It’s that awkward moment when your acupuncturist asks to see your tongue. Gazing at the ceiling, you hesitantly let the red beast sneak out through your lips. What could she possibly be looking at?
The tongue reflects the entire health of the body. The coat, moisture level, color and the body of the tongue all reveal specific things that in combination with your specific symptoms and the microcosm organ location on the tongue, contributes to the TCM diagnosis.
The Coat: This “fur” is formed from the residual dampness that is left over from digestion
- Thin white coat: Normal, indicating good digestion
- Thick coat: Always an indication of a pathogenic factor – the thicker the coat the stronger the pathogen
- Coat Color: A thick white coat shows a cold pattern in the body, yellow indicates heat and grey and black coats can indicate extreme cold or heat
- Note: A hot or cold pattern can manifest in many ways in your body from your digestion, to skin conditions, sleeping patterns, emotional state and more.
The Moisture level: The amount of moisture on the tongue shows the state of body fluids
- Slightly moist: Fluids are intact and transporting correctly
- Too wet: Fluids aren’t properly transporting and are forming dampness
- Too dry: There may be heat in the body drying up fluids
- Sticky/slippery: a chunkier or slimy form of being “too wet” that shows accumulation of damp or phlegm
- Pale red-pink: Normal coloring
- Pale: There is a deficiency in the body
- Red to deep red: heat in the body
- Purple: Stagnation/blood stasis
- Blue: Interior cold pattern that is giving rise to stagnation
- Note: deficiency and excess are just as they sound – there is either too little or too much of something. This could be of Yin, Yang, Qi, blood, hot or cold.
The Body: Tongues come in all shapes and sizes and can indicate different patterns
- Thin and lacking volume: A sign of chronic deficiency
- Swollen: Accumulation of damp or phlegm
- Flaccid: lacking in body fluids
- Stiff-rigid or deviated: A sign of interior wind (a topic for another time)
- Long: shows a tendency towards heat
- Short: shows a tendency towards cold or an extreme deficiency
- Quivering or teeth marks along the sides: signs of deficiency of the Spleen Qi which in TCM is in charge of our digestion (also a topic for another time)
With this basic understanding of these signs, we can see if they appear on specific areas of the tongue. This can indicate they are happening in a particular organ. For example, a red tip of the tongue indicates heat in the heart (don’t worry your heart isn’t on fire, it’s just working out some emotional issues.)
If you’re curious to know more about what your tongue says about you, make an appointment with your acupuncturist to establish a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.
And the next time your gazing in the mirror at your beautiful self, stick your tongue out and take a look. What does it say?