Lies my Parents told me (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 17)

This episode sees two maternal backstories coming into open conflict, that of Principal Wood, and that of Spike.  Principal Wood’s mother had been a Slayer, and was killed by Spike sometime in the era of Afros and Disco.  (Spike ended up with her coat as a trophy.)  Spike had a different experience of his mother:  Soon after his own siring by Drusilla, Spike decided to make his mother into a vampire.  He unleashed a demon, who is thrilled to be rid of Spike.  Before Spike kills her (Spike seems to be a chronic matricide, it seems), Spike’s mother has a monologue in which she describes William as ‘slithering from her’ when he was born, calling him a ‘parasite’.

I figure I should have at least one post in this entire show which mentions gestation and parturition in Chinese medicine.  Overall, Angel is a better show for that topic, given the series of strange pregnancies that Cordelia and Darla experience.

In terms of acupuncture, the EVs are typically the channels most associated with gestation.  This applies both to the formation of the fetus as well as to the mother’s conception of the baby and holding the pregnancy to term.  As for labour, acupuncture on the primary channels can be used to induce labour (these points tend to be contraindicated during pregnancy, though whether or not they are strong enough to induce a miscarriage is debated).  When a fetus is malpositioned, moxa is burned at the end of the Bladder meridian, averting a breech birth situation.

Physiologically, herbal medicine has more to say on the topic of pregnancy.  Formulas abound for treating everything from difficulty in conceiving, ‘restless fetus syndrome’, difficult labour, eclampsia, retained lochia, bleeding after childbirth, and difficult lactation.

When it comes to the Channel Divergences, the most appropriate channel to discuss within the framework of early life is the Gallbladder Channel Divergence, particularly as its trajectory mirrors the San Jiao mechanism which is lit by a baby’s first breath.  The trajectory of the front San Jiao mechanism, like the GB CD, encompasses all the mu points.  Mu points are where the post-natal (qi from breath and food) supports the prenatal.

As developed by the Nan Jing (Classic of Difficulties) school, the San Jiao mechanism along the back establishes the shu points of the BL meridian. Along the front, it establishes the three Dan Tian. This occurs when the umbilical cord is cut and the infant must depend on its own breath for survival. The front mu points follow the creation cycle; the back shu points follow the control cycle. Pathology will progress either along the creation cycle (and follow the Fu organs) or the control cycle (and follow the Zang organs).

In other words, as mentioned in last week’s post, mu points are where blood supports jing.  For this reason, the GB-LV CD, which deals with blood, follows the BL-KD CD, which uses jing to contain a pathogen.  By the time a pathophysiology has progressed this far, the jing needs to draw on blood to support latency.  Harnessing the energetics of the mu points is one way to accomplish that.

As a theoretical side note, vampires, when sired, are sired through blood, not jing.  If they were to have an equivalent of mu points, they would more likely be related to Stomach, and to points where body fluids or perception (both associated with the upper orifices) support blood.  Humans enter this world through taking their first breath with the Lung organ.  Vampires re-enter through the Stomach (or possibly SP — an organ of incomplete transformation).  I wonder, would their primary channels then begin with the ST and end with LI?

In any event, I am examining Spike’s birth as a human, and to do so a little bit of information about the Gallbladder CD trajectory is in order.

The channel trajectory begins with GB30 (Huan Tiao).  This is one of the star points of Ma Dong-Yuan, and is used in alchemical acupuncture.   It is the point which allows a person to jump to heaven.  In this capacity, it also helps release grief.  In that case, what is grieved for is allowed its redemption.  Forgiveness is often the resolution of mourning.

From GB-30, the channel progresses anteriorly to the margin of the pubic hair at CV-2 or CV-3, where it meets up with the Liver primary channel.  That meeting continues onwards to the next point in the sequence, GB-25, the KD mu point.   In terms of five-phase energetics, this is the point at which wood supports water, or thought of another way, at which LV blood supports KD jing.  In terms of external medicine, this is where the sinews (yang of yang) support bones (yin of yang).  This is where the GB gains its ability to master the bones, as indicated in the Ling Shu.

From GB-25, the next point is LV-13, the SP mu and the mu point of the solid organs.  LV-13 also drains into GB-26, Dai Mai.  Looking at the physiology from a spirit-point perspective, this is the point at which mulling and pensiveness drain into the EV which will pass those unresolved thoughts to future progeny.  It can work in the opposite direction, though too, as the GB is an organ of courage and decisiveness.  In Channel Divergence physiology, this is where the GB CD is trying to draw up yuan qi of Dai Mai.  If the Dai Mai is full (i.e. cannot hold more latency), the mu points then fill, and the mu points become the areas of the body in which latency is held.  The GB CD brings blood to Mu points to support jing in its holding on of latent pathogens.  This creates mu point sensitivity.  Japanese acupuncture systems often use mu points diagnositically, relying on this type of pathophysiological process.

From the SP mu point, the channel then goes to GB-24, the GB mu point.  This point allows the pathogen and the channel to enter the GB organ.  From there, the channel passes into the Liver organ at the LV mu point, LV-14.  LV-14 is the point where the LV stores blood.  (In primary channel physiology, the combination LV-8 and LV-14 can be very effective in treating blood-deficient insomnia.)

The channel then diffuses out of the Liver and into the Heart, reaching CV-14, the HT mu point.  The physiological relationship here is one of LV blood supporting HT blood, yin, and qi.  That support continues at PC-1, the next point in the trajectory.  There, the LV is supporting jue-yin blood.  PC-1 and LV-14 are effective points in helping the body to clarify blood, in terms of six-channel energetics.  For reference, PC-1 is not the usual mu point for the PC, CV-17 is.  CV-17, however, is not on the GB Channel Divergence trajectory.

From PC-1, the channel passes upwards to ST-12, the doorway through which pathogens pass inwards or move outwards.  The channel then meets up with ST-9, ‘Welcome to humanity’.  This is a sea of blood point, so again, the relationship at this window to the sky point is one of blood supporting jing.  The point combines well with GB-30, for releasing emotions and holding patterns to heaven.

After ST-9, the channel goes to the root of the tongue at CV-23, meeting with Yin Wei Mai along the way.  If the mu points have already been filled, or if one of the upper orifices is blocked, the GB Channel Divergence will find a place to keep the pathogen latent at the next point, ST-5.   To release that latency, gua sha both this point and the SCM.  Note that releasing the pathogen in this manner may move the pathogen into the ST primary meridian, prompting a fever.  The wise physician would make certain that the ST channel is tonified enough that it can move the pathogen upwards and outwards.

After ST-5, the channel passes through CV-24 and then to GB-1.  GB-1 treats  ‘Jie’, that which binds up the eyes.  The channel has an affinity for the upper eyelids.  It is the first Channel Divergence to go to upper orifices themselves, passing by the ears on the way.

Ordinarily, I would think of combining a GB channel divergence treatment with Dai Mai EV treatments, or possibly a San Jiao mechanism oriented treatment.  Earlier, I mentioned that the LI CD is the wei qi which lit the San Jiao mechanism.  That implies a physiological relationship between the LI CD and GB CDs.  The treatment counsel of gua sha on ST-5 and the SCM, with the resulting possibility of using the primary channel of the ST to move the pathogen outwards — often through the LI primary channel — again highlights this connexion.  The two channels can be combined in a treatment session if the patient has enough blood to support jing, and yang is in need of resuscitation.  I would then follow that combination of treatments with a plain and simple San Jiao mechanism treatment, presented in the chart below.

The chart below describes the sequence of wei qi entering the body to ‘light’ the San Jiao fire and move jing into the respective organs, beginning the cycle of self-sufficient generation in a human body.  To treat a person, first needle ST-12, then, while retaining needles at ST-12, needle LU-1.  Needle ST-25 next, and remove the needles from ST-12.  Needle GB-25 next, and remove the needles at LU-1.  Continue in this fashion until the trajectory is completed.

