Tongue Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine

Your tongue is giving you all sorts of information about your health if you know what to look for!

In Traditional Chinese Medicine the tongue is a very important tool, giving clues to your underlying health. Your tongue is telling you the internal environment of your body, the state of your digestive system, your emotional health, how your blood is circulating, and your internal temperature.

By understanding what clues your tongue is giving you makes it easier to take preventative action and be proactive in your health…not waiting until you get sick to take care of yourself. Correcting any of the imbalances in the body that show up in the tongue.

What are we looking at when we look at the tongue?


Tongue Colour:

The tongue colour corresponds to the underlying temperature and landscape of the body.

A pale tongue indicates cold or weakness in the body. A person with a pale tongue may feel cold, have low energy, poor or slow digestion, muscle and body fatigue.

A red tongue indicates internal heat. Often people with red tongues may feel hot, irritable, have constipation, acid reflux, restless sleep.

A purple tongue indicates stagnation, or lack of circulation in the body. A person with a purple tongue may have spider or varicose veins, fibroids, cold hands and feet.

Go ahead, stick out your tongue and figure out what clues it is giving you to your health. Here are some ways to restore balance and health depending on your tongue colour.

If you have a pale tongue, eat mostly cooked foods and very little raw foods. Drink room temperature or warm beverages, avoid cold. Keep your body warm, socks on your feet and neck covered if outside in the wind. Add cinnamon, cloves, curry and garlic to the diet. Get up and move, exercise.

If you have a red tongue avoid or minimize caffeine, alcohol and sugars as these are all warming and adding fuel to the fire. Drink mint tea or use peppermint essential oil on the wrists or temples.  Do not overeat and avoid fatty foods. Take time to exercise and add some meditation or breathe work.

If you have a purple tongue add herbs such as cilantro, basil and parsley to your foods. Breath work is good to circulate the blood. Massaging and warming the abdomen is good for fibroids or large menstrual blood clots.

Tongue Coating:

The coating of the tongue reflects the state of the digestive system.

A thick coated tongue indicates a sluggishness or weakness in the digestive system. This may show up as yeast infections, sinus infections, fuzzy head, weight gain, muscle heaviness and body fatigue, bloating and gas.

A tongue with a peeled or cracked coating indicates too much heat in the digestive system. A person with a peeled tongue may experience constipation, acid reflux, excess hunger.

Some tips to help if you have a thick tongue coating include minimizing or avoiding dairy, sugars and wheat as these are all hard to digest and make the digestive system work extra hard. Try not to overthink or worry as this is also taxing on your digestion organs.

If you have a peeled or cracked tongue it is very important to eat mindfully, slow down and chew your food well to allow for digestion. Avoid spicy and acidic foods such as tomatoes, chilies and curries. Add easy to digest foods such as steamed vegetables and proteins such as chicken, fish or beans.


Tongue Shape

The shape of the tongue is also giving clues.

A small thin tongue is indicating a weakness or deficiency in the body, not enough energy and blood to nourish the body.

A large fat tongue is indicating an excess in the body, too much heat, damp or stagnation.

There may also be cracks in the tongue, which can correlate to certain organ systems depending on their location. A common crack to see is in the middle of the tongue, which correlates to the digestive system and indicates a weakness there.


I hope that this has given you some useful information on the messages that your tongue is giving you regarding your health.


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