The ancient Chinese doctors were practicing thousands of years before we had modern blood tests, MRI’s and x-rays. They had to learn to read the signs on the body to determine what was happening in the internal organs. One of the signs that they developed and we still use everyday in our practice is inspecting the tongue.
Clients often giggle a little when I ask them to stick out their tongue so I can look at it. It has often been years since they have stuck their tongue out at anybody!! Their next question is often “what can you tell from my tongue?”
Here’s some insight into what we are looking for and what it means. You could even use this little guide to inspect your own tongue!
Tongue color: The ideal tongue color is light pink. When the tongue is pale, it may indicate a weakness in the body’s energy or Blood. When the tongue is red, it indicates heat or inflammation in the system. When the tongue or the veins beneath the tongue are purplish, it indicates stuck energy or Blood.
Tongue shape: The shape of the tongue gives an indication of the state of the fluids in the body. When the tongue is very narrow and dry-looking, it indicates that the fluids or Yin of the body is depleted. If the shape of the tongue is swollen and fills the mouth so much that there are indentations from the teeth on the sides, it indicates that the fluids are accumulating in the body and are not being distributed and eliminated properly.
Tongue coat: The coating of the tongue is related with the strength of the digestive system. We prefer if you don’t scrape or brush your tongue before you come for an acupuncture session as it allows us to see the natural tongue coat.
A thin or no coat indicates dryness or depletion of the fluids and may correlate with excessive hunger or constipation. A thick tongue coat often indicates that the digestive strength is weak and the food is not being digested or eliminated thoroughly.
As we go through a treatment series, we are looking to see what changes happen with the appearance of the tongue. The closer the tongue gets to a pink tongue that is not too big, not too small with a thin white coating, the closer the body is to balance.