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TCM Made Simple

What Your Tongue Says About Your Health

By EYSI.

Did you know one way to assess your health is to look in the mirror and say “Ahh”?

In TCM, the tongue is believed to be connected with many organs through the meridians, which are the body’s energy pathways. Because of its connections with the rest of the body, the tongue is often thought to mirror one’s health.

Tongue diagnosis is one of the most important procedures during a TCM examination. A physician will observe multiple characteristics of the tongue such as the tongue’s colour, coating and movement.

In this simplified guide, we have selected some major tongue characteristics for you to perform your own examination. Find out what your tongue says about your health!

Tongue Colour


• Pink is a normal and healthy colour.

• A Pale tongue indicates Qi and blood deficiency or that you are deficient in Yang energy. You might appear pallid, tire easily, feel breathless or experience cold limbs.

• A Purple tongue may indicate Qi stagnation and blood stasis. You might experience sharp and persistent pains or lumps in the body.

• A Red tongue indicates excess heat in the body or Yin deficiency. You might feel feverish, restless and prefer cold drinks. Other symptoms may include a dry throat and rapid pulse.

• A Dark Red tongue indicates intensive internal heat or fire syndrome due to Yin deficiency. Symptoms may include fevers, constipation, dry mouth, a strong and rapid pulse, as well as night sweating.

More Tongue Characteristics

Cracks

• Deep cracks on the tongue indicate dryness that may be caused by excess pathogenic heat or Yin deficiency. On the other hand, you may be one of those born with light cracks. Such cracks are unrelated to health.

Teeth Mark

• Teeth marks suggest that there is a Spleen-deficiency or accumulation of water-dampness in the body. These imbalances in the body lead to an enlarged tongue, which lets the teeth make imprints on the tongue more easily. The extent of the teeth marks—slight to severe—indicates the seriousness of the condition.

Coating

Ever noticed the dirty-looking "moss" covering your tongue? This coating is a clue to your digestive health.

If you can see the tongue body through the coating, it is considered a Thin coating, which is normal. A Thick coating may indicate you have excess dampness in the body. A Greasy coating suggests the blockage of Yang-Qi circulation and a greater build-up of dampness and phlegm.

Tongue Region

• Like a mini map of your insides, the tongue is divided into regions associated with different internal organs. Noting where a characteristic appears on the tongue can help physician diagnose the root cause of an illness.

Tips for Examination 

• The early birds get the tongue
The best time to inspect your tongue is before breakfast.

• Go easy on the brushing
If you must brush your teeth before the inspection, don’t brush your tongue—this would disturb the tongue coating.

• Avoid coffee, tea and sweets
Before the inspection, don’t eat or drink anything that might stain your tongue.

• Sunlight is the best light
Inspect your tongue in natural light for a more accurate diagnosis.

• Don't stick out your tongue for more than 15 seconds
The longer you stick out your tongue, the darker it will appear. If you need to "reset" your tongue colour, just pull your tongue back in for a few moments.

This simplified guide to tongue examination for reference only. For a proper diagnosis, always consult an accredited TCM physician.