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Traditional Chinese Medicine: What Does You TONGUE Say About You?

  • Published on: 08 December, 2014
  • Last update: 03 November, 2020

Chinese tongue diagnosis is an essential tool used by TCM practitioners. Your tongue plays a unique role in understanding your body’s constitution; it is the only organ that is both interior AND exterior. Examining your tongue can tell you everything about your organs and the state of your health. A healthy tongue is naturally pink and has a thin white coating (first in the diagram). Signs to look for are the shape and size, color, and coating.

Shape and Size:
The shape and size of the tongue tells the tale of the fluids running through the body. For example, a small, short tongue may indicate an insufficient amount of moisture in the body. In comparison, a very large, puffy tongue with indents on the edges indicate swelling, edema and dampness (think of what loves damp environments: bacteria, candida, parasites, etc). If a tongue is enlarged and flabby this also indicates Deficient Qi. 

A red tongue points to heat in the body. The redder the tongue, the greater is the amount of heat. On the other hand, a pale tongue could mean that there is not enough heat in the body (yang deficiency), or that there is a deficiency of qi or blood. Pale purple means the Stagnation is related to Cold. Reddish purple is related to Stagnation of Heat. Cracks in a red tongue indicate Deficient Yin or Heat injuring the fluids. But if the tongue is pale and cracked, Deficient Qi or Xue is present.

Does your tongue have a thick or thin coating? The coating, called fur, depends on many factors and changes more quickly than the tongue body. Normally your coating is thin. If you are getting sick, you may see a thicker coating developing. The consistency of the tongue’s coating also indicates the state of the fluids in the body.  A dry coating represents a drier body just as an excessively moist coating indicates a damp body or poor fluid circulation. The lack of a coating indicates a more severe heat or dryness in the body. This is sometimes seen in women going through menopause, a time when women’s bodies start to heat up.

So, what does your tongue say about you?!

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1 Comment

Edward Dean

I have QI Deficiency. What can be done for this? Thanks.

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