, since some weakness in physiology allowed illness to take root.  The goal of medicine, then, is to move one through the pathology into a stronger, more stable and malleable place.  This takes time, attention, and effort.

Buffy and Riley allude to such a process when we learn that Riley has taken control of his own diet.  Although he was told the food he received from his superior officers was no longer spiked with drugs, he decided to take no chances, and has been making his own food (or getting it elsewhere).  Preparing one’s own food is a basic form of self-cultivation which supports the work done in the clinic.  Qi Gong is another example, and in previous episodes we’ve seen that Riley does push-ups upon arising, despite the fact that they are not ‘regulation’:  he does them for his own benefit.

The key insight of self-cultivation, that things take time, leads to the question of making a prognosis in Chinese medicine.  How is a prognosis made?  What factors influence a prognosis?  Prognosis of death or recovery was one of the fundamental aspects of ancient Chinese medicine, at least if the manuscript texts are to be believed:  they constantly state what is a positive sign, and what signs indicate death.

Prognosis in Chinese Medicine is dependent on location, time, and communication.  Location refers to where in the body the illness is located:  is it external (e.g. wind-cold manifesting as the common cold); in the channels or muscle layer; in the hollow organs (i.e. GI tract), the solid organs, or the extraordinary organs?  Does it affect the wei qi, ying qi, blood, or jing levels?  The more superficial the location, the better the prognosis.

Time refers to the amount of time the illness has been in the body.  The more acute the case, usually the better the prognosis, except in cases of hemorrhagic fevers, which are extreme heat penetrating to the depths of the blood-jueyin level.  In cases where the illness has been prolonged, this is often an indication of emptiness of some aspect of the body’s own defensive capabilities, and thus is a sign that healing will take longer, unless such emptiness is also addressed.  In this regard, the patient’s own resources also factor into prognosis.

Finally, communication refers to two aspects:  the patient-practitioner communication, in which the patient describes to the practitioner what is going on with the body and emotions contextually, and where the practitioner (in addition to paying attention to what the body is trying to communicate via its pulses, abdominal conformation, and channel changes) clearly articulates what can be done to help the treatment progress even outside the clinic (e.g. walks in the fresh air, regular bed times, avoiding greasy food, when to take herbal medicine, etc).

The second aspect of communication has to do with the body’s own internal communication.  This internal communication is often referred to as harmony between the wei and ying qi.  The two levels of qi are in communication with one another.  Yin and Yang are not separating but mutually transforming and supporting one another.  Change and transformation are allowed to happen because these different aspects of the body are communicating clearly with one another, and not getting muddled by the advance of a pathogen.  The body knows what resources should be drawn upon in order to effectively expel the invading pathogen, or to smoothly rectify pathophysiology.

An example of miscommunication in the bodily physiology is when the Large Intestine becomes yin or fluid deficient.  Since the fluid associated with the LI is the jin or thin fluids, and since the jin circulates with wei qi, the body will draw both jin and wei qi (defensive qi) inwards in an effort to make up the depletion of jin in the Large Intestine.  However, this qi is quite hot, very yang in nature, and the result is actually inflammation — and symptoms like IBS.  Herbally, we would want to use something which redresses this imblance and floats the qi outwards again, while nonetheless still moistening the intestines.  Sang Ye, Jie Geng, and Qu Mai (for the SI) all fit this description.  They either release the exterior or float outwards, and are associated with the Intestines, the Lungs, and usually also moisten dryness.  Combined with careful observation by the patient leading to behaviour modifications to prevent future mishaps, the use of herbal formulae or acupuncture can help rectify the current patho-physiology, and  allow healing can progress apace.

As always, this post is for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you feel you could benefit from learning other ways to cultivate your life according to the principles of Chinese medicine, I would refer you to Claude Larre’s The Way of Heaven and The Secret Treatise of the Spiritual Orchid, both published by Monkey Press.  These books are commentaries on key aspects from the medical canon, rather than texts belonging specifically to Daoism, Confucianism, or any of the other hundred schools which flourished during the Han and pre-Han dynastic periods.  Happy Slayage!

Who Are You? (Buffy Season 4, Episode 16)

At the end of the previous episode, we saw Buffy and Faith fight, with Faith pulling out a magical device at the last moment and linking hands with Buffy.  In this episode, we learn that Buffy and Faith have switched bodies.  Faith now inhabits Buffy’s body, while Buffy is trapped within Faith’s.  Both come to understand the other a little bit more as a result.

