The Killer in Me (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 13)

Kennedy finally manages to make her move on Willow in this episode.  To Kennedy’s shock, Willow turns into Warren as a result of a rather passionate kiss.  We later learn that the transformation resulted from a curse Amy had placed on Willow (setting up a conflict for Season 8), though Amy did not choose the form Willow would take.  The magic decided on the ‘Form the soul requires’ to use Amy’s phrase.  Slowly, Willow begins to adopt Warren’s characteristics, even to the point of bringing a gun to the Summer’s household and almost replaying the scene which led to Tara’s death.  Ultimately, Kennedy manages to reverse the spell with another kiss, and Willow resolves her feelings of guilt about potentially betraying Tara by moving on with life, and love, in this world.

The other storyline in this episode is that Spike’s chip has begun to misfire, causing him severe pain.  He and Buffy seek a way to have it fixed or removed.  Giles takes the potentials into the desert to meet the First Slayer.  The potentials fight over who gets to drive, and Buffy comments that she bets Giles is really regretting letting his CA driver’s license lapse after he returned to England.  (As a curious side note:  I just happened to have recently renewed my CA State driver’s license, after being away in England.  the little driver’s ed booklet notes it is illegal in CA to put people in the trunk of a vehicle.)

This episode presents a perfect means to remember that Channel Divergences treat Form, not Function: Willow becomes Warren, outwardly.  She takes Warren’s form, but she still functions as Willow, at least at first.  In contrast, Spike’s chip is misfiring: function, not form. No CDs for him.  Amy, though, seems to have a functioning BL-KD channel divergence.  Her  Jing-essence met wei qi in such a way that she was able to see herself, even if that only happened when she hit rock bottom. For Amy, the channel divergence functioned to weave together karma (rock bottom repercussions), lineage (from her mother’s magicks), and form (Amy did turn herself into a rat at one point, now that I think of it…).

Although outward form may be thought of as a jing issue, in fact, the root of Willow’s pathology lies elsewhere, in the shen, and by extension, the Heart.  Yet all Channel Divergences go to the Heart, so to make a diagnosis, first consider the ‘trigger’:  Kennedy’s kiss.  Willow has cold feet, or cold limbs.  (A psychoanalyst might even have ventured that Willow wants to be ‘frigid’ sexually.)  The trigger shows that the pathogen current resides in the sinew vessels, affected with cold.  Then, look at where the pathogen will move next:  Willow is starting to act like Warren:  the shen, affect, and brain will take on the pathology.  All elements — the source-spell, the trigger, and the progression — point to the Small Intestine – Heart Channel Divergence as the appropriate channel to treat.

In general, the SI-HT Channel Divergence is where the marrow-nourishing ye-thick fluid begins to be consumed.  Wei qi heat enters the marrow, chasing the shen and hun spirits, giving rise to increasing pyschosis, schizophrenia, or epilepsy.  Regarding the SI CD specifically, ye is drawn away from the muscles, resulting in cold limbs (sexual sense), muscle atrophy, MS, and Raynaud’s symptoms.  The cold limbs result from lack of wei qi, as the wei qi has gone interior and can no longer circulate exteriorly to keep the body warm.  Motility and mobility of muscles is compromised as they are no longer nourished by either blood or ye-fluid.  Sinew wind symptoms, such as seizures, convulsions. and epilepsy begin to manifest.

It should come as no surprise then, that the SI CD trajectory contains a variety of points which relate to the sinew vessels, marrow, and wei qi.

The channel begins at SI-10.  This point moves blood into sinews.  Here, the body can harnesses qi to move blood and expel wind, or pathologically, blood and fluid are drawn away by this point from muscle in order to keep pathogenic factors latent.  Indications for using this point include a loss of strength, and numbness.  The body needs blood to hold onto feeling.  It is a useful point to add to treatments for MS.

From SI-10, the channel moves to HT-1, ‘Ultimate Spring’, before reaching the confluent point of the SI-HT Channel Divergence at GB-22.

GB-22 is also the confluent point of yin sinew meridians of the arm.  Both the sinew vessels and the channel divergences pertain to the terrain of wei qi, and this point is a place where chronic conditions often enter the body.  GB-22 was also once a contender as the point for the Great Luo of the Spleen.  It therefore connects to the luo vessels, to blood, and to the Da Bao.  Not only is the association with the sinews and blood continued at this point (an association usually thought of as related to the Liver’s mastery of the sinews and it’s relationship to storing blood in order to nourish the sinews), but at this point the relationship between blood and essence is established:  Blood enters essence to help give rise to marrow.  GB-22 is the canyon by which ye-thick fluid supports bone, marrow, and the brain.

From GB-22, the channel moves to CV-17 and CV-14:  Wei qi homes to chest for sleep, and these to points guide the channel to the heart.  From the heart, the channel enters the diaphragm and the small intestine organ, going to CV-4.  CV-3, nearby, is the meeting of the leg yin sinew vessels and the end of the crura of the diaphragm.  The channel then rises back upwards to ST-12.

ST-12, a very common point in CD trajectories, is the basin into which trauma to the SCM — and therefore also to the Window of the Sky points — drains.  This pertains to both physical and psychological trauma.  When something cannot be ‘redeemed’ or connect to what comes from heaven, it goes interiorly at this point.  Alternately, trauma to concepts of redemption cause a counterflow into the heart, helping to create the ‘antihero’ archetype.  I mentioned the importance of neck releases in my treatment of the sinew vessels in Season Six — so again, the relationship of the SI Channel Divergence to the Sinew Meridians.