At one point, after GB-25, the San Jiao mechanism splits, moving both upwards and downwards.  The treatment can either retain the needles at GB-25 and progress through either downward or upward movements to meet at CV-12, or the treatment can move simultaneously through both upward and downward trajectories.  I have not used this treatment often enough to determine which is more effective.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have discovered that your mother is a vampire and you wish to sever your umbilical attachment to her in order to live your own life, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy slayage!

Point Organ Mu Element Explanation
ST-12 Earth The basin into which breath goes from the nostrils, to enter the interior of the body and travel towards navel, where umbilical cord has been cut.
LU-1 Lungs Metal Breath travels to navel from ST-12 via this point. Breath “fans” the “pilot light” of KD Yang
ST-25 Large Intestine Metal Breath establishes connexion between LU-1 and ST-25.
GB-25 Kidney Water Goes to Dai Mai and connects to lower back (BL23, Du-4). Energy moving to KD. From here, qi goes up and goes down.

Downward movement:

Upward Parallel:
CV-3 Urinary Bladder Water Qi is still in water Needle LR-14, GB-24 while retaining CV-3
CV-5 San Jiao Water/ Fire SanJiao links Water with Fire Retain CV-17, and needle CV-5
CV-4 Small Intestine Fire Retain CV-14 and needle CV-4

Upward movement:

Downward Parallel
LR-14 Liver Wood Water moves into Wood CV-3
GB-24 Gallbladder Wood From Wood qi moves to the centre and Fire – PC CV-3
CV-17 Pericardium Fire Energy comes inwards from nipples (GB-24) and up from CV-3. Wood into Fire CV-5
CV-14 Heart Fire Heart is sovereign of ZangFu CV-4

Back into centre:

CV-12 Stomach Earth Energy returns to earth, the centre and the influential point of fu organs Retain CV-12, and needle LR-13
LR-13 Spleen Earth Influential point of Zang organs San Jiao ends at Influential points of Zang Fu

Sleeper (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 8)

The opening sequence for this episode ends with a scene of Spike digging a grave for the people he sired.  At the climax of the episode, they rise up from the dirt of a cellar and attack Buffy.  The vampires hold her still so that Spike can be the one to kill Buffy; but upon tasting her blood, his memories of killing humans comes back to him.  The episode closes with Spike brought to the Summers house to be watched.  (Technically, the episode ends with an axe being swung at England-based Giles by one of the Bringers.)  In the midst of the episode, references about rumours of Spike hunting are framed as ‘accusations from a pile of dust’, alluding to the vampire Buffy slayed in the previous episode.  She staked him; the body returned to the earth.  In this episode, we also see the First continuing to take the form of dead things, or at least things that had died, and were (presumably) buried at some point.

All these references to dust, dead people, and things rising from the earth make me think of a key aspect of Channel Divergences:  the channel trajectory often moves from points collectively known as ‘Doorways to the Earth’ and ascend to the ‘Windows to the Sky’.  This post, then, will look at the physiology of Doorway to the Earth points in more detail.

To begin with a list, the Doorways to the Earth generally include the six primary channel points of BL-40, KD-11, GB-30, LV-12, ST-30, SP-12, and the four Extraordinary vessel points of CV-1, CV-4, Du-1, and Du-4.  Their psycho-spiritual purpose is to eliminate what is no longer part of one’s ‘realised being’ or ‘authentic self’ (zhen ren).  They are thus used for draining out of heavy yin pathogens, and are often paired with yang-oriented Windows of the Sky points.  The pairing of Doorway and Window points serves also to ‘return to the self’:  after having transformed qi into shen and shen into xu (void), the person must return to him or herself and continue to live life.  The doorway points, all located on the lower body, also help ground a person; but this grounding is in what is essential to the person, that is, they clarify jing and yuan qi circulation.  In origin, they relate to the 12 earthly branches, while the windows to heaven relate to the ten heavenly stems.

That is is the general overview of the points.  How does each point serve these functions?  What differentiates each point with regard to their general applications?

Bl-40, ‘Middle Defence’ or ‘Wei in the Centre’:  Starting at KD-1, this point pushes wei qi into gluteus.  It is an important point in the practice of Tai Ji, as it helps spiral qi between the Dan Tian or Ming Men down towards the ground at KD-1.  Physiologically, it is the end point of a channel which emerges at BL-23, and is capable of opening the Ming Men (‘Gate of Fate’).   As one of Ma Dongyuan’s constellation points, it treats wind bi, spasms, and tremors.  Functionally, it is also known for treating diarrhea, lumbar pain, and numbness of lower extremities.  In other words, it strengthens the centre to enable the body to consolidate its qi.  If diarrhea is due to wei qi attacking the fu organs, it helps disperse the wei qi outwards; or rather, through moving yin into the hips and legs, it draws the wei qi out from the interior body.  BL-40 drains excess so that qi will not leak out (loss of qi often accompanies episodes of diarrhea, one reason for salt moxa at CV-8 in patients with recurring diarrhea).  Because BL-40 drains yin into the lower extremities, sometimes pairing it with a yang point like ST-36 will help prevent the legs from feeling too heavy.  Pairing the point with ST-30 will help regulate the flow of yin through the pelvis.

KD-11, ‘Curved Bone’:  This is a Chong Mai point, and therefore relates to blood and emotions in the person.  It treats dysuria, pain of genitals, pain in Dan Tian, and treats shriveled genitals.  In terms of yin or authenticity, it treats the pain of letting go and transformation.  It also enables a person to pass on his or her essence to others (e.g. progeny, disciples, students).  This ‘essence’ can include what is no longer his or hers, and in terms of the patient him or herself, enables the patient to recognise what is authentically part of one’s own life to work out and what is not.

GB-30, ‘Jumping Round’:  Another of Ma DongYuan’s constellation points, this point is associated with Yuan Qi when cupped.  From BL-40, wei qi gets moved to the gluteals at GB-30, enabling the patient to jump, to move to heaven.  This point gives renewal in the sense of deepening one’s breathing (the point treats asthma) in order to make those leaps of faith.  Functionally, the piont is usually used to treat atrophy of the lower limbs and  pain or numbness in low back.    Psycho-spiritually, the point is effective in addressing grieving, especially for the self.  When needled and moxa applied, the patient may sob and let go of loss; moxa brings warmth they look for.

LV-12, ‘Urgent Pulse’, treats hernia and bulging disorders.  Hernia is an accumulation of yin qi at the expense of yang qi.  It also treats pain in the external genitalia and in the lower dan tian.  Again, like KD-11, it helps a patient let go of the pain of transformation, particularly when this transformation entails delegating tasks to other people, future progeny or disciples.  The master who jealously guards secrets so that his or her disciples will never be better than him or her, or the official who will never let the assistants take on responsibility and grow into effective leaders — this point is for that sort of person.  But LV-12 is also, perhaps even primarily for, for the person who has taken on too much themselves, and their ability to actually get the work done is leading them to literally break at the seams.

ST-30, ‘Surging Qi’ or ‘Qi of the Chong Mai’, is the upper point of Grains and Fluids.  It is known for treating food toxicity, allergies, and indigestion — conditions in which wei qi has become stuck internally.  ST-30 ascends yin to the pelvis in order to cool the stuck wei qi.  A person who is having trouble digesting the experiences of life, feeling constantly on the defence against how they interact in the patient’s inner world — this is the point for them.  It will help bring an internal stillness to the person.

SP-12, the Gate of Chong, was addressed in the previous post.  As a point on the Sea of Blood, it gives an entryway into seeing how one’s emotional life connects with one’s ‘blueprint’ in life.  Alternately, it can help bring emotion back into that blueprint, for people who have become ‘burnt out’.  Again, yin is addressing yang at this point.