Not before a little bit of havoc and revenge has been wreaked by Faith, though.  In particular, Faith decides to sleep with Riley.  Riley picks up that something is amiss, particularly afterwards, when he tells Buffy’s-body-inhabited-by-Faith that he loves her.  Faith-inhabiting-Buffy’s-body, not expecting any such talk after sex, jumps up and becomes very agitated.  ‘What just happened meant nothing’, she declares.

Given Faith’s own background, such behaviour is not unexpected.  After all, towards the end of the episode, Faith-in-Buffy’s-body gives Riley the brilliantly delivered line, “I can’t use you.”  In terms of acting technique, the ambiguity of that line was very psychologically perceptive of Faith’s character.  She cannot use Riley in a fight, because he is injured; but more broadly, she cannot exploit him, and he isn’t out to exploit her.

Leaving aside the philosophical-medical considerations emerging from the slow melding and changing of Faith’s personality to match her Buffy body, the overall pattern of Faith’s interaction with Riley made me think of dissociative disorder, particularly as it applies to sexual interactions.  Simply put, dissociation during sex is when one person simply ‘checks out’ and goes somewhere else mentally, avoiding the impact of what is actually going on.  Often this habit is developed as a result of sexual exploitation of some sort, though it need not be.  Nor does it necessarily need to be confined to the bedroom.  Sometimes people will check out of other difficult situations.

A colleague once asked for ideas of how to address these symptoms from a Chinese Medical standpoint.  This episode presents the perfect opportunity to explore those ideas further.

First, we could look at the situation as primarily one concerning consciousness and attention.  Consciousness is associated with the shen-spirit.  Attention can also be associated with the shen-spirit; but it can also be associated with the gathering power of the Spleen, and referred to as yi-intent.  The shen is anchored to the body by the jing, and emerges from the union of qi and blood.  If consciousness is departing, this is a form of a rupture between the yin aspects of the body — jing and blood — from their partnered yang aspects — shen and qi.  The treatment approach, therefore, would seek to anchor the shen in the jing, or the qi in the blood.

Typically, sticky herbs like shu di, e jiao, gui ban jiao or even lu jiao jiao (which is a bit more on the yang-tonifying side) could be used.  The stickiness reflects viscous jing.  Something yang and light in nature would reflect the shen; perhaps fragrant chen xiang would be a good choice.  I personally prefer the use of Lu Jiao Jiao in this instance, because it already reflects the presence of yang-shen within sticky-jing oriented substances.  Being the essence of an antler, which is the outward expression of life, and which requires great amounts of both qi and blood in the springtime, I feel it adequately captures much of what we are trying to accomplish.  (Sang Bai Pi would work similarly.)  However, Lu Jiao Jiao does not clarify consciousness.  In some ways, it doesn’t so much bring consciousness back to the jing as much as it causes the jing to express itself outwards consciously.  To augment this effect by engaging the spleen, I might add either Fu Shen — a very consciousness clearing herb, relieving people of the burden of potential (i.e. dampness unable to become physiological fluid) — or Gan Cao, which helps bring people back to centre.  Ren Shen also has this centring effect.

Another approach would be to relate the yang-oriented shen to qi, and look at how qi is anchored in the body.  We know that the ancestral qi gathers in the Lungs, and that the Kidneys grasp Lung qi.  Therefore, something which helps the Kidneys anchor the qi may prove useful.  In such a case, I would think of the formula Ren Shen Ge Jie Tang.  This formula is mildly yang-tonifying, and is often used in cases of asthma.  I have also heard of it used when couples are trying to conceive.  The concept there is that the Kidneys, or jing, will grasp a Ling-soul to enable conception to occur.

If the qi is weak, the po may rage out of control.  This gives rise to addictive disorders.  Someone who is both a sex addict and checks out during sex would likely need to have both jing and qi tonified.  The above formula, with the addition of one or two qi-tonifying or qi-circulating ingredients may be useful in such cases.  I would consider adding Shan Yao (to astringe essence) or Wu Wei Zi (to astringe LU qi and generate essence) with a herb like huang qi, which tonifies qi but also constrains the exterior.