The next point on the trajectory is SI-18, the confluent point of yang sinew channels of legs.  Finally, the channel ends at BL-1, which brings the pathological dryness of a ye-depleted SI CD to the brain.  The result is that wind in brain begins to chase the shen and hun.  Brain fever is one possible symptom of this pathophysiology.  If BL-1 is too sensitive to needle in such a case, ST-42 may stand in its stead.

My favourite herbal formula to nourish the ye-fluid is Zeng Ye Tang.  To treat the sinew vessels, Niu Xi (for the legs) or Sang Zhi (for the arms) should be added.  Sang Ji Sheng pairs nicely with Sang Zhi to form a CD envoy combination, although Di Gu Pi, which cools the blood, and Sang Ye which releases the exterior, also make a good pair.  For a stronger focus on the sinews, Chuan Lian Zi, which goes to the SI meridian and regulates LV qi may also be a useful addition.  Qu Mai goes to the SI meridian and moves blood, to resolve wind symptoms.

As always these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you or a loved one have suddenly become your own worst enemy, please seek qualified assistance. 

Happy Slayage!


Conversations with Dead People (Buffy, Season 7, Episode 7)

This composite episode follows our characters through several non-interacting plotlines.  Dawn, at home alone, microwaves a marshmallow and is confronted by the ghost of her mother.  Willow, studying late at the library, converses with the ghost of Cassie, discovering at the end that the ‘ghost’ was, in fact, the First Evil.  Buffy gets psychoanalysed by a former classmate turned Dartmouth psych major, before slaying him.  Andrew and Jonathan uncover the Seal of Danzalthar, and Andrew sacrifices Jonathan to open the seal.  Finally, Spike gets his feed on in a series of scenes which have no dialogue.  In combination with the soundtrack, those scenes highlight the actor’s craft of physicality:  we know what is going on without a word being spoken.

I have to admit, this was initially one of the most difficult episodes for me to diagnose.  However, among the Channel Divergences is one which fits all the plot lines quite nicely:  The Spleen Channel Divergence.  In fact, I have not started thinking of it as the ‘psychoanalytic channel divergence’.

Ordinarily, the channel, like the Stomach CD, treats blood and food stasis (think of Dawn’s marshmallow dinner), especially as its trajectory passes through the ST mu point at CV-12 (where Andrew stabbed Jonathan).  However, because the Spleen CD also connects the Chong and Yin Wei mai, it has the capacity to treat not only problems with post-natal qi, but pre-natal qi as it is expressed in the external world through form (the First as Cassie’s ghost) as well.

How is the Spleen CD ‘psychoanalytic’?  The answer is found through examining the trajectory of the channel.

It begins at SP-12, Chong Men (‘Pulsing Gate’ or ‘Gate of the Chong [mai]’).  This is the point at which the Chong Mai emerges from the interior.  The Chong Mai, as noted in the previous season, is the sea of blood.  Blood includes the emotions, anything ephemeral which has taken on form and substance as part of one’s identity.  The Chong Mai accesses the emotions as they have been passed down through a lineage.  When the Luo Vessel system has reached capacity, the overflow of pathogens, including emotional ones, are ‘drained’ into the Extraordinary Vessels.  Thus, the start of the channel is much like the start of psychoanalysis:  What happened to you in childhood?  what did you receive from your parents?  Who’s fault was Buffy’s parents’ divorce?

From SP-12, the channel moves to ST-30, the first confluence of the ST and SP Channel Divergence.  This point is called ‘qi chong’, and is the transporting point of grain and fluids.  How are the early emotions embodied in the Chong Mai going to affect how the person takes in the resources of the world?

From ST-30, the next points on the channel are CV-12, CV-14, and CV-17.  These points correspond to the Stomach, Heart, and Pericardium.  A person ‘digests’ experiences at ST-12, where Jonathan got stabbed in the gut, right after his own ‘digestion’ of his high school experiences was completed.  The Heart mu point helps orient a person’s own emotional heritage to time, place, and context at CV-14, while CV-17, where vampires get stabbed, is responsible for clarifying the blood and emotions in order to protect the heart and further the heart’s destiny in life.

The channel emerges at CV-22 before progressing upwards to CV-23, both of these being Yin Wei Mai points.  The Yin Wei Mai is responsible for continuity in one’s life.  How do the experiences gained in the world at CV-12 to CV-17 reflect the early formation at SP-12 and ST-30?  How do they show up in a person’s posture?  How has a person behaved inwardly with respect to early patterns, such that contingency plans are always made?  What new burdens have accumulated, as a result of the early emotional patterning affecting one’s path in life?

From CV-23, the channel goes on to ST-9, Ren Ying (‘Human Pulse’ or ‘Human Prognosis), a favoured spot for vampires to engage with their victims, as Spike does towards the end of the episode.  Spike does not recall what he did; as a Window to the Sky point, memory and memory loss can be treated here.  However, its usual application is for thyroid problems.  Thyroid issues often show up as Heart fire or Stomach fire issues (think of Dawn’s marshmallow, or the microwave blowing up).  If Heart fire were the issue, the point would work nicely with CV-14; with Stomach fire as the chief symptom, CV-12 would be a good pairing.

From ST-9, the channel goes to the Middle of Tongue.  (This could include the previously mentioned point, CV23).  Typically, this trajectory would imply the channel can treat  wind-phlegm blocking the tongue, possible trouble with verbal association, or again, poor memory (Yin Wei’s task of ensuring continuity of self).  Spike’s memory is poor; Buffy is only now beginning to open up, after an initial diagnosis was made at ST-9.  Jonathan also found his ability to express what he had digested earlier and how he now integrated it into his all too short life.

