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Our Tongues Have A Tale To Tell

blog image - tongue 4 (2)Have you noticed how a doctor will often ask you to stick out your tongue when you go for a medical consultation? This is because the tongue can often be an indication of something wrong elsewhere in or on your body. In Chinese medicine, practitioners believe that the tongue reflects all the diseases of the body.

How should a normal tongue look?

A normal tongue should be a warm pinkish color with no cracks, no pieces missing around the edge (teeth marks), no coating of any description, no spots and no excessively protruding bumps.

Here are some of the tongue abnormalities to look for

We also tell you what they could mean from a Chinese medicine point of view. Incidentally, Qi pronounced "chee" means energy. You may see it spelled "Chi" or even "Ki" in Japanese, but whatever the spelling, they carry the same meaning:

  • Thin white coating on pale tongue with teeth marks around the edge and a few red spots could mean a Qi deficiency of which symptoms are spontaneous sweating, shortness of breath and anxiety.
  • Thin yellow coating on red tongue could mean heat of which symptoms are feeling hot, sweating, thirsty, constipation, irritability and skin problems.
  • White greasy coating on a swollen tongue could mean damp retention of which symptoms are bloating, fullness in chest and abdomen, feeling heavy and lethargic.
  • Black spots on a purple tongue could mean blood stasis of which symptoms are cold limbs, varicose veins, painful legs, headaches, chest pain, liver spots and dull skin.
  • Thin white coating with a red tip to the tongue could mean Qi stagnation of which symptoms are stress, depression, anxiety, emotional instability and PMT.
  • Yellow greasy coating on a red tongue could mean damp heat of which symptoms are skin problems, urinary infection, clammy skin, anger and being uncomfortable.
  • Thick white coating on pale swollen tongue could mean yang deficiency of which symptoms are feeling the cold, craving warmth, pale complexion, back pain, anxiety attacks, emotionally low, impotence or infertility.
  • Red tongue with cracks could mean yin deficiency of which symptoms are hot flushes, night sweats, insomnia, irritability, ringing in the ears, menopause, irregular menstruation.
  • Pale tongue could mean blood deficiency of which symptoms are dizziness, fatigue, palpitations, poor concentration and memory, insomnia, general female problems.

Here are some other tongue symptoms and their possible causes

These symptoms are from a Western medicine point of view

  • White coating is usually an indication that there is an infection such as a bacterial overgrowth or an autoimmune-related inflammatory disease. A frequent cause is thrush, which is an overgrowth of candida (also called yeast) bacteria.
  • Too dark is often because of your lifestyle as the filiform papillae on the top of the tongue can easily take on stains from the foods, drinks, antibiotics and other items that you swallow. For example, drinking a lot of coffee, smoking or chewing tobacco can stain the tongue a brownish shade.
  • Small spots in the tongue can be painful and will often be canker sores or mouth ulcers. Sometimes those bumps on the top of the tongue (including the taste buds) become inflamed, red or sore. However, if they last longer than 10 days, please get them checked by your doctor.
  • If the tongue becomes red and painful, it may be due to nutritional deficiency such as lack of niacin or vitaminB3 or a temporary sensitivity to something you ate or drank. A yellowish tinge on the tongue can also be the sign of fungal or bacterial infection or gastric reflux.
  • A pale and smooth tongue can mean you are suffering from iron-deficiency anemia. Get tested to bring any deficiency under control and the tongue will return to its normal pink color.

Always keep an eye on the state of your tongue and don't forget to brush your tongue at the same time as you clean your teeth, two or more times per day.


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