A third way to look at the issue is to consider the path of the Liver channel, and the role that  LV channel blood and mai has in influencing the genitalia.  The Hun, stored in the LV and in Blood, follow the Shen, which are stored in the Mai-vessels.  This is the place of the Pericardium, as we noted in the previous post, but also of the Chong Mai, which disperses into the Chest.  In this case, I would use acupuncture and lead the shen from the chest down to the LV channel.  Perhaps I would combine a Ren Mai with a Chong Mai treatment, beginning with LU-7, followed by CV-17, CV-15, KD-15 (Uterus Gate), KD-13 (Qi Cave), and Closing with SP-4 — if I chose to use that particular trajectory of the Chong Mai.

The place of the pericardium is interesting to consider in this respect.  The Pericardium is likened to the Confucian ministers, whose responsiblity it is to ensure the Emperor be in the right place and perform the correct rituals at the proper time. If consciousness is not present when it should be, this can be seen as the fault of the ministers, in this case, the Heart Master Collateral, or PC meridian.  PC-6, a luo mai point having a relation to the blood, and called ‘inner gate’ to reflect its relationship to letting certain emotions in to consciousness and the heart, CV-17 (mu point of the PC), and CV-15 (mu point of the HT) are all useful points in this regard.  If a person is also emotionally stuck, I would add the he-uniting or he-sea point of the PC to the prescription, since he points are useful in cases of blood stagnation — and in cases of pathology due to previously poor intake (usually thought of as dietary) choices.

Note Buffy puts her hand to CV-17 after returning to her own body:  the Heart was finally back in its proper place, regulated through the Pericardium — in this case, PC-8, where the magical device was held.

Finally, someone who is facing challenges with intimacy, wandering from person to person — this issue is the flipside of the episode  ‘Where the Wild Things Are’ (Season 4, Episode 18), and will be treated then.

Until that time, please remember that these posts are for entertainment and educational use only.  If you feel you could benefit from Chinese Medical approaches to your life, please see a qualified practitioner.  If you are interested in bodily memory, by all means search using the terms ‘heart transplant’ and ‘bodily memory’.  Happy Slayage!

This Year’s Girl (Buffy Season 4, Episode 15)

As if Adam were not enough to deal with, this is the episode in which Faith awakes from a coma and wreaks havoc, for a short time, in Sunnydale.  Meanwhile Riley struggles for clarity about his place in the Initiative.  A haunting soundtrack wafts in and out of the episode, binding the scenes together.

Despite the evocative music, Riley, Buffy, and Faith could all benefit from a little bit of acupuncture and herbal medicine philosophy.

Riley’s case is fairly straightforward.  Both the Small Intestine and Bladder organ systems are said to separate the clear from turbid, the pure from the impure.  While this can be read on a purely physical level of separating out liquids from solids, it can also be broadened to clarifying aspects of one’s life more generally. Both the BL and SI belong to TaiYang, and their ability to separate clear form unclear is tied to TaiYang’s role in opening to the exterior:  what should be kept, and what should be released?  What should be kept from getting in, and what should pass through the lived experience of the body harmoniously?  Note this is different from the ShaoYang’s pivotal role in decision making as such.  Riley is perfectly capable of executing decisions.  He can turn one way or the other.  What is lacking is clarity — Riley doesn’t like grey areas.   Physiologically, one could say that to reach the ShaoYang level, one must pass inwards from TaiYang.

From another perspective, though, because the LV jueyin is involved in clarifying blood, one might consider some LV-PC points, too.  After all, jueyin is the last stage before yin reverts to yang — to TaiYang, specifically.  Thus, the LV and PC have a mutual interaction with SI and BL function.  Both the SI and PC remove excess heat from the heart; both the LV and BL are engaged in processes of clarification.  The LV stills things for clear reflection; the BL expresses them outwards, while retaining what is essential.  The BL grasps, while the LV holds.

For Riley, I would use the points SI-5 — good for clarifying direction in life.  It’s name (‘Yang Ravine’) is indicative of bringing clear yang-transformative aspects  to the yin-turbidity of one’s thoughts.  As a river point (or more accurately, a ‘warp’ or ‘meridian’ point), it is said to ‘phase’ — it is the same character used in the term ‘five elements’ or ‘five phases’, except used as a verb.  They are said to promote proper movement of qi, and treat cases of change in voice.  In order to link it with internal consolidation of blood, I might pair it with either PC-8 or LV-2, both ying-spring points.  With PC-8, I would expect clarity to return to the heart.  Alternately, pairing it with BL-60, the jing-point of the BL channel, the focus would be on clearing the entire length of the TaiYang channel, particularly the head.

