In Chinese medicine, the tongue is used as a very influential source for diagnosis, as it's the only external organ of the body with visual indicators. We look at the tongue to measure various factors; we look to see the shape, quality, texture, coating, and color of the tongue because of its many relationships and connections in the body and the internal organs.
Given its simple and noninvasive nature, tongue diagnosis is becoming a preliminary screening procedure in early detection even in the Western world. It's an exciting step toward bridging the gap between the East and the West especially because it's another awesome and simple tool that can tell you a lot about health, even when it comes to looking at life-threatening diseases like cancer.
A normal baseline tongue looks like...
Ready to take a look at your tongue to see what's going on? Go ahead, open wide and let your entire tongue hang out; look in the mirror. See if your tongue is puffy or thin; if it's reddish, purplish, pinkish; if there are deep cracks, small cracks, or no cracks at all? See if there is a coating on your tongue, a white coating or a yellow coating? Try to scrape off the coating; does it go away or stay in place? All of this means something...
A normal tongue coat is thin with a moist, light white coating, thinnest at its edges and thicker in the center but thickest at the base of the tongue.
So what is your tongue telling you? Below are a few of the most common readings and their potential health consequences. Of course, if you suspect you have any of these conditions we recommend seeking out a licensed, qualified Traditional Chinese Medicine expert and acupuncturist and as always talking to your doctor.
1. State of energy
A quivering or trembling tongue body indicates a chronic condition that has drained the body's energy and caused some level of fatigue and tiredness. When the tongue has a puffy body with ridges on the side, it indicates that the body is so tired that even the muscle of the tongue doesn't have adequate energy to hold itself in place, so it's super relaxed in the mouth, taking the shape of the teeth. The teeth are literally holding your tongue in place.
You may have symptoms such as body heaviness, puffy and heavy limbs, bloating, lack of energy, sluggish bowel movement, easy to gain weight or hard to lose weight, weight gain before your period, or puffy face and eyes in the morning. Bodies with stuck energy might present with disorders such as underactive thyroid, chronic fatigue syndrome, or potentially polycystic ovaries.
2. State of hydration
The coating on the tongue indicates the level of hydration.
When the body isn't hydrated, the tongue immediately looks and feels dry. You may have some of the following symptoms: insomnia, vivid dreams, hot flashes, constipation, dry skin, thirst, heartburn, or hunger. It's common that dehydrated tongues to also struggle with hyperactive thyroid, menopause, high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, or gastric ulcers.
If you have a thick, greasy coating, it is an indicator that your body has lots of dampness and fluid. This is an expression of polarities. Either you are consuming too many greasy, cloying foods that aren't right for your body and your body can't get rid of the grease or because you are already dehydrated and the water capacity is now turbid and thick, causing a different level of dehydration. With this tongue coating, you may suffer from symptoms such as heavy arms and legs, bloating, lack of energy, stiff joints, weight gain, sluggish bowel movement. These people usually have high cholesterol or fatty liver.
A thick yellow coating, right in the center of the tongue, means your body is dehydrated and can't digest your food. You may have some of the following symptoms: body heat, sweating, body odor, and bad breath, yellow urine, constipation, pungent or dark stool, pass lots of gas, bloating, red face, vivid dreams or nightmares, or insomnia. These people may also suffer from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, liver or gallbladder disease.
An uneven coating indicates an issue with hydration in your stomach and liver. You may suffer from symptoms such as heartburn, stomach pain, interrupted sleep, vivid dreams, dry skin, and discomfort of the side of the body. Health problems that can accompany this include liver and stomach disorders or gastric ulcers.
3. State of blood flow
How your body flows blood is a very important aspect of you bgeneral wellness. In Chinese medicine, we throw around terminology of "blood deficiency" or "excess blood.” This isn't correlated to anemia. What we like to consider it correlating to is the quality of your blood; if your blood doesn't have the right energy behind it, it can be sluggish, causing weakness, or if there is an excess, it can create inflammation.
If a tongue is really red, it indicates that the body has excessive heat in the body. The body may have the following symptoms: body feels hot, easy to perspire, red face, takes time to fall asleep or vivid dreams, constipation, pungent dark stool, hunger (eats more), very emotional (easy to get anxious), or if you're a woman, your period comes early. Some may have disorders including hyperactive thyroid, high blood pressure, or menopause.
If a tongue is pale, it indicates that the body has a lack of proper digestion, energy, and blood flow. You may have some of the following symptoms: lack of energy, pale face, dizziness (especially upon standing), shortness of breath, sluggish bowel movement, bloating after eating, scanty period (one or two days), little or no milk production after labor. These people may also have the following disorders: low blood pressure, anemia or infertility, and frequent miscarriage.
If a tongue is purplish or darkish, it indicates a lack of proper blood circulation. You may have the some of the following symptoms: body aches/pain; joint, neck, and shoulder stiffness and pain; chest pain; headaches or period pain with blood clots and brownish bleeding. These people may suffer disorders such as endometriosis, polycystic ovaries, migraines, and arthritis.
4. History of disease
Some diseases or illnesses leave a permanent effect on the tongue. If a tongue is a darker red or crimson color it can indicate internal injury such as trauma, for example. In the elderly, energy and blood deficiency is more common, so the tongue may present with dryness and cracks while infants tend to have a white thick coating that is easily removed. Overweight people may have more damp and/or phlegm, and, therefore, their tongues may be larger and lighter in color while thinner patients tend toward redder tongues.
5. Congenital disease
What type of diseases/illness you are prone to—there are certain individuals whose tongues have a certain shape, crack, color to them; these are considered congenital indications. Meaning that this is what they were born with. However, these indications can be early indicators of what patients are prone to.
- When the very tip of the tongue is swollen or nearly sliced, it can indicate a heart problem.
- If a stiff tongue is accompanied by a bluish-purple tongue body, this usually indicates potential stroke.
- Deep cracks in the center indicate that a patient is prone to digestive issues.
It's important to learn about the little differences in what your tongue is trying to tell you so you can respond with necessary lifestyle changes, be it more water, sleep, or food changes. It's good to have this, so grab it and stick it in your holistic health arsenal!