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  • Leslie Deems

The Dynamic Tongue

Have you ever wondered why your acupuncturist asks to see your tongue during a visit? In Chinese Medicine, the tongue is used to aid in diagnosis. The tongue is the only muscle that can be scene, so it is considered a window into the state of the body's health. The tongue can tell us many things. Your acupuncturist is looking at Color, Shape/Size, Motility, and Coating of your tongue.

To begin with, the color of a healthy tongue should be pink to light red. Any other is indicative of imbalance in the body. What color is your tongue and what is it saying about the state of your health?

  • Pale: Deficiency

  • Red: Internal Heat

  • Purple:Stagnation

  • Blue: Internal Cold

The Shape and Size gives information as well. By shape we mean the physical contours of the tongue along with it's consistency and texture. Ideally, the tongue is neither too small or too swollen, and is soft and supple. It is not rigid or flabby. Here are some general guidelines for looking at the shape of the tongue.

  • Thin: Deficiency

  • Swollen: Excess Dampness

  • Swollen Edges (you need more sleep!)

  • Flaccid: Exhaustion/Deficiency

  • Long: Internal Heat or Heat plus Phlegm

  • Short: Internal Cold

  • Cracked: Heat plus Deficiency

Sometimes when looking at the tongue you notice that it is in constant motion, either quivering, moving, or deviating to one side. The tongue can also be stiff, unmoving, inflexible. All of these signs point the practitioner in the direction of a specific diagnosis.

The geography of the tongue is such that the tongue is divided into segments, each section representing different internal organs.

The coating on the tongue, also referred to as the moss, is only second in importance to the color of the tongue. Be sure to consider what was eaten before looking at the coating color, since dyed foods can change the color of the coating. Examples of foods that could affect your diagnosis might be: coffee, tea, blueberry, beets, seaweed, gum, candy, etc. The tongue coating is formed as a by product of the digestive system. A healthy tongue should have a coating that is thin, white, and moist. If the tongue coating is thick this can be indicative of an external pathogen invading the body.

Check out your own tongue. It will undeniably have some information for you! Or see your acupuncturist for a more detailed explanation.

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