Finally, the upper confluence and end of the channel is at BL-1.  This point is the famous meeting point of the Yin and Yang Qiao Mai, the place where one’s view of self and the world meet.  It is the point at which the earliest emotions, and how they have influenced one’s assimilation of the external world into a coherent identity, are brought to ‘light’ to be seen.  From here, the person is enabled to change his or her viewpoint, either of the self, or the world, or both, in order to approach the world differently.  In the process, the inherited emotions or tasks embedded in the ‘curriculum’ or ‘blueprint’ of the Chong Mai are resolved, and the person is free to make his or her own choices in life.

The Spleen Channel Divergence is thus one of the most powerful treatments available to acupuncturists, treating those pathologies which consume us from within, whether autoimmune digestive disorders, or feelings we about people in the world when we were little.

Needle technique in this case is a shallow rattling technique, followed by a deep rattle, and a third, shallow rattling.  The idea is that one is stimulating the external wei qi to come to the defence of deep jing- or yuan-qi, in order to chase the pathogen back outwards to the surface of the body for final expulsion.  Treatment is three days in a row, followed by three days off, for a total of nine treatment days (or 18 days total).  The patient is then reassessed.  Point selection along the trajectory varies by what exactly is being addressed, but at a minimum the lower and upper confluences should be needled.  In the case of deep psychoanalysis, I would begin with Chong Men, SP-12, and then move to ST-30, and on upwards.

As always, these posts are meant for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel you would benefit more by psychoanalysis by needle rather than psychoanalysis by vampire, please seek out a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!


Wrecked (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 10)

Building off the boredom Willow experienced at the Bronze in Episode 9, Amy introduces Willow to Raqq.  Raqq is a sort of ‘dealer’ in magic.  He sends Willow on some serious magic trips.  (How Amy knows these people is something of a mystery, given only a passing explanation.)  Buffy, Xander, and Anya discuss how Willow isn’t acting herself lately.

Events climax when Willow is entrusted to watch Dawn.  Willow can’t resist a visit to Raqq, draggin Dawn along with her.  After getting magically high, Willow takes Dawn for a crazy ride in a car, wrecks the car, and seriously injures Dawn.  Dawn awesomely slaps Willow when Willow tries to apologise.  By the end of the episode, Willow realises her addiction, and decides to give up magic for herself this time. Willow tells Buffy that the magic took Willow away from herself.  Willow then begins to go through withdrawal.

We could approach the clinical situation in this episode from the perspective of ‘getting back to oneself’ or from the perspective of addictions.  In several posts, I’ve mentioned the relationship that Po spirits have with addiction. I’ve also mentioned the association of the po with the qi of the Lungs and the jing-based solidity of the bones.

The bones have a strong relationship with jing.  Associated with both the Kidneys which store jing-essence and the curious organ of the Gallbladder which the Ling Shu says ‘masters’ the bones,  it should seem that the bones would therefore also have a relationship with the EVs.  The marrow, properly called sui in Chinese, is often considered the material correlate of jingshen, the union of essence-spirit in the living, post-natal body.  The marrow nourishes the bones, giving them suppleness and strength.  (The marrow itself is nourished by the ye-thick fluid governed by the Small Intestine; Zeng Ye Tang is a useful formula to know in this regard.)  The EVs, of course, are the pathways of jingshen.  Drawing the above links together, the bones are nourished by the marrow, the flow of jingshen through the Extraordinary Vessels.  Specifically, the experiences accrued from the lineage, and which the person is working on int his life, shapes the form of the bones through the marrow which is generated post-natally.  But why are the po associated with the bones and the Lung qi both?

The Po are the most yin of the spirits, the most ‘solid’.  As such, they need the yang-oriented qi to complement and ‘anchor’ them to the body.  However, as spirits, they are still yang; they manifest materially as something much more substantial than the two pairings of the hun (the hun is paired with the shen, as the yin aspect of yang Heart shen; and with the blood, the material yin to spirit yang).  The po thus become associated with the bones in part because the bones are the most solid jing structures.  More apropos, however, they po are buried in the earth with the bones.  They do not go to any afterlife. as such, and in older stories, often form the material basis for future ghosts.

Po leave the body at death through the anus.  Another tradition says we lose a po spirit for ever cycle of seven or eight years that we live through.  The po travels down the spinal column, and if something is preventing the po from leaving, it disrupts a disc on its way down.  This disc disruption can be physical (hernias, twisted vertebrae, especially every third vertebra) or an energetic block in the Du Mai.  To resolve blockages in the Du Mai, we can palpate each of the intervertebral spaces and find the most sensitive areas.  Then burn three to five threads of okyu-moxa on those points.  The Hua Tuo Jai Ji points, also associated with the Du Mai can be needled to help release these blocks.

The du mai makes sense to treat in this case because it is associated with both qi and marrow, and because it forms the passage through which the po exit the body.  It can thus help ‘flush’ out addictions.

Other EVs might be useful to explore, though, too.  The curious organs are often associated with the EVs, although no clear consensus has emerged on direct one-to-one pairings.  (Research is ongoing, and I would refer the interested reader to an article written by Thomas Richardson at )

The Wei Mai can be associated with the bones, as the Wei Mai give structure to the organism.  At the same time, the Ling Shu advises needling the GB meridian, because the GB masters the bones — thus the Dai Mai, which is clearly associated with the GB can be called in.  Remember the Dai Mai is where we keep our attachments, and addictions are a prime example of an attachment which has become pathological.

Existentially, withdrawal can be seen as a process of having moved away from the self and then a return to the self.  In this case, one would want to needle an EV associated with what took the person away from him or herself, the ‘diseased’ meridian, if you will, and then bring it back to either the Chong, Ren, or Du mai, the triad which represents the ‘self’ as it intended to unfold in this life and birth-lineage context.