CV-1, ‘Meeting of Yin’:  This is a ghost point, ‘ghost hide-away’.  As such, it treats certain types of psychological symptoms.  These symptoms often take the form of rapid or disconnected thoughts; ideas which are difficult to grasp, or a train of thought designed to keep a person from actually thinking through the root of a problem (i.e. a ‘ghost’ is trying to throw people of the right track).  It is an area of concentrated yin, being on the lowest part of the trunk of the body.  CV-1 also treats local symptoms, like  vaginitis, retention of urine, hemorrhoids, and nocturnal emissions.  It regulates the inflow and outflow of essence in a person’s body (emissions, urine).  It also treats wind in the lower body (vaginitis, hemorrhoids) through its ability to bring yin to bear in the region.

Du-1 has two names, ‘Gate of Po’ and ‘Long Strong’.  It is the place where the po-spirits exist the body at death (or every seven years).  It connects with lower orifices to treat an excess or lack of peristalsis and an inability to consolidate.  As the Luo of Du Mai, it functions to treat the spine as a whole, whether manifesting as stiffness or a shaking head.  It treats the emotions as they relate to individuation, being able to raise one’s head and gaze directly out at the world.  It allows that solidity by securing the yin at the root of the trunk, firmly grounding the person in his or her body.

CV-4, Gateway to the Origin:  This commonly used point is known for its ability to benefit the yin, nourish and stabilise the kidneys.  Less well known is is function of restoring yang, through which it is able to regulate the qi of the body.

Du-4, Doorway to Destiny:  Awareness of this low back point is essential for proper movement, and as such, it is emphasised in most martial arts training.  A powerful point, Ming Men nourishes yuan qi and the kidneys.  it is the place from which the Triple Warmer mechanism begins to raise up the yuan qi to irrigate the shu points of the body’s viscera.  Original qi (yuan qi) is drawn up from here, dispersed to nourish the kidney organs (the kidneys store the essence, but they still need an externally-received nourishment from that essence), then upwards to the Spleen, Liver, Diaphragm and blood, Pericardium, Heart, Lungs, and the Orifices of the Brain.  The hollow organs are interspersed throughout this pathway, and also receive nourishment from the Ming Men.  As the Doorway to Destiny, it is the place where a person begins to see how his or her lineage meets his or her particular ways of being in the world, and what areas of life will need the strongest resources in order to meet those challenges and goals.

Spike, of course, was busy closing up any doorways to the earth, so that he would not be found out.  Had Buffy not entered the scene and one by one addressed the dead things that were latent in those holding zones, they would have acquired too great a number and ultimately overwhelmed her.  Our Slayer, however, had an idea already of what her authentic self was:  a warrior, a strategist, who knew just which resources were the strongest and in need of saving.  The inadvertant offspring of Spike were quickly dusted, and Spike himself brought inwards, to the Summers’ household.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one is being attacked by things long buried, please seek qualified assistance.

Happy slayage!

Beneath You (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 2)

In the second episode of the season, a much reduced Scooby gang of Buffy, Dawn, and Xander must face an unknown entity crawling beneath the earth, ready to devour them. It seems the entity had been the boyfriend (clearly now ex-boyfriend) of a wronged woman, whom Xander happened to find himself attracted.  The woman had wished her ex would turn into a worm.  Anya, getting back into her previous profession as a ‘Justice Demon’, was more than happy to grant that wish.  Naturally, Anya embellished the wish a little, and the ex turned into a demon last seen during the Crusades. The now angry ex-boyfriend tunneled around Sunnydale, seeking to take his own vengeance on his ex-girlfriend. The ex-girlfriend manages to find the Scoobies, she and Xander start flirting, Xander figures out what is going on, and the group, now joined by Spike, go in search of Anya, to convince her to reverse the spell.

The group find Anya at the Bronze.  A brief scene after Buffy and the ex-girlfriend leave allows Anya and Xander to confront the fall-out of Xander’s choice to leave Anya at the altar.  Anya has the opportunity to verbalise the repercussions she is experiencing (neglecting to mention the loss of her professional goals due to the destruction of the magic shop). Xander pointedly remarks that the excuse Anya has been using — that all this is the result of Xander standing her up at the altar — stops working at some point. In other words, Anya must take responsibility for acting, not merely reacting. Xander seems not to realise that Anya, unlike himself, has to rebuild her life from scratch, and the only place she could begin again is the place in which he initially found her, namely, as a vengeance demon.  Unfortunately for Anya, that profession just isn’t working out for her anymore; she doesn’t know who she is, and her own heart-pain blinds her to seeing new possibilities.

Ultimately, Anya does reverse the spell, and the demon transforms into a human man right as Spike stabs the demon-worm. The result is a human with a tire iron through his shoulder (at LU-2, near the coracoid process of the scapula), just missing the ribcage. Spike, now ensouled, feels the horror of having killed yet another human, and he runs away. Buffy comes to find him, and realises Spike has his soul back. She confronts her own horror, at how someone who loved her would go to such lengths to make himself into someone she could possibly love, and succeed.  Buffy must now face the fact that she framed her excuse purposefully in a way she thought would be impossible for Spike to accomplish. In the final scene, we see that Spike, had been tearing at his chest, trying to tear out his soul, or perhaps his heart, to make the pain in his chest stop.

Both Anya and Spike are experiencing chest bi.  Bi is caused by wind-damp lodging in an area; diagnosis involves ascertaining whether the bi is ‘hot’ or ‘cold’ in nature.  Spike’s desire is to claw out the pain, the burning sensation he experiences. In Spike’s case, the pathogen is clearly heat related.  For Anya, however, the situation is different.  She lost her ‘spark’ or ‘fire’; she’s gone cold.  Her ability to see options has congealed, and needs the transformative capacity of heat.  Since Anya is also suffering a buildup of qi in the chest as a result of being betrayed, I will offer yet another (perhaps final) herbal formula for helping the sequelae of heartbreak. This formula was originally composed to treats qi trapped in the chest due to a breech birth, but the herbs function to relieve pain in the chest quite nicely.

The formula is quite simple, consisting of four herbs, Xie Bai, Gua Lou, Lu Lu Tong, and Ji Xue Teng.  Xie Bai and Gua Lou are are well known combination for relieving chest bi.  They form the principal herbs of the formula.  However, the addition of Lu Lu Tong, ‘All Roads Open’ help free up the pathways for the trapped qi to disperse into.  Lu Lu Tong also helps relieve the pain of blood stagnation, with its sharp edges.  Ji Xue Teng is added to nourish the heart and continue the process of freeing the collateral vessels.  Together, the two assisting herbs use the principle of moving blood to expel wind, and using blood to lead qi.  Ordinarily qi commands blood; in this case, the qi needs to be reminded of its ‘natural’ function.  The qi needs an ‘out’ or a pathway; the freeing up of blood shows the qi that the pathway has been unblocked.  The formula thus helps with a situation in which emotions (blood) and life (qi) must function together to find a way to move outwards again.

Acupuncture for chest bi can involve the use of any Channel Divergence, as they all go to the heart.  I will discuss that aspect of channel divergence physiology in more detail in a later post.  Instead, a small point prescription, similar to the ‘golden triangle’, can be effective for chest bi:  LU-9, HT-6, PC-6. (Lung, Heart, and Pericardium meridians.)

LU-9 is the source point for the Lung channel.  It relates both to the jing of the organ and it expels wind.  As such, it is effective in treating bi in the chest and just below the diaphragm at CV-12, where the Lung meridian originates.  Tonifying the jing of metal is important when someone is still grieving or sad, as this is the emotion associated with metal.  Too much grief will weaken the organ and set the person up for respiratory conditions later on.  (In terms of biomedicin, depressed affect lowers immune response; lowered immune response, especially in colder temperatures or with poorer nutrition, invites bronchitis, TB, and pneumonia.)  HT-6 is the xi-cleft point of the HT meridian.  Xi-cleft points treat pain.  In this case, the pain is along the trajectory of the Heart meridian, and specifically in the heart organ.  PC-6 frees the chest.  The point resonates with CV-17, the mu-point of the Pericardium.  As a luo-point, it resonates with emotions and blood.  Finally, in terms of microsystems in acupuncture, if the forearm is visualised as a human body, with the head towards the palm, PC-6 is in the chest area; it treats chest conditions.

