What is Tongue Diagnosis?

Chinese tongue diagnosis

I might ask to look at your tongue… 

What is Tongue Diagnosis? Probably one of the strangest questions you may be asked in clinic is: “can I see your tongue?”. I understand it’s a little strange. Don’t be shy! It has so much value. Observing the tongue is one of the main diagnostic tools of TCM.

There has been some scientific exploration into this subject. In TCM, it clearly reflects the health of certain organs and disharmonies in the body. For one thing, it’s the only muscle you can visually investigate. It’s not covered by skin! Plus it is directly connected to your digestive and respiratory systems. Research corroborates the link between tongue coat colour and the type of microbes in your gut.

Tongue Diagnosis is based on:

  • colour or the tongue body: reflects the body’s internal temperature and state of the blood. A healthy tongue should be pale red. A red tongue indicates heat or excess condition. A pale tongue indicates cold or deficiency. While a purple tongue indicates blood stagnation or poor circulation.
  • shape: many shapes can been seen. Thin, swollen, stiff, cracked, tooth marked or deviated. They all reflect states of the body. Including fluid balance, digestive and nervous issues.
  • coating: a healthy tongue should have a thin white coat. Commonly described as hot or cold in TCM, the coating reflects the presence of different microbes in the body. a yellow coat indicates infection or inflammation. A sluggish digestion will present as a thicker white coat.
  • and moisture: slightly moist is what we like to see in a healthy tongue. It reflects the state of body fluids.

Put together these observations reveal a clear pattern of health or disharmony. Once a diagnosis is reached we can get to prescribing the treatment. Treatment may include acupuncture, herbal formula, diet and exercise.

Have a look at your tongue today. Note the colour of the body and the coat. Next time you feel sick (or even hungover), have another look at your tongue. You will notice a difference. Some characteristics change quickly. Your body is always changing. So your tongue will never always be perfectly normal. 

The human body is amazing at healing itself. But sometimes it needs us to recognise that it’s calling for a little help. We all have habits that might not be in our best health interests. A small change in your lifestyle choices can make all the difference. Are you listening to (or looking at)  your body?

Scientific Research

I recently read a journal article confirming the use of tongue diagnosis and observation as a valid means to identify certain imbalances in the body. If you’re interested in scientific research please have a read:

Integrating next-generation sequencing and traditional tongue diagnosis to determine tongue coating microbiome.

It concludes:

“…tongue-microbiome analysis provides new findings that effectively explain Hot Syndrome in traditional Chinese medicine.

We conclude that the abnormal appearances of the tongue coating as observed by TCM tongue diagnosis actually reflect the imbalanced tongue-coating microbiome in the entire human ecosystem. Therefore, this is the first study to suggest that the TCM diagnosis of Cold and Hot Syndromes based on tongue-coating appearance successfully detects signals in the tongue-coating microbiomes that are indicators of the entire body’s status.”

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