I wish I had access to records of treating withdrawal from opium during the era when the Warm Disease school was formed. The Warm Disease school arose not too distantly in time from the Opium Wars. While I could approach the question by asking what does opium — and thus possibly opiate derived drugs — do to the body, from a warm disease perspective, and how can Warm disease medicines treat addiction and recovery, I will only briefly touch on the topic.   Opium is used in Chinese herbal medicine principally to bind the intestines.  (Constipation is a key complain in heroin addicts.)  It can mildly move blood and qi, but it is a relatively weak painkiller from the perspective of Chinese medicine (Yan Hu Suo and Wu Ling Zhi are much more effective).  A mild formula to generate fluid and move the bowels would thus be appropriate.  Ma Zi Ren Wan, perhaps.  Or Zeng Ye Tang; after all, the formula seems to principally have been composed to treat constipation (a purpose for which I never seem to use it).  Zeng Ye Tang contains a very still medicinal, Di Huang, which touches on the Kidneys and thus the self; another herb which softens the self and allows passage through depression, Xuan Shen; and a herb which helps in letting go when holding on excessively, Mai Men Dong.

For readers curious to know more about the Opium Wars in China, I would refer you to Dikotter et al (2004), Narcotic Culture:  A History of Drugs in China.  Katie Swancutt, currently at Oxford University, is also writing up research on how a small ethnic group in Southwest China (Yunan province, I believe) on the use of shamanism to address the social problem of both opium trafficking and opium addiction.  The use of shamanism in that area entails invoking a person’s responsibility to his or her ancestors.  So again, with the calling upon ancestors, we are returned to the role of the EVs in physiology:  to resolve those elements of a lineage which have not yet been successfully smoothed out.

As always, these posts are for informational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one are facing addiction, please see a qualified professional.

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!

Tabula Rasa (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 8)

The theme of consequences develops in this episode as the friction between Tara and Willow over Willow’s use of magic to remake the world according to Willow’s own liking continues. Willow offers to give up magic for a month; Tara suggests a week. As Tara said, ‘We’re in a relationship — we make decisions together.’  (Make sure both parties in the relationship agree to that premise, otherwise you’ll be in for potentially unpleasantly surprising results.)

Unfortunately, Willow is too addicted to magic at this point, and as she tries to have her cake and have eaten it too, she comes up with a new plan.  Willow tries to make things right the same way she kept making things wrong: by using magic. This time, Willow tries to erase all the recent suffering and misery experienced by both Buffy and Tara. The spell works a little too well, though. Everyone forgets who they are.  Trapped in the Magic Shop, each must use cues from the outside world to figure out what their identities are.  (This ‘use prop cues to form an identity’ makes a great acting class exercise, by the way.)  Interestingly, each character assumes they have a pre-existing identity which he or she has temporarily forgotten, rather than an identity which can be formed anew at each moment. That continuity in the idea of identity is the realm of the Yin Wei Mai; this EV seems to be functioning well for the Scoobies.

So what needs to be done?  The Scoobies need to remember what are their individual identities, and what positions the relationships they have established with the people around them.  Among the EVs, the Du Mai is concerned with individuation and going out into the world.  The small child learns to sit up to look at the world, and moves forward using the spine as the engine of locomotion.  The Du Mai is part and parcel of that process, lending its energy to the child and developing its own ability to regulate the body as a result.    The Du Mai meets up functionally with Yin Qiao, which concerns one’s view of the self, as well as with the Yang Wei Mai, which facilitates the way the outside world is matched up with the inside world.

In this episode, what we are seeing is the characters using the Yang Wei Mai to take outside cues inside to create a self-portrait, a view of who the character is.  This is accomplished via the Du Mai’s function of exploration-individuation.  Physiologically, think of this as bringing the jing of the Yang Wei Mai to the Yin Qiao Mai via the medium of the Du Mai’s yang energy.  Translating this physiology into the clinic, we have a treatment that is thus somewhat complex, in that it involves three EVs.   However, the Yang Wei channel includes two points on the Du Mai, allowing a nice crossing over.  I therefore would suggest the following points:

Yang Wei:  Open at left TH-5; bilateral UB63, GB35, SJ15, GB13
Du Mai: Du 16, (bilateral SI-3), Du 15, moxa only
Yin Qiao: ST9 or UB1, K8, close with right K6

During the course of the episode, Giles has a talk with Buffy about suffering.  In medicine, it is important to distinguish between necessary suffering (so that a person can heal and gain strength) and unnecessary suffering (which serves only to cripple, maim, hurt, or otherwise delay solid recovery).  The EVs, perhaps more than any other channel system, are intimately tied suffering, especially if a Buddhist world-view is taken.  The EVs represent and accumulate that suffering we have not been able to transcend in a life.  The world of self-development asks that we clear the EVs in particular.  Sometimes that entails a suffering directed to a liberating end.  It is the suffering which can come from self-cultivation, and a recognition of one’s own wrongs in the world.

