Tongue Diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine

tongue areas diagram new

Tongue diagnosis is one of the most valuable methods of diagnosis, which has been used for many years in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). It provides clearly visible clues to the patient’s disharmony. In other words, it is a simple and non-invasive method that enables acupuncturists to detect many syndromes even in the early stages.

Based on the principals of TCM, health of five internal organs, (including Liver, Lung, Heart, Kidney and Spleen ) is reflected on specific areas of the tongue.

In TCM, it is thought that all the internal body organs mutually support each other and that - in order to achieve optimal health, the organs of an individual should all be in balance.

Factors considered in Tongue Diagnosis

There are 5 primary aspects that are observed by practitioners during the tongue diagnosis. They are: tongue spirit, shape, color, coating and moisture.

A change in any of the above items will help acupuncturists to diagnose the underlying condition(s). Tongue Appearance and Pulse (another important diagnostic tool) together, provide practitioners with information about internal organs function and Qi (energy) condition.

A normal tongue appears light red and moistened, coupled with motility and a thin white coating.

What is your tongue telling your acupuncturist?

Below are a few of the most common findings in tongue diagnosis:

  1. State of blood flow:
    If the tongue is pale, it can be due to blood, Qi deficiency or cold syndrome.
    On the contrary, red tongue can be indicative of heat syndrome.

  2. State of Hydration:
    The tongue coating indicates the level of hydration. When it is dry, there is damage to the body fluids. In the case of dampness, it will become greasy.

  3. State of Energy:
    A trembling body indicates some Qi deficiency or wind stirring. Flaccid tongue shows some degree of yin or blood deficiency.

**Of course, if you have any of these mentioned conditions, it is recommended seeking out a registered qualified acupuncturist while consulting with your doctor as well.

What other factors can affect the tongue color?

  1. Medication
    Antibiotics, Corticosteroids, Bronchodilators, Diuretics and anti-neoplastic drugs.

  2. Food
    The consumption of highly colored food and sweets will affect the tongue color. Spicy food such as curry will tend to make the tongue more red for a short time after consumption.
    Turmeric and tobacco tend to turn the coating of the tongue yellow. Even coffee and food made with artificial coloring can change the tongue color (Do not drink coffee or other beverages & foods that may discolour your tongue for at least two hours before your appointment).

  3. Brushed Tongue
    Some patients may brush their tongue to help freshen their breath. So, before receiving a tongue diagnosis, do not brush your tongue at least one day before your acupuncture treatment.

Farideh Jalali Farahani, R.Ac.
Ms. Jalali Farahani is an MD, Anatomical and Clinical in Iran
Registered Acupuncturist