Herbally, Riley might benefit from Qu Mai, Xuan Shen, and Bi Xie or Fang Feng.  Bi Xie helps retain clear fluids, while flushing out pathogenic water — Fang Feng releases the exterior and is specific for damp patterns; Qu Mai drains heat from the Heart through the SI and BL; Xuan Shen can be used for those going through a ‘Dark Night of the Soul’.  I would consider adding Xi Xian Cao.  Together the four herbs retain yin and consolidate blood in the LV; expel heat and clarify the SI; and release the exterior to purge dampness.

Buffy could use some Zhi Mu, whose name means ‘Remember Mother’ — but not in excess, since used over time it can actually injure the yin.  Faith diagnosed Buffy as having a ‘better than thou’ LV-LU excess of virtue, in which the LV’s benevolence meets the LU’s justice assimilated too closely to a sense of self (KD) or projected outwards towards society in general (SP).  To clarify these relationships more exactly, a pulse diagnosis would be helpful.

Finally, there’s Faith.  Her wildly unsettled shen makes me think that HT-8 or PC-8 would be a good bet for her — and interestingly enough, the device which Faith uses to switch bodies with Buffy covers both those points.  What is the nature of those points for the channels on which they appear?

As Wang and Robertson note in Applied Channel Theory, ying spring points in general mildly tonify yin-blood and clear deficient heat, and are used when changes in a patient’s complexion can be observed.  They clear deficient heat by bringing up the yin to regulate the yang; in the process affecting the complexion.  They can be used to generate the associated yin-fluids of the organ.  The general name of PC-8, Ying Gong (‘Ying-qi palace’) broadly reflects this idea.  Needling technique should reflect these qualities, and a gentle, shallow insertion, followed by light twirling will engage the nature of the point and its functions.

Yin channel ying-spring points are fire points.  As such they can also tonify both the fire- and earth- associated channels and organs.  They tonify the fire-related organs by bringing to bear more substance to anchor the fire and upwards movement of those organs, much like a flame is anchored to a glowing coal.  They tonify the earth-associated channels by moistening fire so that it can transform into earth; or to use the analogy again, they provide some yin-substance to form that coal which will ultimately transform to earthy-ash.  More to the point, the movement of fire is upwards; Faith had stated she feels like she’s stuck in tar pits and sinking deeper every day.  Spontaneous and unfettered movement in her life was disrupted, and something whose nature upbears would restore that movement.  (I might consider Ge Gen Tang for her case.)

HT-8, as a fire point of a fire organ can be seen as the natural ‘home’ of the Heart — and thus also of consciousness.  Its name, Shao Fu (‘Lesser Fu/ Storehouse’), as Ellis, Wiseman, and Boss point out, is reflective of this capacity.  PC-8, on the other hand, is associated with ghosts — it is named both ‘ghost cave’ and ‘ghost road’ in other texts.  A perfect entry point for a magical device that seeks to replace a body’s normal consciousness with an alien one.

PC-8 and HT-8 together on Faith also have a role to play when we turn from point energetics to the spiritual qualities these two channels, as channels, govern.  The Heart governs the Mai, which store the Shen (affect, consciousness); the Hun (personality) is stored in the Blood, which is stored in the jueyin LV — and the PC is the jueyin channel which gives the Hun access to the Heart and the residence of the Shen.  JueYin Men, the ‘spirit point’ of the PC, located on the lateral bladder line, can be thought of as that gate.  In this episode, however, we see that another crossing point would be to thread a needle through these two points — the Ghost Cave (‘ghost’ shares the same signific radical with ‘hun’) and the Shen’s lesser residence.

Turning to an overall diagnosis or etiology for the case of Faith, she has two pathological sources for her unsettled shen.  First, Faith was continually dumped or engaged in a competition of exploitation — by her family, by a watcher, by her father figures, and Buffy… Second, she was in a coma for months.  Both factors could possibly have led to cold in PC and HT, constricting its proper expression, and ultimately turning to a very severe, though likely deficient (from loss of blood, movement, etc) heat.  I have treated one person who was in an induced coma with these two points, and suddenly his presence was much more clear and cognizant, at least while the needles were in.  I only did that treatment on him once; would that I could have repeated it as a regular treatment, to see how long those effects would take in order to effect a lasting change.