Several herbs are conducive to the work of self-reflexion.  Among the two I’ve frequently recommended for self discovery, two in particular are associated with Extraordinary Vessels:  gou qi zi (wei mai, chong mai, dai mai) and xuan shen (ren mai).  It seems to me that these herbs are associated with those particular EVs for a reason.  Xuan Shen, which helps people going through a period of distillation of identity (often manifesting as a dark night of depression), is paired with the Ren Mai, the vessel of attachment, or more precisely, of bonding (i.e. positive attachment).  It is also the channel of digestion and assimilation of information.  Xuan Shen is one of the three herbs in the formula to increase ye-thick fluids, which nourish the marrow and jing-shen.  (The other herbs in Zeng Ye Tang are Mai Men Dong and Di Huang.)  Gou Qi Zi, which allows one to look at the dark sides of one’s soul, is associated with the Wei Mai, which deal with time and accumulation, but also the Chong Mai, one’s blueprint in this life.  Finally, Gou Qi Zi is also associated with the Dai Mai, that essential vessel in Tai Ji movements, whose physiology is about letting go what needs letting go (or pathologically, the retention of sentimental values).  Although I favour formulas of three to five herbs, I would recommend a potion for Willow composed of just those two herbs.

As always, these posts are for educational and entertainment purposes only.  If you or a loved one are seeking to discover your core identity through the use of acupuncture or herbal medicine, especially in the wake of spells gone awry, please see a qualified practitioner. 

Happy Slayage!

Triangle (Buffy, Season 5, Episode 11)

Willow and Anya fight for Xander’s attention while Buffy recovers from the departure of Riley.  Buffy is worried about Xander and Anya’s relationship when she hears from Tara that problems might be in the making.  Xander is made to choose between his girlfriend and his best friend when an accidentally summoned Troll (who used to date Anya) corners the three in the Magic Shop.  The whole episode features characters rationalising their and others’ behaviour in the face of silence or in an effort to ‘make things better’.

Rationalisation, the explaining away of circumstances so that someone does not need to confront them or so that they can more easily assimilate the changes which accrue, is a PC luo vessel issue.  It differs from the rigidity of the sense organs in which a person refuses to see any changes at all, which would be a San Jiao luo vessel pathophysiology.  Both PC and SJ pathologies can be seen in many communication difficulties, as two individuals talk past or around one another, without actually hitting on the root causes of the problem under discussion.  It should come as no surprise, then, that when needled, PC-6 can be used for problems with the throat.  The PC luo point, PC-6 is often needled in combination with the San Jiao luo point, SJ-5, linking the Inner and Outer Gate respectively.

The Jia Yi Jing specifies the PC luo for heart pain and heart vexation.  We did visit general vexation earlier in the season, when we treated counterflow in Riley’s Kidney luo channel.  What differentiates general vexation from Heart vexation?  Recall the difference between the JueYin function of clarifying blood with the ShaoYin function of regulating the movement between yin levels, between opening to the exterior and stilling the interior.  The ShaoYin system leads fire to water to invigorate and move it upwards; it balances fire with water to clear heat and excess desire so that the Heart and shen can remain tranquil.

Thus, with general vexation, a disorder affecting a luo mai of the Shao Yin meridian, a sort of restlessness presents in the entire person.  The self is not reaching an emotional satisfaction, the spirit isn’t grasping its essential mission.  Desires are not being swept away, because they are not being brought out into the open.  In contrast, with the Jue-Yin level heart vexation, the shen doesn’t know how to find meaning in a situation, or it is suffering from an excess of meaning as applied to the actions of other people.  The ability of JueYin to clarify blood, to separate one’s own personality from others, is compromised.  This is particularly manifest on an emotional level, that is, where other people’s personalities and their own paths in life are not quite linking up to one’s own.  It is reflected in the name of the point PC-6, ‘Inner Gate’.  The person’s inner boundaries have run amok.

In Buffy’s case, she is taking the meaning from her own experience with Riley, with its hopes and disappointments, and applying it outside herself to Xander and Anya.  Her mission in life has not been compromised, as would be the case in a KD luo vessel counterflow presentation.  Rather, it is not being fully nourished by her own personality; she has been set back and has not grown back to filling it out again.  PC blood needs to be nourished.  (In case of Heart pain, the PC luo vessel is in excess, and would need to move, either by nourishing SP ying or by through dispersal of focus to other parts of life in need of attention.)

Like the San Jiao meridian, few herbs go to the Pericardium, perhaps as a result of its anomalous place among the five solid organs.  Among the herbs which do guide formulas to the Pericardium chai hu (radix bupleuri) is interesting in that it goes to both the San Jiao and the PC.  Chuan Xiong, used for moving blood and relieving pain due to blood stagnation, and Dan Shen, selected to as a single herb embodying the actions of the formula Si Wu Tang, are two other herbs which enter the PC channel.  In this episode, the issue is one of miscommunication, of rationalisation and potential rigidity of perceptions; I would therefore select Chai Hu as the guiding herb.  To be fair, though, the three herbs together make an elegant formula to nourish, move, and regulate both blood and qi.

As always, these posts are meant as educational and entertainment devices only.  If you feel you could benefit from the tradition of Chinese Medicine, please visit a qualified practitioner. 

Happy slayage!

The Freshman (Buffy Season 4, Episode 1)

It’s that time of year again:  Fresher’s week is approaching at my University; many other Universities are already a month into the school year. Buffy is bewildered by college life and having difficulty adjusting to classes (not having signed up for them in time), while Willow is immersed in her element, ecstatic over being penetrated by knowledge, letting it spurt all over the place. I particularly liked the audio choice when she walks into the library for the first time.

UC Sunnydale, though, looks suspiciously like UCLA…

This episode was filled with conditions which can be treated with the use of a single primary channel, the Foot Shao-Yang, Gallbladder meridian, and we will focus on a few key points along that channel.

