Patients often ask what I am looking at when I ask them to stick out their tongue.
To start, I usually say: “Would you agree that the tongue is the only muscle in your body that’s not covered with skin?”
Right, so the tongue is reflective of what is going on on the inside. It’s our version of a holistic X-Ray of the whole body to help guide us to the root of your issue.
As an Acupuncture Physician, when I ask you to stick out your tongue I am taking a snapshot of several main elements:
Color - This indicates the state of circulation in the body.
Red - excess heat in the body
Purple - circulation isn’t optimal
Pale- not enough blood to nourish the body
Color of the Coat
Yellow indicates interior heat (usually gut issues)
White indicates interior cold
Thickness of the Coat
The thickness can indicate the location and severity of the imbalance or the state of fluids in the body.
Cracks- usually indicates a lack of fluids being dried up by heat
Location of the Cracks
This will show where the heat is based on the tongue map
Moisture- The state of fluids in the body.
Dry - Fluids usually being dried up by excess heat
Excess Moisture - Fluids not being transported optimally
Structure of Tongue
Thick or Swollen with Teeth Marks - excess water in the body due to poor transport of fluids
Thin - blood or fluid deficiency
A happy healthy tongue will be pink to slightly red, slightly wet, and covered with a very fine white layer. Anything else is generally considered an imbalance. However, there are some tongue aspects that can be congenital and not a sign of an imbalance. There are many other nuances that can be seen in the tongue that are not listed here, but the ones listed are really the main elements of tongue diagnosis. It’s important to know that there are also a lot of factors that can change the state of your tongue (time of day, season, food, drinks, medications, age, etc.).
If you are more of a visual learner I have included some pictures below. And as always, feel free to contact me if you have any questions. Who knows, you might end up in Acupuncture school like I did once I started asking questions to my Acupuncture Physician :)
Health & Happiness,
Heather Koerner, AP