You can find out a lot about a person by looking at their tongue. The observation of tongues plays an important part of diagnosis in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Based off of characteristics like the color of the coat and tongue body, it can provide insight into what is going on internally. Here are a few examples of what a person’s tongue can look like and what symptoms may be associated with it:
If your tongue has a very red tip, in TCM this is referred to as having heart heat. It is called this because the tongue is considered to be a microsystem that represents the whole body. The heart is represented in the tip of the tongue. Heart heat usually has corresponding signs such as feeling hot and thirsty, restlessness, mouth and tongue sores, dark colored urine, anxiety, bitter taste in the mouth, and heart palpitations. Frequently people with red tipped tongues also have problems with sleeping; usually having insomnia, dream disturbed sleep or vivid dreams.
Now gently raise your tongue and check underneath to observe the two sublingual veins. Be careful to not over extend the tongue, because that can provide a false reading of color. If the veins are very purple and distended, this indicates that there is blood stasis in the body. Blood stasis means that your blood is not circulating at its most optimum potential. Itcan be a result of many things usually stemming from a chronic condition or history of trauma like a twisted ankle or recovery from surgery. Some associated symptoms are stabbing or fixed pain that is worse at night and with pressure, bleeding with dark blood or blood clots, painful menstruation with clots, and purple colored nails.
If your tongue has scalloped edges on the sides, that is referred to as spleen qi deficiency. The edges you see are actually formed from the tongue pressing against the molars, leaving teeth marks. The spleen involves the digestion and absorption of the nutritional intake. So when it is deficient, that means your digestion could be better. And let’s face it; living in a society of fast food, it is very easy to have a deficient spleen. Some associated symptoms of a scalloped tongue are poor appetite, soft or loose stools, abdominal distention after eating, pale complexion, tiredness, tendency to be overweight, and weakness of the limbs.
If the coating of your tongue is pale, this can mean two different things: blood deficiency and/or qi deficiency. Let us talk about blood deficiency first. This is considered to be when your blood needs more nourishment. Signs of blood deficiency are having a pale complexion, poor memory and concentration, eye floaters, dizziness, scanty periods or amenorrhea, and white colored nails. Qi deficiency can be a result of many factors ranging from over exertion mentally or physically to lack of sleep. Signs of qi deficiency are if you feel tired, spontaneous sweating, pale complexion, shortness of breath, loose stools and poor appetite. To distinguish between qi and blood deficiency, additional information of the person needs to be considered.
If your tongue coat is yellow this is an indicator of having heat within the body. It can also be associated with a red tongue body. A yellow coat can result from various factors such as consuming hot natured foods, being sick, and being warm temperature wise. A yellow coat can be accompanied with feeling hot, thirsty for cool temperature drinks, having dry eyes, easily sweating, foul smelling stools, and yellow tinged phlegm or discharge.
There are many factors that can change what a person’s tongue looks like. The perfect time to observe your tongue is right after you wake up in the morning. Activities such as brushing your teeth, eating and drinking can change the way it appears. In addition, as the day progresses, the tongue coat tends to get thinner. What is also interesting about tongue diagnosis is that it is a useful way to track your own condition. For example, say you are feeling sick. You have a yellow tongue coat and a full on allergy attack with yellow discharge. You can track the progression of your recovery when you see the tongue coat turn from yellow to white. Tongue diagnosis in TCM is one of many ways to provide insight as to what is going on internally with the body. So go ahead and stick your tongue out at me, I promise I will not be offended.