Like freshmen, being a little bit lost in life and constantly twisting about is an attribute of the ShaoYang sinew channel. It particularly allows one to rotate externally, to go out in the world and make choices. It sounds like Buffy could have used a little bit of release along the ShaoYang at the end of last season — she was so focused on moving straight ahead (a TaiYang attribute), that she didn’t see the other tasks beside her: like making a course selection at UC Sunnydale. GB-44 and GB-37, in combination with ah-shi points on the GB channel, could be used in a sinew vessel treatment for this restrictive attitude.

I would note though, that from going too tight, the sinew vessel in Buffy has gone too slack — a classic inversion of yang to yin. In this case, perhaps adding GB-34, the meeting point of the sinews, would help even out the balance. GB-29, on the Yang Qiao Mai, the extraordinary vessel used when the yin is slack and the yang is tense, could also be considered. (The opening point for the Yang Qiao Mai is UB-62.)

Buffy’s wrist gets broken, or at least seriously twisted by a vampire in this episode. The Nei Jing mentions that the Gallbladder ‘masters’ the bones. This attribute can particularly be seen in the point GB-39 and GB-34, which, along with BL-11, are useful in treating broken bones. GB-39 is the meeting point of marrow. According to Classical Chinese physiology marrow gives suppleness and nourishment to the bones, while the sinews help stablise and shape them as they grow.

It is interesting to note the centrality of psychology class in this episode. My freshman pysch professor told us all the first day that he gives out only 2 ‘A’s in the entire class of 300. (I have it on good authority that he also gave out two ‘A-‘ grades.) We were also required to sign up during the course of the semester for a certain number of experiments to be performed on us by grad students… The Gallbladder itself, like the Brain, is a curious organ, and its channel is an access point to those extraordinary organs. We’ve already mentioned GB-39, which is the meeting point of marrow; the brain is the ‘Sea of Marrow’. At least one commentator (N. Sivin) has called these two extraordinary organs part of the ‘medullary system’ in Chinese Medicine. This is not the only point to affect the brain, however, and I would point the reader to GB-13, ‘Ben Shen’ or ‘Root of the Affect’ as a key point for any patient struggling to change or stabilise their mind. GB-18 ‘Cheng Ling’ or ‘Spirit Support’ and GB-19, ‘Nao Kong’ or ‘Brain Hollow’ are two points to think about when someone is overwhelmed by too many ideas and can’t think ‘straight’, impeding the ability to make decisions. Both are also used in the treatment of vertigo and epilepsy.

The other aspect by which the GB can ‘master’ the bones is reflected at the start of the Gallbladder’s external channel: GB-1, GB-2, and GB-3 all line the zygoma, which is considered the Master Bone in the body (and is usually associated with the Small Intestine meridian and the Ye, or thick fluids). This bone’s function in Chinese Medicine bears some similarity to the sphenoid bone’s importance in osteopathy. The sphenoid’s movement, floating amid other bones, reflects or relates to the overall movement and breathing patterns of the body. Further down the channel, at the mastoid process, GB-12 is called ‘Completion Bone’, and should not be overlooked in regard to the GB’s relationship to bones.

Willow’s comments about thrusting, spurting, penetrating… knowledge make me think that her Dai Mai could be regulated. GB-41 is the opening point of the Dai Mai, while GB-26 bears that name, and is itself located on the channel. She may have a little bit of damp-heat in the GB channel, which could be drained by using the Ying-Spring point at GB-43.

The Gallbladder channel’s realm of influence does not directly translate into herbal medical terms related to the Gallbladder. That is, one wouldn’t think of using herbs to address the Gallbladder in the case of broken bones; instead we would use herbs which work on the Kidneys, or possibly on the Yang. However, two herbal remedies which would prove useful for this episode include Wan Dai Tang — Secure the Dai Mai or End Discharge Decoction — which, aside from Chai Hu, does not really have any Gallbladder oriented herbs.  The other option is Warm the Gallbladder, which, following its original formula with 12g of Sheng Jiang and no Zhu Ru, might help Buffy’s self-confidence and courage return.


As always, although based on Classical or Traditional Chinese Medical theory and thus applicable in the clinic, these posts are for entertainment purposes only. If you feel you could benefit from the insights of Chinese Medicine, please see a qualified practitioner.  Happy Slayage!

Dopplegangland (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 16) Post Two

In this second post we will leave the awesomeness of this episode aside — and aside from the costuming and acting, it has some really excellent lines (especially Xander’s “Can you believe the Watcher’s Council let this guy go?”) — and focus on the human Willow.

After all, being a reliable doormat isn’t fun.

It is not at all uncommon to find patients who feel this way, and they aren’t always the quiet withdrawn types.  Like Willow, they can often be exhuberant, upbeat, and optimistic — even forgetting that they were treated like a doormat a few days beforehand, or making excuses for the person who ill-treated them.

While we may find the capacity for forgiveness and the sweetness of these people endearing, very often they are deeply hurt.  Like a bruised bone, the evidence isn’t on the outside or in the affect, and usually not in public sight.  Unlike those patients who have been hurt by an intimate relationship gone sour or who habitually seek out violent domestic relationships, these patients are experiencing a too porous external boundary.  (The previous examples have a too porous internal boundary.)

Treating this sort of situation with herbs will take a different approach from treating it with acupuncture.

In terms of herbal medicine,  boundary issues exemplify the state of a person’s blood, particularly their liver blood.  Just as the Liver is that which gives us the impulse to go out into the world, like seedlings bursting through the soil in springtime, so also post-natally it relies on a strong reservoir of blood.  If the Liver has too much blood, it may seek to relieve itself of that burden, and since it can afford to shed some blood, it is not afraid to become overtly aggressive.  These are the sorts of people who invade other people’s spaces, whether they are aware of it or not.  For those who continually shrink back, the issue is a lack of blood.  If they shrink back and begin to lessen themselves, then we see the body having depleted its reserves of blood so much it must begin to draw from Kidney essence to support its life.  (In this situation, we see the reverse process that the Channel Divergences follow: the first confluent pair of CDs deals with jing, and when that is exhausted, the body begins to make use of blood, which is the focus of the second confluence.)