Some acupuncturists are uncomfortable needling only upper-body points and would want to balance this prescription with needles in the lower body.  I personally don’t like needling more than three channels.  I could ‘slide’ into thinking of the channels in terms of their yin-yang correspondences and advocate for the use of another ‘shaoyin’ point — say JiaoXin, ‘Meeting Trust’ on the kidney meridian (KD-8).
Another approach would be to free the diaphragm and spine.  This can be done through regular Tai Ji or martial arts practice.  The diaphragm acts as a ‘hinge’, linking the ming men of the lumbar vertebrae at Du-3 and Du-4 to the sternum and mediastinum at CV-17.  Working this ‘joint’ allows for qi to be freed and move between the upper and lower body.  This approach is good for those who do not wish to be needled.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational use only.  If you or a loved one want to tear out the heart from pain, or are suffering chronic chest pain, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy slayage!

Smashed (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 9)

In the wake of the music, this episode brings to a head Buffy and Spike’s latent sexual tension, while Willow and Tara’s relationship moves in the opposite direction.  We and Spike also learn Buffy came back not-quite-human — Spike can punch Buffy without feeling the pain usually brought on by the chip in his brain when he moves to harm humans.  The combination ‘love me, hurt me’ leads to several innuendos about getting together, and by the end of the episode the Buffy and Spike finally have at it.

Poor Spike, not human, not vampire.  Where does he fit in?  And Buffy — Where does Buffy fit in?  Not human either, but not non-human (although she may have taken on aspects of the Key as a result of her sacrifice)…

Meanwhile, Willow faces her new-found freedom to abuse magic, now that Tara is no longer in the picture.  Willow’s response to the break-up clearly shows what she values most — and it isn’t Tara.  (Again, I am reminded that Tara is perhaps my favourite character on the show, especially this season.)  Willow turns Amy the rat back into a human, and the two of them have a fun time at the Bronze magicking the place until they get bored.   Willow’s boredom — tolerance? — with the limits of her magic will lead to more serious consequences in the next episode.   Xander mentions to Buffy his concern that Willow’s addiction to magic is increasingly dangerous, but neither moves to act on his observation.

The events in this episode are all concerned with events and emotions building up, getting closeted and needing release, or getting unraveled and needing consolidation.  This is the terrain of the Dai Mai.  In each case, tonifying or astringing the Dai Mai will help its functioning.  First, astringing the vessel will help it gather together all the other channels of the body — the Dai Mai is the only named channel which runs horizontally around the body, like a belt, thus crossing all except the arm channels.  Second, astringing the Dai Mai will help prevent leakage by channeling the qi and jing back to their proper drainage passageways.  One should not worry too much that astringing the channel in these cases will cause urinary (or emotional) block, unless excess heat is present in the system to begin with.  In that case, choosing points to drain heat through the Dai Mai would be advisable.

The point prescription would be to open with GB-41 on the ladies’ left sides, men’s right sides.  Then, for Buffy and Spike:  GB-28 ‘Linking Path’, BL-52, BL-23, and Du-4 ‘Ming Men’.  The goal is to relink all the channels and their associated qualities back to the sense of destiny and the will to carry out that destiny.

For Willow, I would choose GB-26 (especially for draining damp-heat), and in lieu of the bladder points, ST-25 ‘Heavenly Pivot’.  If ST-15 below the second rib were sensitive, I would add SP-15 ‘Great Horizontal’; it might help her find her balance again.  Come to think of it, perhaps Buffy could use ST-25 instead of BL-23, too.

As a side note, with regard to Spike, the Dai Mai muscularly corresponds to the cremaster muscle as it comes off the obliques.  LV-13 and LV-12 may influence that muscle, and in some cases, I might consider adding LV-12 to a Dai Mai treatment for conditions like Spike’s.

For herbal treatments, we could focus on draining the Dai Mai, astringing it in an effort to reorient its draining capacity, or we could focus on regulating the fluids of the Liver (usually thought of as Liver blood, but the Liver is commander of qi in the body, which is associated with thin fluid as well).  To regulate the fluid of the Liver, I would use Wu Ling San with the addition of Wu Yao.

However, if we were to focus on herbs which go to the EVs, Ye Tian-shi recommends  Dang Gui, Sha Yuan Zi, Bai Shao, Shu Di, and Gou Qi Zi.  He also recommends some herbs with astringent qualities like qian shi, sang piao xiao (the Scoobies should have plenty of that left over from Season 2), and jin ying zi (rosehips).  Jin Ying Zi will restrain without tonifying, so would be a good choice for Spike and Buffy.

I would suggest Dang Gui to help the hun rejoice in itself; Bai Shao, to soothe the Liver and relax the sinews; Sha Yuan Zi, to astringe and boost the essence so as to channel KD jing around to LV blood (do not use in the case of heat); and Qian Shi, to augment Sha Yuan Zi.  (Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the Shen Nong Ben Cao today, so cannot comment on additional effects Qian Shi and Sha Yuan Zi might have.)  Shu Di might make a better addition, if its moistening action were called for, as in the case of tendons which have gone tense from lack of fluids.  Shu Di pacifies the hun and po and ‘makes the will long’.  It is useful as a herb when points like BL-52 are needled.  If Willow wanted to exert her will against the use of magic for Tara’s sake, I would recommend that herb in her formula.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have issues in the closet you would like to resolve in a health manner, please see a qualified practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!

Crush (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 14)

Buffy learns that Spike has a crush on her.  Buffy learns of this mind-twisting phenomenon through Dawn.  Buffy had seemed clueless up to that point.  As the season progressed, of course, we saw Spike’s obsession with Buffy grow.  It began innocuously enough, with a dream.  The quality of sleep is intrinsically related to the blood, and what dreams may come are often considered brought by the wanderings — or pathologies — of the hun-ethereal souls.  In this case, the hun and blood seem to indicate something is happening in the Spleen collateral.  No surprise given Spike’s diet the past season and a half has likely consisted of pig’s blood rather than human blood.  His Spleen system must be rebelling against such a poor diet.

Generally in Chinese Medical theory, the Earth phase of qi is characterised by a gathering and mulling movement.  Emotionally, this manifests as pensiveness, and pathologically as obsession.  It should come as no surprise then, that the SP luo also treats obsession.  However, it does so through a slightly more nuanced differential diagnosis.

In the Jia Yi Jing, depletion of the Spleen collateral shows up as ‘drum distention’ of the abdomen.  In Kanpo, this phenomenon is termed fuku man (or chikara naku), and we will return to Kanpo approaches below.  What is abdominal drum distension, and how can its physical properties be turned metephorical?  Drum distention, in which the stomach is bloated outwards, is often due to gas trapped in the intestines.  It is an insubstantial filling out of reality.  Likewise, Spike’s obsession with Buffy is founded on unsubstantiated fantasies, not on reality.  It is a depletion form of obsession.

In repletion, lancing pain in the abdomen is seen.  This can be caused by biomedical disorders like hepatitis, but taking the description emotionally, we can say that the gut is twisted around a topic that the person can’t assimilate and cannot let go.  This is not quite Spike’s obsession, but it is a type of obsession and ‘hanging on’ often seen in the clinic.  Ordinarily, I would think of using the Dai Mai to help resolve the issue.  Because I am sticking solely to luo vessel treatments, however, bleeding Gong-Sun, SP-4 is the tactic I would use in cases of ‘replete obsession’.

