No pun intended there and tongue firmly in cheek but yes, your tongue can reveal a great deal about your health, especially to a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Patients often look at me skeptically when I ask to look at their tongue and inevitably ask what I can possibly tell by looking at it. An analogy I like to use is trees or plants. You can tell a great deal about the health of a tree, even the roots that are underground, by looking at the leaves. You can tell if the tree needs water. You can tell if maybe there has been too much water. You can tell light conditions, fertility, age, disease process, exposure to pollution even nutrient deficiency all by observing things on the leaves. The tongue is similar. Your acupuncturist has been trained to look for signs of excesses or deficiencies in things ranging from digestion to fertility to energy to mood to immune function and disease processes. I have listed some examples below along with some things that you can do right now to improve your health.
Color: The color of the tongue can mean several things depending on where the redness shows up. What do you think about when you see red. Something hot? Simple right, so in TCM redness on the tongue would indicate heat. From the photo, you see that the tip of the tongue is associated with the Heart. Emotional issues are often associated with the Heart, so redness at the tip of the tongue would indicate heat in the Heart network. This is often associated with someone who has, or is prone to, emotion difficulties, especially anxiety. What does one do about this. Well, meditation, calming exercises, like yoga would be a good start. Finding better ways to process emotions or getting support would be another way. There are cooling foods that one could eat to help “dissipate” this heat. Heat can show up on other areas of the tongue as well, areas that are associated with other organs or the entire tongue could be red, indicating more systemic heat in the body.
Features such as cracks: Many patients will have a crack running down the center of the tongue. The center of the tongue is associated with the Spleen/Pancreas and the Stomach (loosely correlated to digestion). Something that causes cracks is heat and/or lack of fluids. So, this person may have other dry symptoms such as dry itchy skin, dry eyes, a tendency toward heartburn (especially after drinking alcohol or consuming coffee, both of which can dry out fluids). There may be other digestive issues like bloating or poor digestion of cold and raw foods. So, how does one help themselves with these kinds of issues? Make allowances for the way your body is and make some changes. Get enough fluids, avoid alcohol and spicy foods, switch to herbal tea, eat more soups and stews that are easier to digest. Your tongue is telling you something (as well as your body). Listen!
Coating: A thick coat can mean “phlegm” in the body. Phlegm accumulation can cause things like weight gain, lethargy, poor memory, a heavy feeling, muzziness. Again, changes in the diet can help you deal with your constitutional tendency towards phlegm accumulation. Proper exercise can also help.
Some of these signs may not have manifested in symptoms yet, they just show that you are prone to these types of problems. If you do have symptoms, your body is talking to you as well as your tongue. If not dealt with, these symptoms are likely to get worse and can even manifest in further pathologies. These are just a few examples of the literally dozens of things that can be diagnosed by observing the tongue. In TCM it is not usual to rely on just this one indicator. At Princeton Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine, we do a thorough intake and evaluation including your health history, complaints, TCM pulse diagnosis and palpation to formulate a comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that will work for you. While there are things you can do on your own to improve your health, sometimes it is important to get help. Call us today or book a consultation and we will tell you what your tongue says about you!
Princeton Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine
Our patients know just how effective treatments are for these and a host of other problems. Steven Hoffman, a New Jersey Licensed Acupuncturist and Diplomate in Oriental Medicine, will provide you with a thorough intake and evaluation and a clear, comprehensive diagnosis and treatment plan that will insure that your goals are met or exceeded. Do you want to move past these or other problems? We will help you thrive not just survive!