To contrast the Liver in this case with the image of Spleen as society:  Liver is the going out into the world, whether in society or not; it is the transformation of Jing-Essence into something more motile and impressionable (i.e. blood). Jing is a template in and of itself; it impresses its pattern onto post-natal essence derived from food. Blood, on the other hand, is produced from that template, but it is itself affected by the world outside. When it reunites with qi or jing or shen to become marrow, the impressions of one’s curriculum and the impressions of one’s experiences are brought together and flow into the brain, where they can support and provide residence for the yuan shen.  Interestingly, the French osteopath Jean Pierre Barral, approaching the viscera from the European tradition of visceral manipulation, notes that the liver “memorizes every element that goes into building our identity”  (Understanding the Messages of Your Body, p104).

Herbally, what sort of prescription would we choose? One which builds Liver blood, as Ted Kaptchuk has pointed out: Liver is related to boundaries. As Jeffrey points out, blood is related to resources. Together, LV blood are the resources with which one exerts one’s boundaries.  One could choose a simple Si Wu Tang (just make certain to dry fry the Bai Shao before adding it to the formula), or augment it with the addition of E Jiao for someone who has begun to give away too much of themselves; or for those who have been trampled upon so often they’ve become frozen, add some Tao Ren and Hong Hua to reinvigorate the blood.  A little Gui Zhi or Luo Shi Teng to open the collaterals and warm them wouldn’t hurt, either.

While one could easily lift the treatment principles of building blood and nourishing the Liver from the herbal protocol, acupuncture has other resources at its disposal through reflection on the names of acupuncture points.

Three points in particular bear names which relate to external boundaries and self-protection.  These three points are TW-5, Wai Guan (“Outer Gate”), GB-28 Wai Shu (“Outer Pivot”), and KD-7 Wai Ming (“Outer Life”).  KD-7 is more commonly known as “Recovering the flow”, and GB-28 Wei Dao can also be read as “Protect the path”.  (The alternate names are contained in Ellis, Wiseman, and Boss’ Grasping the Wind.)

Let’s take a closer look at these points.

TW-5, Outer Gate, was the first point I thought of in the context of boundaries.  Paired with PC-6, Inner Gate, it regulates the movement of exterior and interior.  Alone, it focuses the patient’s ability to discern whether a situation is something to keep outside oneself or allow it to be experienced — perhaps not as deeply and intimately as PC-6 — but nevertheless, being a luo-point and thus related to blood, it allows an experience to be had. We are not bleeding the point, but bloodletting to relieve rigidity of the sense organs — the indications of TW luo pathology — may serve a useful purpose in allowing someone to clearly see at the outset when someone is going to take advantage of them.

Additionally, it is a point on the ShaoYang channel, which is the pivot between the exterior yang meridians.  It also opens the Yang Wei Mai Channel, which we have discussed previously as dealing with integrating and consolidating the surface with the interior of the person.  Obviously, this is a trait clearly related to the name of the point.   However, since we are not needling other points on the Yang Wei Mai channel, we need not be detained by its dynamics.

The second point, GB-28, is also a ShaoYang point.  It’s common name is Protect the Way, that is, the path which someone is supposed to walk.  It’s other name, Outer Pivot relates both the to physical movement associated with ShaoYang — turning or twisting outwards — but also resonates with the ability to navigate through life’s choices.  It can help a person pivot to avoid being struck, as in Tai Ji — or in Willow’s case, to evade the antics of a Principal Snyder.

KD-7, Returning Flow, is so named because after the qi of the KD channel gets diverted into the Yin Qiao Mai (which deals with one’s view of the self), it returns back to the channel which in some ways is eminently representative of the self.  How you view yourself impacts who you are, and this is the point that can allow that view into your daily life.  Additionally, it is the jing-river point, and thus relates to pathologies of the voice.  The jing-river point on a channel which deals with one’s self therefore leads me to think of it in a similar vein as HT-5 — for person’s who have trouble articulating who they are.  In the case of HT-5, the difficulty lies in the tongue, in allowing the shen to speak; in this case, it is a matter of allowing the jing its space to manifest.  In other words, it concerns articulating what one needs to live one’s Outer Life — as the point is so named — rather than one’s inner life.

As always, this post is for theoretical and entertainment purposes only.  If you feel that Chinese medicine may help give you the resources to change how you are being treated by others, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!  (Or Happy Hexing!)

Dopplegangland (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 16) Post One

Scenes in which a character has a mysterious double are a classic of Hollywood cinema, and in this episode the situation is played to brilliant comic effect. Anya, seeking her powers back, recruits Willow (now that Amy is a rat, and thus magic-less for the moment) to perform a spell. Willow breaks the spell at the last second with the consequence that her vampire double from Anya’s preferred demon world gets transported to Sunnydale. The vampire Willow is dazed and confused at first, as are Willow’s friends when they find out what happened to their beloved Wiccan.

I still love the look Willow’s vampire self adopted, although we had seen it before. Still — I wonder if dominatrix Willow helped provide inspiration for the Mord-Sith in The Legend of the Seeker? In any event, the costumers — and make up artists — outdid themselves. Especially the scene in which vampire Willow gets locked in the library cage and dressed as human Willow — that garish contrast of green vampire eye shadow and pink human Willow sweater was perfect. (So was Cordelia’s talk in that scene.)