In counterflow and inversion of the Spleen luo vessel, choleriac disease results.  This is blood and pus in the stool.  Psychologically, the person cannot keep in what is needed (blood), and good emotions are trying to force out those emotions which are corrupted in some fashion (pus).  The result is an emotional hemorrhaging which needs to be stopped.  It is an obsession akin to attempting to address ‘frenemies’ and passive-agression, crazy-makers, and even more acutely serious emotionally destabilising events.  It is an obsession which is trying to fix something that is still breaking.

All the above are treated by lancing SP-4, along the arch of the foot.  The trajectory of the channel ascends upwards to connect with the stomach and intestines.  Thus, bleeding from the intestines is considered an attempt to relieve congestion and repletion in the channel.  I would not recommend trying to bloodlet spider veins inside the intestine; looking for spider veins around ST-25 and CV-12, however, as well as ST-37 and ST-39, because these points are all associated with the Stomach and Intestine organs, is clearly indicated.  Back shu points may also be checked and bled where appropriate.  In cases of depletion, follow with moxa.

I used to joke that in TCM acupuncture, the tendency is to always locate pathology in the Liver, and in CHM (Chinese Herbal Medicine), the emphasis is on Spleen pathologies.  To an extent, this reflects the difference in the aspect of the body with which each method interacts:  acupuncture works first on wei and ying qi, manipulating the body’s processes through that medium — and the LV is responsible for regulating wei qi and ying qi in the body.  Herbal medicine must be assimilated by the body, and often the body’s problems result from improper assimilation of food — all of which concern the Spleen and Stomach first and foremost.  CHM therefore has a range of medicines which treat the Spleen.  But what formulae relieve obsession, as differentiated by the collateral vessels?

Da Fu Pi is a good choice to relieve abdominal distention.  It also happens to expel tapeworms and other parasites eating away at one’s energy.  Therefore, Da Fu Pi would be my choice for treating depletion of the Spleen luo, added as an envoy to Si Wu Tang.

Mu Xiang is useful for choleriac diseases and is often used to help regulate the qi of the middle burner.  Therefore, it may be useful in cases of inversion of the SP luo, where patients are obsessed with fixing something which is perpetually broken.  Si Ni Tang is a useful formula in cases of choleriac disease, and the formula is able to rescue devastated yang due to such a condition.

Lancing pain in the abdomen due to repletion of the SP luo can be treated with Xiao Jian Zhong Tang, in which Yi Tang (maltose) is used to relieve intestinal spasms and release adhesions following surgery.  This is a formula often applied in Kanpo when the abdominal conformation reveals a tight surface, but a lack of force in the depths.  For a tight abdomen which is full beneath, often accompanied by constipation, the formula of choice would be either Da Chai Hu Tang or Yin Chen Hao Tang.  Yin Chen Hao Tang, of course, is most well known for its ability to treat jaundice — the yellow colour of the skin betraying the Splenic associations of the diagnostic criteria.  For those patients whose obsession revolves around a situation they can’t quite let go despite their desire, Yin Chen Hao Tang, in small doses, may be useful.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you feel you may benefit from the traditions of Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

 

 

The I in Team (Buffy Season 4, Episode 13)

Here’s a difficult episode in which to find something to diagnose.  Spike has found a new place to call home, a rather spacious crypt.  He makes it clear to Giles that he’s not interested in helping the gang and appears clearly bored by Giles’ efforts to discuss any ‘higher purpose’ in the new script of ‘neutered puppy’ he’s been given to play by the powers that be.  Unfortunately for Spike, his desire to cut his ties with Buffy and hangers-on comes to nought when Spike gets shot with a tracer by Riley’s men. Spike then runs to the Scoobies to have the tracer removed, but it is deeply embedded in his skin and the small set of impromptu surgeons — Willow, Anya, Xander, and Giles — have trouble extracting it.  Eventually the Scoobies remove the tracer and flush it down the toilet, just in the nick of time, much to the chagrin of Riley’s squad.

Western herbal medicine has several drawing salves which can pull toxins and splinters from deep within the skin to the surface, at which point they can be removed.  A frequently used base for such salves is white pine tar.  Chinese medicine also uses pine tar, referred to as Song Zhi, in external plasters.  The Shen Nong Ben Cao notes that Song Zhi treats all types of sores, flat abcesses, itchy scabs, and and eliminates wind and heat.  As such, it makes a good medicinal to help ward off further infections, soothe redness and itchiness, and resolve pus.  Just be careful to shave hair off the area of application first, especially if the pine resin is covered by a bandage.  Otherwise, when the bandage is removed, the patient will also experience the joys of a wax job added to their usual treatment…

Not all sores which are deep rooted are due to the entrance of an external object.  Among those which are due to other factors are ding chuan, “clove sores.”  The famous Tang dynasty physician Hua Tuo limited clove sores to the head, and claimed their etiology was rooted in emotional factors, drunkenness, indulgence in rich and sweet foods, and excessive sexual desire.  The colours of the sores correlate with the five elements, and each has a separate formula for treatment (often containing, as many of Hua Tuo’s formulas do, various heavy metals such as lead and mercury).  Black clove sores, for example, begin by the ear and cause tightness of the jaw.  Hua Tuo recommends soaking Tu Si Zi and Shi Chang Pu in wine and then applying the tincture to the sore.  Supplementation with another formula to nourish the Kidneys — black clove sores are rooted in the Kidney — is then recommended.  For reference, white clove sores develop on the right nostril and are rooted in the Lungs; cyan, rooted in the Liver, develops on the eyes and causes blurriness of vision; yellow on the gums, and is rooted in the Spleen; and red under the tongue, causing difficult urination and difficult speech, and is rooted in the Heart.

Since Spike would develop a clove sore due to external injury, however, we needn’t go into Hua Tuo’s prescriptions in more detail.  Instead, Wu Wei Xiao Du Yin, ‘Five Ingredient Drink to Eliminate Toxin’ is one formula which can be used to resolve what are currently called clove sores.  This prescription is composed of the toxin clearing herbs jin yin hua (unopened honeysuckle flower), pu gong ying (dandelion leaf), zi hua di ding (violet leaves and flowers), ye ju hua (wild chrysanthemum), and tian kui zi (semiaqualegia root), with the addition of a small amount of rice wine to the decoction.  I might add Huang Qi to the formula, which also treats hard to heal sores, partially because its focus is on the exterior and wei qi.  Huang qi thrusts outwards, moving toxins to the surface in cases of ulcerations.  In combination with Jin Yin Hua, it can also nourish the blood to expel wind toxins which have accumulated and begun to fester into fire toxicity.

Acupuncture in such cases might focus on addressing the underlying complaints — heat in the blood, wind in the skin — though herbal medicine, both internal and external, is preferred.  It would be interesting to see if treating the cutaneous region of the opposite side of the body using a plum-blossom or seven-star needle would be effective.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you have a non-healing sore and wish to treat it with herbal medicine, please seek out a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

The Initiative (Buffy, Season 4, Episode 7)

This is the episode in which Spike, trapped in an Initiative-built glass prison cell and starved of blood, manages to escape.  Believing the Slayer to be behind the Initiative (and that Buffy actually got some funding for her slayage project), he decides to finish off Buffy once and for all.  Finding Buffy’s room number through the easily hacked UC Sunnydale student database, Spike goes to Buffy and Willow’s dorm.  Only Willow happened to be in the room at the time, and not finding Buffy, Spike settles for Willow… and then finds that for the first time in his unlife, he can’t perform.

Impotence. It can come as a shock when it suddenly happens.  We witness Spike’s confusion, as well as the efforts of his would-be participant to help assuage his feelings.  While Spike wonders at the sheer fact that things aren’t working, Willow tries to figure out why it might not be working, in the hopes that a solution could be found.

In Spike’s case, we later learn the chip in his brain is the source of the problem.  Since this is a pure mechanical action, the solution would seem easy enough:  remove the chip.  However, we can analyse the mechanism by which that chip affects his system in Chinese Medical terms.  After such an analysis, we could try to circumvent its actions through various herbal medicines and acupuncture protocols.

