Chinese Medicine Tongue Diagnosis

Why does my acupuncturist always ask to see my tongue?


In Chinese Medicine tongue analysis is an important and incredibly useful tool when determining a diagnosis. By observing the many aspects of a patient’s tongue from visit to visit, practitioners are able to monitor and assess progression of treatment and severity of dis-ease in the body.

The tongue, which is considered a muscular organ, gives us a first hand view of what is happening internally. As practitioners, we observe the shape and color of the body, the coat and moisture level, as well as look for any movement, landmarks or deviation of the tongue itself. The appearance of the tongue reflects the state of your vital energy, or Qi.

Additionally, each area of the tongue reflects the state of specific organs- the tip corresponds to the heart, the front to the lungs, the center to the spleen and stomach, the rear, first to the intestines, then going further back to the bladder and uterus and then to the kidney at the root, and, finally, the sides correlate to liver and gallbladder.

tongueSo, what does a normal tongue look like? A “normal” tongue should be dark pink and moist. There should be no cracks or lines in the body, the tongue should be absent of any sores, and it should have a rounded tip and a thin, white coating. The underside should also be dark pink and moist with no visible dark sublingual veins.



An example of a few abnormalities that we may observe are:
  • A red tongue and/or yellow coat which indicates the presence of heat in the body
  • A pale tongue may indicate blood deficiency
  • A thick tongue coat indicates the presence of internal phlegm or dampness
  • Teethmarks on the side of the tongue tell us that Qi may be deficient
  • Dark, distended sublingual veins indicate blood stagnation
  • Crimped sides indicate stagnation in the liver and gallbladder meridians
Interested in observing your own tongue?

The best time of day to take a look at your tongue is first thing in the morning. Avoid brushing your teeth or having coffee or tea beforehand and, if possible, have good natural light in the room. Stick your tongue out gently and look at the color, moisture level, landmarks and coat. Next, place the tip of your tongue on the back of your upper teeth and observe the underside of your tongue.

Curious about what your tongue says? Ask us next time you’re in!


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