In this episode we get the clearest intimation that Willow is going to be the gay character — presumably now that Xander and Faith slept together. (Although I’ve known plenty of gay men who’ve slept with women, accidentally or pre-coming out to themselves.)

We also hear vampire Willow utter the famous and impeccably delivered line, “Bored now.”

Boredom, like the inability to see options which we explored with Cordelia, is also a Spleen issue. In this case, however, boredom is more of a sticky, irresolute wallowing in uncertainty. Something isn’t right, something isn’t entertaining, but what can be done about it? All the options seem foggy, and besides, you can’t do what you want because of this excuse, or that excuse — or a whole pack of excuses.

You’ve become bogged down with all the signs and symptoms of a damp pathology. (No surprise that a vampire, given her liquid diet, would end up with a weakened Spleen due to the accumulation of dampness.)

The treatment is to bring the person back to the centre and start clearing out some of that dampness, which is likely about to turn into phlegm.  The base formula is classically Si Jun Zi Tang, while the two phlegm herbs are Chen Pi (to regulate qi) and Ban Xia (to scour phlegm).

Ban Xia is also good for those sorts of people who are extraordinarily picky about details which they and only they, because of their highly developed senses of perception (often far exceeding their powers of analysis) and equally formidable powers of articulation, can detect.

The result off adding Chen Pi and Ban Xia to Si JunZi Tang is Liu JunZi Tang. Adjust it a touch by adding a bit of Huang Lian for what Bensky terms an “indefinable epigastric discomfort” — and you have a formula for exactly the sort of feeling boredom can provoke in people. Indeterminate restlessness in which nothing satisfies.

Acupuncture-wise, a simple TaiYin treatment can help regulate the system and clear out any accumulated dampness. If the person needs a little fire added to their lives, choose the two ying-spring points — LU-10 and SP-2 — and add some moxa to warm up the feet (so the patient can go out and move around) and hands (so the patient can make good use of her opposable thumbs instead of grunting like pre-hominid in search of food).

The next post, still treating this episode, will look at human Willow’s reliable doormat reputation.

As always, this post is for entertainment and theoretical purposes only.  If you feel you need a change, and that Asian medicine would be good entertainment, seek out a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage! (And practice safe hex!)

Gingerbread (Buffy, Season Three, Ep 11)

Willow and Joyce both provide diagnoses for this episode, and taking a look at those diagnoses will be an effective way to recap this Hansel and Gretal Go Wrong episode.

Willow begins to choke when Joyce suddenly appears at the school cafeteria and begins to describe her concerned opposition to witches and the occult, in the wake of discovering two murdered children at a playground Buffy was patrolling. (Amy looks quite uncomfortable, too, but does not evince any lactose intolerance or cassein sensitivity.) Willow notes her problem is excess phlegm, due to too much dairy. Since we just covered phlegm and a few episodes before noted the problems caused by those who choose to follow the Sunnydale Diet (for humans), we won’t reiterate treatments here.

Instead, we will focus on Joyce’s disagreement with the Mayor.  After visiting the high school and apparently launching a schoolwide locker crackdown, Joyce forms the group “MOO”, Mothers Opposed to the Occult  (the name bears no relation to Willow’s dairy problems, assuredly.  Milk is not synonymous with witchcraft, and in fact, I know a number of Wiccans who are vegan and thus don’t drink milk…).  Together, they organise a rally at the Mayor’s office.  In his speech, the Mayor says that Sunnydale is full of good people.  Joyce disagrees.  She notes that nearly everyone has lost someone to mysterious neck wounds or sudden disappearances.  She says that Sunnydale has a disease — of silence.

Silence can indeed be pathological.

Silence comes in many forms in the clinic. Sometimes patients won’t disclose information; sometimes they can’t. Either way, silence is a diagnostic cue.

In terms of herbal medicine, silence can be viewed as throat bi, throat obstruction.  The patient feels like there is something to say, something to get out, but cannot quite do so.  The qi is stuck, the phlegm is insubstantial.  (As opposed to the very substantial phlegm that Willow has.)  Words cannot get out.

When someone has words stuck in their throat, Ban Xia Hou Po Tang may be able to help.  Dr Huang Huang in his Ten Key Formula Families in Chinese Medicine notes a source which “records in minute detail that [this formula] ‘treats the qi of joy, anger, sadness, thinking, worry, fear, and fright knotting together to form phlegm and thin mucus.  It is as if there is a piece of cotton wadding… caught in the throat.'”

In theory, one could also try formulas which treat aphasia as well, if their indications match other aspects of the patient’s presentation.

In terms of acupuncture, we know that the Heart rules the tongue. Problems with speech, not just due to stroke, are treated through the heart meridian.  The virtue which relates to the Heart is propriety.  A person who laughs at inappropriate times violates the norms of propriety; we may diagnose Heart Fire.  A person who cannot speak for fear of saying something wrong — this may be HT qi deficiency, or it may be simply qi stagnation in the throat.  The deciding factor would of course be whether the person also had pain in their heart, heartache.

In either case, qi deficiency or qi stagnation, HT-5 is an excellent choice.  This point is used by Ma Dong Yuan to open the throat and release a person’s inability to articulate their voice. Likewise, points around the throat can also benefit the person, for a similar reason.  I would think of CV-23 and CV-22 in particular, but KD-27, which opens all the front shu points of the chest, may also be beneficial.  To help tonify the HT qi, one could add HT-7 , while HT-3 could be added for stagnation.

As always, this post is for entertainment and theoretical purposes only.  If you feel East Asian medicine may help your self-articulation, please see a qualified practitioner.

Happy Slayage!

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