In order to do that, however, we must take a look at what collection of symptoms Spike is displaying.  Specifically, what are the changes we see in Spike’s physicality as a result of this chip?

Despite the best efforts of make-up artists to conceal the effects of imprisonment on Spike, his pale lips lips and grey complexion could not be hidden.  The greyness can be seen especially along the Small Intestine line as it crosses the zygoma.  These two factors present the first clues:  the SI channel is devoid of its red colour; and the pale lips indicate a lack of blood.  So we might look at how either the TaiYang (Small Intestine) or ShaoYin (the Small Intestine’s internal pair, the Heart) may be affected.

In addition to the visually observed symptoms, we also see Spike’s emotional swings, particularly an uprush of anger, or more specifically, of hot-headedness, despite his frailty from forced starvation in the prison.  Later we see that in addition to his impotence, he seems to suffer from sudden and acute neurogenic headaches.

In contrast to Buffy’s expressed stamina, Spike’s qi and yang is bottled up, possibly due to a lack of communication between the interior ShaoYin and exterior TaiYang.  In terms of herbal medicine, this qi inversion fits the pattern of the Shang Han Lun‘s formula, Si Ni San.

The formula name, which literally means ‘Four Inversions Powder’ is often called ‘Frigid Extremities Powder’ today.  Its indications include cold fingertips and toe tips, impotence (i.e. cold tip of the penis), neurogenic headache, LV-SP disharmony, and hot headedness, among other signs, including ‘rectal heaviness’ — presumably referring to certain types of hemorrhoids or piles.

In (Chinese) clinical practice, it increases blood pressure in patients with low blood pressure, and is given in Japan to patients with tight rectus abdominis muscles in the upper abdomen.  It also treats vexing heat in the heart and chest, including irritability.  Other signs include a red tongue with yellow coating, and if Spike had a pulse, a wiry presentation would complete his being a textbook case for this formula’s use.

Note this formula isn’t for cold or yin preventing diffusion of yang, nor for heat inversion preventing diffusion of yang (indicated by dark urine and symptoms more appropriate for Bai Hu Tang).  The sensation of cold is present only at the tips of extremities.  Rather, this formula is for the internal constraint of yang qi when the TaiYang-ShaoYin dynamic is upset.

Si Ni San is composed of  equal parts of the following powdered herbs:

Chai Hu (Radix Bupleuri); Gan Cao (Radix Glycyrrizae); Shao Yao/ Bai Shao (Radix Paeoniae Albae); and Zhi Shi (Fructus  Immaturus Citri Aurantii).

A debate exists over why this formula is classified as a ShaoYin formula, given its chief herb Chai Hu — a herb usually associated with the Liver and Gallbladder channels, or the ShaoYang channel system as a whole.  To enter that debate, let us examine each herb separately:

Chai Hu is the generally accepted ‘chief’ herb of the formula.  According to Dr Huang Huang, who specialises in Shang Han Lun formulas, people who benefit the most from this herb are easily affected by changes, whether of temperature, air pressure, emotional context, or environment; and their appetite is easily affected by emotions. Chai Hu is usually associated with the Liver and Gallbladder, as it treats the alternating cold and heat characteristic of ShaoYang (GB) patterns.  However, it also releases the exterior, and the Divine Farmer specifies that it treats bound qi in the Heart.  The Heart, of course, is one of two ShaoYin organs, the other being the Kidneys.  (Kidneys are often associated with male sexual function in Chinese medicine.)  The HT, though, is sovereign fire; Chai Hu is associated with ministerial fire.  We will return to this relationship in the context of Chai Hu in a moment.

Likewise, Bai Shao is usually associated with the LV, because of Bai Shao’s astringent and blood-nourishing properties.  Because the LV stores blood and Bai Shao nourishes and brings in the blood it forms, this association is easy enough to understand.  Yet it is specifically when dry fried that Bai Shao nourishes blood; when raw, it harmonises the Ying or nourishing qi.  One can argue that Bai Shao, in this formula gives substance for the HT’s role in pumping nourishment through the body by generating blood.  In other words, the HT needs something to pump, otherwise it gets vexed and exhausted; Bai Shao supplies that substance.  However, I would argue that the role of BaiShao is focused more specifically on smoothing out the Ying Qi carried within the vessels and under the control of the Heart.  Chai Hu releases bound qi in the Heart; Bai Shao allows it to become unknotted along its pathways.

In addition to the Heart, the SI is also involved in the process of blood formation; and as Tai Yang, is involved in opening and closing the pores.  Being the most superficial of the six channels, it is the ultimate goal of the formula, inasmuch as the TaiYang helps keep the body’s surface warm and comfortable.  When its qi is depleted — as can be seen in Spike’s grey cheeks — the SI cannot supply the HT with blood, and the ShaoYin dynamic is upset.  The disruption of the ShaoYin dynamic, involving both the HT and KD, thus prevents the sort of performance Spike has come to expect of himself.  (Climax, as a side note, is due to a discharge of fire from the HT to KD essence, giving it a motile force out of the body.  A patient with difficult ejaculation might benefit from looking at the shao-yin dynamic, with a treatment focused on nourishing of KD water and a diffusion of HT fire.)

Zhi Shi is a key herb to explore when the Tai Yang and SI are considered.  Although zhi shi is usually though of as a LV qi constraint relieving herb today, the Divine Farmer claims zhi shi treats ‘great wind in the skin’ (the sort of wind that causes itching ‘like hundreds of flax seeds’); it also treats cold and heat, and heat constraint.  The skin in this instance would be the domain of TaiYang, and because heat constraint is mentioned here one would be more prone to think of the skin’s relationship to TaiYang, rather than its association with the Lungs.  (If the skin were dry, rough, or flakey, I would be more prone to examine the Lung’s role in diffusing fluids, but I would not rule out an examination based on the six channels.)  As a side note, zhi shi also relieves heaviness of the rectum and treats hemmorhoids (wind in the intestines — not necessarily the large intestine only).  The herb also treats blockage of food and reduced appetite — and I would argue this reduced appetite isn’t the sort found in the upper abdomen, where the stomach just feels ‘blah’, but the deeper, more small intestine area, where one feels a desire not to involve oneself with food.  (Of course, Spike wasn’t interested in feeding off Willow or Buffy, so much as just killing them in a way that might give him some additional pleasure.  Whether this could be considered a lack of appetite or not is debatable.)  Interestingly, the sixteenth century physician Wang Qing-Ren associates the yuan-qi’s mansion with the mesentery of the SI, permitting a connexion between the SI and the KD, another TaiYang-ShaoYin interrelationship at work.

All that remains to be looked at now is Gan Cao.  Wang Ang (seventeenth century) said Gan Cao drains Heart fire and nourishes yin blood.  It also supplements the triple burner (minster fire) — and can thus draw off heat constrained in the heart by promoting the function of the san jiao mechanism.  In fact, it is my contention that Si Ni San is thus a formula to be used when the pathology is located in the ShaoYin qi dynamic but where the TaiYang is compromised (thus not allowing the use of such formulas as Dao Chi San, which guides out heat through the Small Intestine) or in which the heat doesn’t need to be guided out or vented outwards so much as released to the surface TaiYang.  As mentioned above, the TaiYang itself is not necessarily compromised by a blockage or ‘bi’ syndrome, but is perhaps slightly ’empty’ due to an interrupted connexion with the ShaoYin substances.  The mechanism which is harnessed for this effect is the ShaoYang system of the Triple Heater and Gallbladder.

