When you have an acupuncture treatment – no matter what part of the world – it is quite common for the practitioner to ask to see your tongue. It also is quite common for the patient to feel silly, surprised, or confused when you ask to see their tongue. That is until I explain why the tongue is so important to me.
The tongue is a micro system of the body, and contrary to popular belief, all tongues are not the same. The colour, size, coat, and moistness level all vary dependant on the person. Even if there are a few physical symptoms that seem contradictory and make a diagnosis more difficult, a tongue is extremely reliable.
Lets start with Body Color:
This is the colour of the physical tongue, not the coat it may have.
- Pale: Deficiency of Yang or Blood.
- Red: Heat.
- Deep-Red: Severe Heat.
- Purple: Blood Stagnation.
- Blue: Cold leading to Blood Stagnation.
I will go over only the common ones, because there are a lot!
- Thin: Blood Deficiency, Chronic.
- Swollen: Dampness or Phlegm.
- Long: Heat.
- Short:Cold, Extreme Yin Deficiency.
- Cracked: A crack can indicate a few things, but the easiest to understand is if the crack is in the middle of your tongue can indicate stomach issues.
- Toothmarks: These are along the sides of your teeth and look like your tongue has moulded your tongue. This indicates the very common Spleen Qi Deficiency.
- Quivering: Also Spleen Qi Deficiency.
A great example of this is that thick tongue coat you have that you try to brush off but never really goes away… well thats because it represents what is happening in your body.
- Yellow: Heat.
- White: Cold.
Sometimes the coat is only on specific parts of your tongue too.
- Too Wet: Dampness, Yang Deficiency.
- Too Dry: Heat or Yin Deficiency.
- Slippery/Sticky: Phlegm/Dampness.
Organs on the Tongue:
- Centre: Spleen/Stomach
- Sides: Liver/ GallBladder
- Root/Back: Kidney, Bladder, Intestines
- Tip: Heart
- Between tip and centre: Lung
I know that is a lot to take in, so here is an example.
If two people come in experiencing pain, I will look to see what the tongue looks like. If one is purple that represents a Blood Stagnation and will require a different treatment than patient #2 with the pale tongue. The second patients’ tongue would indicate a Blood Deficiency. Even though both patients come in with the same complaint, it would be a different treatment because of how the tongue looks.