As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel Acupuncture or Chinese medicine may be helpful to you or someone you know, please seek out a qualified practitioner.  Happy slayage!

Goodbye Iowa (Buffy Season 4, Episode 14) Part 2/2

Towards the close of this episode, when Adam is revealed as the Big Bad of the season, Adam makes a statement which leads not so much to a diagnosis so much as to a treatment plan.  “I know what I am, but not who I am.”  Adam, of course, tried to go about discovering who he was by approaching the matter mechanistically:  the vivisection of humans and demons.  He is trying to probe the deeper and most intimate sources of how human life is expressed.  For the Classical Chinese physician, the channel system which governs this are the Qi Jing Ba Mai:  the Extraordinary Meridians of the Eight Vessels.

These Vessels are considered to be the repository not only of jing, the essence inherited from before birth, but also of those factors, particularly emotional ones, which the individual person, or his family lineage, has not been able to resolve.  They can thus be thought of as ‘karmic’ in the sense of a long-term expression of response to lived environments.  In this regard, the EVs are that system in the body which conveys, as a template, the genetic and epigenetic expression of post-natal qi.  Through the action of source qi, post-natal qi is assimilated to the pattern the jing provides, giving rise to flesh and form in the body.

The extraordinary vessels, filled with jing and shen as they are, deal with the existential issues Adam considers — who am I?  They are the deepest part of the body’s channel physiology and come into play in the unfolding of the jing (KD-6, BL-62) as it is transmuted by ming men fire (SJ-5, PC-6) into qi (LU-7, SP-4) and shen (GB-41, SI-3).

As described in previous posts, the EVs — like all the channel systems — can be thought of as a description of the movement of a person through existence.  Jeffrey Yuen discusses how the Ren, Du, and Chong form the basis of individuation and growth; the Wei Mai integrate the yin and yang functions of the body; the Qiao Mai reflect one’s view of the world and self; the Dai mai discharges and drains what needs to be let go, or retains what the person is unwilling or unable to address at particular times in his or her life.

Specifically, the Chong provides the central blueprint of a person’s life, the sea of blood, from whose union with qi shen arises.  The Ren Mai involves attachment, its formation and the solidity such reassurance gives to children as they grow.  It is the consolidated Sea of Yin which allows what is necessary for growth to be held adequately, without being torn by the dissipating nature of Yang.  The Du Mai is about unfolding into an upright posture, the individuation and going forth into the world, the dissipation or outward movement of the Sea of Yang.

For Adam, then, an EV treatment might be most appropriate to aid him in his quest for self-knowledge.  Adam’s EV functioning is unclear.  One could regulate the Yin Qiao Mai and couple it with the Chong Mai, with the intent to facilitate his ability to look inward at his blueprint; yet he seems to know his blueprint from the disc or CD he inserted into the Cyborg portion of his anatomy.  Looking inward at his blueprint does not seem to be the issue.

Another approach would consider that Adam has not lived; he has not engaged with the external world.  This is the province of Du Mai.  He does seem to have a bit of excess in the Yang Qiao Mai, trying to figure out the world, so perhaps the Yin needs to be regulated as well.  His question, at its most basic level, seems to be:  ‘What is my destiny in the world?’

Four points on the Du, Ren, and Qiao Mai open the body to its destiny.  These points happen to be where some people sense their ‘gut feeling’ the ‘core’ or ‘innermost’ part of their gut — the ‘will within the will’ as it were.   The points on the Ren Mai are located two and three thumb widths below the navel, CV-4 and CV-5.  On the low back, in the two intervertebral spaces between L2 and L4, where some people feel a tingling in their spine when something is ‘right’, the points GV-4 and GV-3 can be located.  Finally, the other points, which are rarely thought about in terms of feeling one’s way, are located at the inner canthi of the eyes — the portion of the eye near the tear ducts and nose.  Bl-1, a place at which clarity of vision — or its blurriness — manifests.  All the above points share as one of their several appellations the name, ‘Ming Men’, Gate of Destiny.