Hence the presence of herbs usually associated with the LV, GB, and SJ; not because those systems are diseased, but because they are healthy and can support or mediate between the ShaoYin and TaiYang.  LV blood supports the Heart when the Small Intestine cannot transform Red to support blood (‘hua chi wei xue‘).  Meanwhile, Minister Fire vents heat away from the Heart and brings it to the surface, where the TaiYang then functions to ‘xu‘ or warm-comfort the body with warmth — like the sort of warm spring day (‘xu ri‘ in Mandarin) that many people find comfortable.  Thus Chai Hu unbinds the qi of the HT, the Gan Cao flushes that Heat away through the TW, and the Zhi Shi guides that heat outward towards Tai Yang, while the Bai Shao smoothes the ying qi that had been compromised on the interior.  (Zhi Shi and Bai Shao thus act to spread wei and ying qi, harmonising them in a different way from Gui Zhi and Bai Shao or Sheng Jiang and Da Zao.)

As for acupuncture, a simple unblocking of the qi dynamic should suffice.  For this, I would use points on both the ShaoYin and TaiYang channels. Specifically, I would focus on xi-cleft points, which treat counterflow qi and which relieve pain.  Pain, in general, is caused by a stagnation of qi, and thus xi-cleft points facilitate movement of qi along their particular paths.

Thus we have as options HT-6 (clears deficient Heart heat, which implies a lack of blood, or lack of blood going where it needs to go), KD-5 (used for delayed menstruation, thus clinically warrants exploration for delayed ejaculation or erection — i.e. blood and essence not descending), BL-63 (head pain, used in acupuncture anesthesia during cranial surgery), and SI-6.  SI-6 does not seem relevant for our purposes (‘supporting the aged’ is the name of the point), even if Spike is a century or so old…  BL-58 and SI-17 would also be useful.  The former has an alternate name with the character for ‘counterflow’ in it, and as the luo point, connects the TaiYang BL with the ShaoYin-KD.  SI-17 is a Window to the Sky point, and thus relates to the movement of the four limbs; in this case, it is also a point formerly on the GB channel — and thus may duplicate the action of Chai Hu in the sense of harnessing the ShaoYang to benefit TaiYang.

As always, these posts are for entertainment purposes only.  If you feel Chinese Medicine may benefit your own ability to perform, please see a qualified practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lovers Walk (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 8) — Post One of Two

In this episode, we see Spike return to Sunnydale, miserable and moping over his loss of Drusilla to an antlered demon.  We see Willow and Xander trying desperately to fall out of love, while Buffy and Angel realise the hopelessness of their own relationship.  This is the episode in which Cordelia and Oz walk in on Willow and Xander in a somewhat compromising situation.

It wasn’t until Season Four that I began to realise Spike is a symbol for Buffy’s relationships, an outward manifestation of her own inner demons.  While I’m not certain the writers specifically thought of him that way, he fits into such a deconstruction of the Buffy plotline.

Aside from the lovesickness, the episode offers a number of intriguing diagnoses to follow up on.  Buffy mentions her mother’s head spinning around and then exploding when Joyce saw Buffy’s SAT scores.  (This was a metaphorical head explosion, as Giles sought to clarify.)  Buffy and Spike both reference rashes, pustules, boils, and leprosy.

Falling out of love is the most intriguing , however.  Given all the possibilities offered by this episode, I will split it up into two parts, as I did with the Ted episodes of Season Two.  This post, then, will examine Head Wind and Rashes.

Poor Joyce.  She’s gone through so much (and has yet more to experience).  Let’s examine some of her case history, shall we?

First, we diagnosed her with mild anemia due to falling on a barbecue fork.  We treated her Stomach primary meridian.  Then we treated her for food allergies due to Ted’s scrumptiously laced cookies.  We used the Stomach and Spleen divergent channel.  Most recently, we diagnosed her with age-inappropriate behaviour (also due to over-consumption of sugary foods), and gave her an herbal decoction aimed at levelling her Liver and Kidney channels; we also used a primary meridian treatment focused on the Stomach, Heart, and Triple Heater meridians.  It seems like she has an earth-related deficiency, and her excessive worry about Buffy fits this profile.

If I were actually treating her, and she continued to manifest these earth-related issues, I would want to try a different approach.  I might select a deeper channel to really push out these habituated pathologies.  Keeping that approach in mind, let’s look at her most recent diagnosis, provided by her daughter, Buffy.

Buffy relates that Joyce saw (i.e. read) Buffy’s SAT scores.  Here, we can think of the orifices of the head; we can also think of the Brain as an extraordinary organ.  Channels possibly involved with the eyes would include Stomach (no surprise), Gallbladder, Urinary Bladder, Qiao Mai, and Du Mai.

Then her head spun around. Obviously a wind symptom.  Wind tends to move from place to place.  Turning usually relates to ShaoYang (GB/ TW)) or ShaoYin (HT/KD).  Unfortunately, we don’t know whether this turning of the head was done with flexion or extension of the cervical vertebrae.  However, we know that the GB also has a relationship to the Brain, and the HT/KD also share a relationship to that Extraordinary Organ by virtue of being the seat of perception and the overseer of the marrow.  The Brain is called the Sea of Marrow.

Then her head exploded.

Obviously, the wind was too intense to be expelled properly.  Perhaps her sensory orifices were blocked (the clear yang of the Stomach must have been compromised from her poor diet, and failed to nourish the sensory organs properly).  Maybe she still lacked proper yin substances (such as blood) to anchor that wind and keep it from rising up.  Since her blood and body fluids are compromised, if we were to have treated her in time, we would have to have used a deeper substance in her body:  jing.

Jing is conducted by the Extraordinary Vessels and the Divergent Channels.  Since the last post used the Extraordinary Vessels, let’s use them again.  While previous posts have emphasised the psychological uses of these vessels, they can be used for more than just karmic and deep seated issues.  Joyce’s case provides an excellent opportunity to demonstrate when and how.

I would diagnose Joyce as having (extreme) head wind.

A Ming dynasty treatment related by Jeffrey Yuen in a lecture given on the Extraordinary Vessels is a perfect example of the approach which uses the Du Mai because of its relationship to the Brain and because of its ability to release wind to treat just this sort of case.

SI-3 would be used to open the Du Mai.  Then points which release wind are added:  BL-12, which is the point where the Du Mai forms a diamond on the upper back, Du-14 (which releases the upper back and activates the sinew vessels) and Du-16 are added.  Some people might also select GB-20 on either side of Du-16; or Du-20 can be used if heat seems to be present.  LI-4 is then used to release the wind to the exterior.  Alternately, one could treat the patient side-lying and use BL-1 to open the eyes to release excess wind, while also needling these other points.

A typical herbal formula for head wind is Chuan Xiong Cha Tiao San.  I might add Ju Hua to Joyce’s formula simply to focus on the eyes.

However, the formula Chai Ge Jie Ji Tang composed by Tao Hua around 1445 better fits our acupuncture treatment.  This formula releases the muscle layer to expel wind (cf Du-14) and also clears heat (cf Du-20).  The ingredients as listed in Bensky’s formulary are Chai Hu (tropism for the GB channel), Ge Gen (releases the muscle layer), Qiang Huo (goes to Du-14), Bai Zhi (always good for Joyce’s Yang Ming distress), Huang Qin (I might omit this from Joyce’s formula), Shi Gao (another Yang Ming medicinal), Jie Geng (floats the herbs outward and upward), Bai Shao (ostensibly to preserve the yin; I might use toasted Bai Shao to nourish blood), Gan Cao (to harmonise the formula), Sheng Jiang, Da Zao (the last two together regulate the ying and wei qi).

As for rashes, these never ended up manifesting in this episode.  However, rashes are often attributable to Wind-Heat and treated with insect-based medicinals like Chan Tui to promote their expression.  In prior eras, leprosy was formerly treated with Mu Lan, the bark of Magnolia Obovata, but I doubt this can be found in pharmacies outside China.

