What Does Your Tongue Say About Your Health?! : Tongue Diagnosis

As an Oriental medicine practitioner I know how important not just your health history but also the visual diagnosis is when discovering the current state of health of a patient. Tongue Diagnosis is one of the four pillars of examination in TCM and it may be the diagnosis that bears the most information about the body's overall health. According to Ted J. Kaptchuk, O.M.D. in The Web That Had No Weaver, the tongue is like a piece of Litmus paper that reveals to the practitioner the basic qualities of disharmony. A definitive reading of your body's health cannot be determined without an entire configuration to interpret the body's state of disharmony but it is a very important factor in determining the roots of your dis-ease.

Material Vs Coating

The diagnosis of the tongue is broken down into two different parts. First looking at the tongues overall "material" (the tongue itself) and its coating/ "moss". The tongues material varies in colors ranging from blueish purple, red, pale red, and white as well as the degree of dryness and moisture can vary from tongue to tongue.  Just as the material can vary from patient to patient, day to day and season to season so can the coating depending on the lifestyle, diet and overall toxins in a patients body.

Tongue Diagnosis: Material

Healthy Balance Tongue: A pale red and somewhat moist tongue. The healthy pale red color indicates to the practitioner that there is an abundance of blood being carried to the tongue by smooth moving Qi. If the tongue maintains its normal color during illness its a good representation that neither the Blood or the Qi have been affected by the dis-ease. 

Red Tongue:  A red tongue (deep red scarlet color) is an indication that there is extreme heat present within the body. The red color of the material shows that the heat has penetrated the body in the deepest level. 

Pale Tongue: A Pale tongue is one that is less red than the healthy tongue and is usually caused by deficiency in blood or a deficiency in Qi. A dry, pale tongue (some may known this to be "cotton mouth") is a sign that their is a deficiency in blood, but if the pale tongue is moist then there is a deficiency in the body's Qi levels.

Blue/Purple Tongue: This shows that the Qi and Blood are not moving in harmony within the body and there are patterns of stagnant Qi or congealed blood. A pale purple tongue means that the obstruction is related to persistent cold while a reddish purple tongue is a sign of a heat related injury to the body and fluids. A purple tongue can also determine the health of your liver and its failure to spread and flow properly.  

Tongue Diagnosis: Coating/ "Moss"

The coating on your tongue tells all your spleen's dirty little secrets. During the vaporization of 'pure essence' or Qi the spleen causes small amount of impure substances to ascend, think about smoke rising. The "moss" is like the"smoke" that comes from the digestion process and reflects to the practitioner the state of the digestive system. The moss can cover the whole tongue or just have patches on the surface of the tongue. It varies in color, texture, thickness and general appearance. 

Healthy Balance Coating: The mosses density is uniform with exception of the middle of the tongue which is usually thicker. The moss should be fairly thin, moist, with a slight white color and still be able to see the material of the tongue through the moss. 

Thick Coating: A great indicator that the body is in excess. A pasty, thick coating similar to the consistency of oil and flour is a sign that there is an extreme dampness invasion in the body. 

Thin Coating: Usually normal unless present during dis-ease which can be a sign that the body is deficient.

Greasy Moss: Appearing as a thick oily film covering the tongue similar to the consistency of a white petroleum jelly is a sign of mucus/dampness present in the body. 

White Moss: Tends to show the practitioner the level of cold present.

Yellow Moss: Indicates heat. The deeper the yellow the deeper the heat is. 

Nature of the Tongue; Size, Flexibility, Rooted or Floating... Come Again?!

The moss of the tongue should appear firmly implanted in the tongue so to show the strength of the Spleen and Stomach Qi. A moss appearing to be floating signifies a weak spleen and stomach and should be looked over by a practitioner immediately. 

Your tongue should be neither too big or too small, not swollen or shriveled. It should be flexible but not uncontrollable. A healthy tongue is a smooth piece of flesh without cracks, pimples or eruptions (cols sores or canker sores). 

Those with a swollen tongue can tell because their teeth are imprinted around the edges of the tongue. A reason for a swollen tongue is TCM is due to a deficiency in Qi or an excess of fluids (water retention or dampness). by TCM practitioners if present since birth cracks can be the normal workings of your tongue. It's only when they appear during illness/dis-ease when we start to dig up more health indicators. Cracks in a red tongue is a sign of heat injurying fluids and deficiency in yin. Cracks on a pale tongue on the other hand point to a deficiency in blood and deficiency in Qi. 

The Tongue in Relation to Your Organs

The extreme tip of the tongue is related to the heart while the farther back tip is the lungs, the center is a sign of the spleen and stomach's health and the sides are indications of the liver and gallbladders health while the far back is related to the Kidneys and their health. If there is a difference of color, coating, cracks, or pimples in a specific area of the tongue this shows the practitioner where the heat, cold or deficient Qi is located in the organ system. For example, a sore on the extreme tip of the tongue is related to heat present in the heart and a thick white coating located toward the back of the tongue shows the practitioner that the Kidneys are deficient Yang or deficient in Blood.