I would start first with the Qiao Mai, opening with BL-62, then needling BL-1.  Adam has been looking to excessively at the world, and needs to anchor within; so the next points would be CV-4 and CV-5.  These points are also the mu-points for the Small Intestine and Triple Warmer, referred to above as expressing jing and shen outwards (the SI being paired with the Heart and Vessels which govern and store the Shen).  One could opt to close with LU-7 at this point.  I might consider leading this consolidation back to the source, to GV-3 and GV-4, before ultimately closing with SI-3 (the control point on the Du Mai).

Needles should be inserted fairly deeply.  A vibrating technique should be used to obtain qi.  The needles should be retained for 40 minutes or so (although Adam’s jing is possibly quite motile, as an infant’s would be, and thus needle retention could be shorter in time).  Treatment should be once weekly, for three months.

Herbal treatment would lead the fire back to the source using Rou Gui and Huang Lian, while augmenting yin and jing with either E Jiao or Gui Ban.  In lieu of animal products (not really an issue for Adam, but in countries where animal products are restricted an issue for practitioners), one might try using Shu Di and Luo Shi Teng.  This latter herb usually treats the Luo Mai; but when the luo empty into the EVs, it may be helpful to see if the luo can be engaged through herbal treatment to reverse the flow.

The question of the state of Adam’s jing and ming men fire highlights a plot hole — we don’t really know how he came to life.  Does he have a base creature on which he was built?  Was this creature still alive when the operations were being performed?  Is he primarily an augmented human being?  Primarily a Demon?  Do demons have the same vasculature as humans?

Adam’s physiology raises particularly interesting questions from a Chinese perspective.  Does he have any extraordinary vessels?  Does he have a shen, which would have a curriculum to work out in this world?  Did he embody the unresolved pathologies contained in the luo vessels of a previous existence?  How would a Chinese Frankenstein’s monster be created?  How would the connexions of the various channels be treated?  Would a ‘translation’ of channels into fascial continuity provide a different take on how such a creature could be constructed?

I will leave such philosophical questions for the readers of this post to ponder.

As always, this post is for informational purposes only.  If you think Chinese Medicine can help you engage with your life’s work in greater depth or with greater clarity, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

Goodbye Iowa (Buffy Season 4, Episode 14) Part 1/2

After Maggie Walsh’s death at the hands — or the Polgara spike — of Adam, the Initiative team members go off their usual medication routine.  The result is a set of behaviour changes involving hostility, itchy skin, sudden anger, confusion, and incoherent speech.  Towards the end of the episode, Adam reveals himself to the characters as the cause of Maggie’s death.  Adam seems to be a very articulate and straightforwardly announces what makes him tick:  “Who am I?”  he asks.  “I know what I am, but that does not explain who I am.”  With that announcement, and the sudden appearance of more Initiative men who take Riley away to a military hospital for treatment, Adam leaves the scene.

Drug withdrawal is the obvious diagnosis for this episode, but Adam’s question at the close is more interesting to me.  Therefore, I will split this post into two (as I did with the Ted posts), each with its own particular focus.

Symptoms similar to what the Initiative men were experiencing can be seen when withdrawing from several different types of drugs, including psychiatric medications.  Treatment protocols have been designed to help wean people off drugs, the NADA protocol being the most well known.

The NADA protocol for treating drug dependency makes use of ear acupuncture, a rather modern addition to the acupuncture tradition.  The ear is seen as a microcosm of the human body, inverted into a fetal pose.  The lobe of the ear contains points associated with the brain and head, while the feet and legs are towards the apex of the ear.  Internal organs are in the concha, near the opening of the auditory canal.

The NADA protocol uses five points:  Shen Men, Autonomic point, Liver, Kidney and Lung 2.  Shen men is used for anxiety; the Liver and Kidney associated points reflect their ability to detoxify the body according to the tradition of Western medicine.

The Lung point is an interesting one in that it bridges the Western function of being an organ of detoxification, and the Chinese association of the Lung — because of its link to the po-spirits (corporeal souls) — with addiction disorders.  As Riley stated of Maggie, “There must be something making her act this way.”  From a Classical Chinese viewpoint, that thing is a disordered po.  Proper qi gong technique, or herbs which restrain the qi (e.g. Huang Qi, Wu Wei Zi) are sometimes helpful in such cases.

