Believe it or not, your tongue plays a unique role in how Chinese medicine practitioners understanding your body’s constitution. Tongues differ from one person to the next and they can tell us a lot of information. When we at San Francisco Integrative Medicine examine your tongue, we are systematically looking at very specific characteristics to learn about the interior state of your health. Your tongue provides a window into how your body is functioning. For example, each tongue will change when there are improvements or declines in health.
Getting to the Basics
A healthy tongue is naturally pink and has a thin white coating. While almost all tongues have some imperfections, especially as we age, but certain lifestyle choices produce noticeable changes. For example, regular smokers will often have a drier, yellowish coating on their tongues. When Chinese medicine practitioners look at your tongue, we observe: shape and size, color, and coating.
Shape and Size
The shape and size of the tongue shows the state of the fluids running through the body. For example, a small, short tongue may indicate an insufficient amount of moisture in the body. In comparison, a very large, puffy tongue with indents on the edges of the tongue could indicate that fluids are not flowing through the body as easily as they should.
Ideally, the healthy tongue body looks pink. Of course, the natural tongue color can vary from person to person, it is still a very good indicator of what is happening inside your body. For example, a red tongue points to heat in the body. The redder the tongue, the greater is the amount of heat. On the other hand, a pale tongue could mean that there is not enough heat in the body, or that there is a deficiency of qi or blood.
Look at your tongue in the mirror, does your tongue have a thick or thin coating? The coating, depends on many factors and changes much more quickly than the tongue body. Normally your coating is thin. If you are getting sick or feeling a cold coming on, you may see a thicker coating developing. The consistency of the tongue’s coating also indicates the state of the fluids in the body. A dry coating represents a drier body just as an excessively moist coating indicates a damp body or poor fluid circulation. Tongue coatings also come in different colors. A thin white coating is normal. A yellow coat is a heat sign especially when combined with a red body. Gray or black coating colors also exist, and indicate a severe condition.
Looking at tongues plays a big role in how we diagnose and treat every person. Take a peak at the picture at the top and see what your tongue may be telling us about you!
by Elanita Korian, L.Ac., MS