Why do we look at your tongue? - Rebalance Chinese Medicine

Have you ever wondered why we are looking so closely at your tongue during your appointment with us?

In Chinese Medicine, we use the tongue to help guide us to your diagnosis. We look at the shape, the colour, the texture, the motility, and the coating. This is why it is so important you don’t clean your tongue right before seeing us; you might be erasing some diagnostic evidence!

If you are completely healthy your tongue will be light red in colour, it will have a thin, moist, and clear coating, it will be soft and flexible with a uniform shape and smooth sides. Anything less may indicate something is off in the body. Here are some examples we look out for and what they tell us about your condition:

tongue diagnosis image
Tongue QualityIndicationCommon Accompanying Symptoms
Swollen tongue shapePhlegm-dampExpectorating coughArthritisFoggy in the morning heavy feeling in the limbs plus
Scalloped tongue shapeSpleen qi deficiency and DampnessBloatingFatigueFoggy in the morning heavy feeling in the limbsExcessive mucousLoss of appetite nausea
Thin tongue shapeQi and blood deficiency or deficient type heatFatigueCatches colds easilyPalpitationsHair lossPoor memory and/or concentration
Pale tongue bodyYang and/or blood deficiencyEasily cold/gets chillsIrregular menstruation could hands and feet
Purple tongue bodyBlood stagnationBody achesDysmenorrhoea (period pain)Varicose veinsIrregular menstruation heart palpitations
Redder tongue bodyHeat (can be excess or deficient type)Cough (often dry)Hot flushesConstipationIncreased thirst
Crimson tongue BodyChronic conditions with extreme heat or ‘fire’Extreme thirstFeverAversion to heat
Large midline crackStomach heatConstipationDiarrhoeaBleeding gumsNausea
Strawberry dotsHeatCough (often dry)Hot flushesConstipationIncreased thirstYellow mucous
Trembling tongueWindCommon coldGreen mucousSeizures (extreme cases of internal wind)Stroke (extreme cases of internal wind)
Stiff tonguePericardium heatMental confusion Cold hands and feet but hot feeling in bodyFever
Limp tongueQi and blood deficiencyFatigueCatches colds easilyPalpitationsCold hands and feetHair lossPoor memory and/or concentration
Yellow tongue coatingHeatCough (often dry)Hot flushesConstipationIncreased thirstYellow mucous
White tongue coatingColdCoughChillsWhite mucous
Black tongue coatingExtremely deficient yin (dry) or yang (moist)InsomniaExtreme thirstChillsFatigueLethargy
Thick tongue coatingPathogen is deep in the bodyChronic illness
Thin tongue coatingSyndrome is mild or pathogen is still in the superficial stageAcute illness
Scanty tongue coat/dryYin deficiencyThirstyDry coughDry stoolsDry skinInsomnia
Greasy tongue coatingDamp accumulationExpectorating coughFoggy in the morning heavy feeling in the limbsPusBloating

Please remember that sometimes in Chinese Medicine the terminology we use can sound scarier when put through a western medicine lens. For example, what I call blood stagnation may sound like I mean you have a clot but in reality, we use this term to describe someone who’s circulation could be improved or who is experiencing pain caused by injury.

Just because your tongue has one of the qualities above does not necessarily mean you will get all or even any of the symptoms listed. This table is designed to increase your knowledge, not to alarm you so please, if you have any questions or concerns, reach out to us! We are always happy to answer your questions, try my email: eve@rebalancetcm.com or our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Rebalancetcm

Dr Eve (TCM) is now in the clinic Tuesday AND Thursday afternoons so use the link below to book in 😊



Dog Tongue Photo by Tamas Pap on Unsplash

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