Drug withdrawal symptoms on the other hand, vary by drug, and Chinese medicine theoretically takes each person’s withdrawal on a case-by-case basis.  In other words, knowing the specific drug isn’t the determining factor for subsequent treatment of its withdrawal symptoms.

In the case of Riley and his men, the mechanism in Chinese medicine involves a stirring of wind (and sometimes dampness) internally, and contraction of wind externally.  Given Riley’s other statements about decreased physical stamina, it would seem that the particular drugs he was on augmented qi and blood.

A Shaolin temple formula I have used with athletes, ‘Harvest the Training Powder’ does precisely that — the chief herb is Dang Gui, which nourishes the blood and invigorates qi. That formula includes Dang Gui as the chief herb, Chen Xiang, Ju Hong, and Hong Hua as deputies, Jiang Xiang, Zhi Qiao, and Tao Ren as assistants.  A similar formula, designed to be taken with rice wine before training includes Shan Yao as the chief, Sheng Di, Bai Zhu, and Huang Qi as the Deputies, Dang Gui, Chen Pi, Mu Xiang, Gua Lou Ren, and Gan Cao as assistants, and small amounts of Xiao Hui Xiang and Chen Xiang, though I would not call them envoys.  Both formulas work on moving the qi while at the same time moistening and nourishing the blood.

Riley has what in Kampo medicine would be recognised as a ‘blood’ body type (Forrest has more of a ‘qi’ body type — leaner and more wiry).  He would therefore have a particular susceptibility to blood empty and blood full disorders; Forrest would have a similar tendency to qi-type disorders.

It seems that in Riley’s case, a diminishment of blood has given rise to stirring of wind.  Herbally, we could treat this either by augmenting the blood and qi with the above-mentioned Shaolin formulas; or by dredging wind, nourishing and moving blood, and generally addressing the Liver.

A formula such as Si Wu Xiao Feng Yin would be useful in this case.  It moistens and invigorates the blood and expels wind-damp (which gives rise to the itchiness Riley was displaying).    Unsurprisingly, it contains a few herbs also used in the training formulae, though with a greater emphasis on moving blood to expel wind.  The ingredients are:  sheng di, dang gui, jing jie, fang feng, chi shao, chuan xiong, bai xian pi, chan tui, bo he, du huo, chai hu, and da zao.

In terms of acupuncture, however, a treatment approach which involves the Stomach may be more appropriate.  The Stomach deals with blood; its heat produces restlessness and irritability; and its associated arm channel, the Large Intestine channel, deals with wind-heat.  If, however, we thought wind-damp might be a culprit, then the ShaoYang channels might be a better place to begin.  In this latter case, we would be addressing the GB with its relationship to the marrow and Sea of Marrow (i.e. the brain and material basis of synthesising the spiritual aspects of the various zang-organs — will, intent, shen, hun, po), and the Triple Heater which has an intimate relationship to the Gate of Destiny (Ming Men).

How would we parse out the difference between the two?  Where is the point to treat the hundred insects crawling under the skin?  (SP-10 — also called Xue Hai or Sea of Blood — and GB-31 both work.)  Is a rash weepy? (Use Shao Yang.)  Is the patient alternating cold and hot, either physically or psychologically? (Again, Shao Yang.)  Do we approach this from a Primary Channel perspective — in which case Yang Ming and ShaoYang are very far apart, and the pathology would be seen as a result of diet — or a Six Channels perspective, in which case the two yang channels follow one another closely?  Finally, if we include  the Po-spirits, residents of the bones (controlled by the GB) and Lungs (paired with the LI via the luo point), then we have another set of points to draw from.

If I were to look at the Stomach channel and its pairs I could select ST-36, ST-37 (LI lower sea point); and either LI-6 (luo point) or SP-10.  From a ShaoYang treatment perspective, GB-31, GB-39, GB-8 all come to mind.  GB-8, the root of the soul is useful for helping people re-orient themselves, while GB-39 treats the marrow, that which exists within the bones — such as the po — while GB-31 is useful for itchiness in general.

As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel that Chinese medicine could help benefit your exercise programme or help you or someone you love in their struggle with drug dependency, please see a qualified practitioner.  (I can provide recommendations for practitioners specialising in these approaches in Oxfordshire, Boston, and the San Francisco Bay Area.)

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