On the other hand, rashes due to epidemic pathogens would be treated a little differently, since these pathogens can quickly enter the blood level.  In terms of acupuncture, the Small Intestine channel is key.  We know that the SI helps draw heat away from the Heart physiologically; it should come as no surprise that the SI channel can also help draw heat away from the blood.  SI-3 and SI-8 would be one combination;  so would SI-3 and SI-11, especially when paired with BL-15 or BL-14.

As always, this post is for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you think you could benefit from the traditions of Asian medicine, please seek a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

What’s My Line, Parts One and Two (Buffy, Season 2)

It always used to baffle me in school when the Liver was targeted as the source of all emotions.  At least any emotion which could in any way be linked with Anger — frustration, rage, irritation, annoyance.  Even when these emotions could be manifestations of heat harassing the Heart, heat in the blood, be rooted in fear, or grief, or guilt — treat the Liver, we seemed to be told.  Especially LV-3, unless you really wanted to calm things down, in which case you would be advised to choose LV-2.

I hated having these points used on me, and they always seemed counterproductive to curing me from my ills of frustration at what I perceived as a superficial evaluation of various situations.

Unfortunately, in a closed system like the 5 phases, with a little massaging, any ailment can be pegged down to any phase; certainly, if one phase is out of balance, it has the capacity to affect all others.  This is one reason why I prefer to focus on physiology and invoke the full set of channel systems, especially in these theoretical treatment plans.

Anger comes in many forms, and between the two episodes which comprise “What’s My Line” we have several examples, to examine, each of which will get its own short summary, diagnosis and treatment.

We first see Giles snapping at Xander’s constant wisecracking.  I’ve worked in an office with someone who has a continual shtick, and frankly, I can related to Giles.  Sometimes one needs space in order to think — and while the Liver rules boundaries, Giles’ explosion of frustration at Xander cannot be termed a pathological reaction.  It was quite appropriate, especially seeing that Giles immediately apologised (and Xander shut up).

An inability to focus and concentrate can be attributed to the Spleen not gathering, or not housing intent.  (In school we would then be led to the conclusion that the Liver was obviously attacking the Spleen, causing it to be disrupted.)  The Spleen also stores the ying, and I wonder if one could postulate that the intent resides in the ying?   Its movement is upward, and it links with the gathering and concentrating forces of the Lung through their Tai Yin relationship.  Therefore, I would treat Giles with LU-5 and SP-10, the he-uniting points on the Tai Yin channel.  These points invigorate blood (and ultimately the marrow or brain), and treat issues whose origin is diet, that is, stimulation one takes in from the outside.  The herbal treatment would be Yu Ping Feng San, in which Huang Qi secures the exterior from distraction, Bai Zhu strengthens the Spleen’s intent, and to mollify those who still insist on LV involvement, I’d switch out the Fang Feng with Bo He or Sang Ye, to release the exterior and soothe the Liver.

Buffy has a very nice outburst against Oz, pinning him to the wall.  Good thing it wasn’t Cordelia; Buffy’s already made the impression of being high strung on her in Season One.  Oz diagnoses Buffy as merely “intense” — and I would say this is actually a case of Kidney excess, which is described in the Nei Jing as an excess of courage.  We could also see it as a hyperactivity of Kidney yang, such as we see in patients right before they come down with adrenal exhaustion.  Since we don’t want to disperse the Kidneys, as they tend to deficiency, we can choose instead to use a Sinew Vessel approach and release the exterior to vent some of the excess yang energy.  I would needle ah shi points along the Shao Yin channel, especially since our heroine is confronting the need to rotate quickly and effectively in defending against the assassins sent out against her (and this rotation is inward, martial, not outward, balletic — in which case we would use ShaoYang, which does bear a relationship to both the LV via GB and to KD yang via TW).  Treatment can end with KD-3 being needled, after KD-1 has been moxabust, in order to consolidate the yang in her kidneys.  Herbal treatment would be form the Tang Ye Jing Fang and consist of Zhu Ye, Fu Ling, and Mai Men Dong to cool the blood, calm the Heart, and mildly drain the Kidneys.

Cordelia and Xander get angry at one another and then get passionate with one another.  This is clearly Liver in all its variations — including its connection to the organs of generation.  This is physiology:  KD water giving birth to LV wood (no pun on Xander intended).  It need not be treated, since the two are being discreet and observing the proper social boundaries of a fictitious Confucian village in Southern California.

Kendra gets angry at Buffy for insulting her lack of imagination.  In some ways we can see this as Kidney water being insulted by Spleen earth — the self at war with society.  Or we can simply  assume the shedding of blood is inevitable in this sort of situation and treat it with a luo vessel protocol.  PC-6, SP-4 are first bled, since the cause of the anger is known (otherwise, LU-7 and LV-5 would have been chosen).  GB-37 is used since anger is the outward manifestation of the emotion associated with the Liver.  If I were using a sinew vessel approach to treat an acute emotion, I would have chosen the Tai Yang channel since the Bladder defends the Kidneys, or self.  I would not choose an herbal remedy for this, except perhaps Wu Wei Zi tea, just to calm the heart and bring things back to centre.

Drusilla is clearly, if dementedly, angry at Angel, still grieving the loss of her family to his predations before he sired her.  We’ve already diagnosed her as having Spleen weakness, but it has been at least a century since all this happened — during which time she accompanied Angelus and Darla across Europe.  So obviously, she has trouble letting go, and since this is something which was embodied in her around the time of her “birth”, I would be tempted to use an EV approach.  However, I think we could use the luo vessels of the Extraordinary Channels and combine an EV with a Luo vessel protocol.  Bleed CV-15 and Du-1, to release the emotions which were embodied in her “blueprint” for life.  One might consider bleeding KD-4 and TW-5 first, since we are working on the pre-natal, constitutional level, but I’m not sure this is necessary.  Lu-7, one of the best points to treat grief, also opens the Ren Mai, so why not throw that in as a needled point?  SI-3, an earth point on a fire channel might help bury some of the simmer emotions Drusilla still carries.  Herbs I would give Drusilla would be E Jiao )to stop the emotional hemorrhaging and resonate with the EV level) and Fu Xiao Mai.  This latter herb calms the shen and is also used in the Orthodox Church at memorials for the Dead, prepared into a dish called “kolyva” in Greek.  It thus serves a dual role, and would be appreciated by a nun of the Catholic Church, even one in Drusilla’s state.  I actually had a Greek patient who was mourning the death of her husband of several decades, and after the forty day memorial at which kolyva was served, the grieving became more peaceful.  Ever since I have associated Gan Mai Da Zao Tang with mourning unsettling the shen.

Finally, we also see Spike angry at his Grandsire Angel for insulting his manhood.  Spike apparently isn’t pleasing Drusilla the way Angel could, and Angel can feel her frustration.  Spike lashes out at Angel and nearly stakes him, but for the intervention of Drusilla.  Herbally, I would consider Si Ni Tang, to warm the ice-cold extremity giving Spike his problems, but while that may be the source of his issues, it doesn’t touch the emotional outburst we are considering.  The physiology in this case is one of fear giving rise to anger; the points I would use are along the sacrum, where the Bladder channel meets with the Gallbladder, or along the neck, where the same phenomenon occurs.  Usually, I think of the tingling at the base of the spine or on the back of the neck as fear (the emotion of the Kidneys as carried by the Bladder) trying to mobilise courage (the virtue of the Gallbladder).  Perhaps all Spike’s pent up jing is generating heat to arouse the more forceful aspects of the wood element.  In any event, I would also root this emotional outburst in the Kidneys.

So, to recap:  we have used sinew vessels, primary meridians, extraordinary vessels, and luo channels to address the various manifestations of anger.  We have discovered root causes in the Spleen not gathering, the Lungs not releasing, Kidney water being disturbed, and Liver acting outwards in a non-pathological manner.  We have not addressed heat in the blood whereby we could cool the heart via the small intestine, nor have we yet used the Channel divergences, but I’m sure a later episode in this series will present us with just such an opportunity.

Happy Slayage!