Stick out your tongue

Open your mouth wide but without straining it. Now, observe your tongue! According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and other complementary medicine the tongue can reveal quite a bit about your health. The color, texture, moisture and shape can provide a peek into the state of your health.


During a tongue diagnosis, the practitioner examines variations in the tongue to evaluate a patient’s overall health. The tongue is divided into portions that directly relate to various organs. For example, the condition of the heart is indicated at the extreme tip, the lungs are just behind, with the gall bladder, spleen, stomach and kidney following in that order towards the back (root) of the tongue.

What does your tongue say about the state of your health?

Before you begin, tongue examination (she zhen) in Chinese medicine

  • Observe your tongue in natural daylight the morning seems to be suggested as the best time.
  • Open your mouth wide and stick the tongue out fully, if the tongue is not relaxed, it will change the natural shape and color.
  • Tongue should be examined for no longer than 15 seconds at a time. If it extended for longer, the tension may alter the shape or color.
  • Note the position of any spots or blemishes.
  • Recent food, drinks, vitamins C or medicines can change the color of the coating, so wait at least an hour after taking any of these before examining your tongue.

The Color of your tongue

Tongues come in many colors, (some of which may be surprising to you!) it all depends on your state of health, pink, red, red-purple, blue-purple and blue. Tongue color is normally a light red color, indicating that a person’s vital energy is strong.


“In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) this means you have a cold tongue and you probably lack energy or feel tired. White is the color of metal element, in TCM refers to the lungs and colon. A pale tongue could indicate problems in these two organs.

Treat with warming herbs such as garlic, ginger and cinnamon.

“If the tongue or mucous membranes, the membranes containing large numbers of goblet-shaped cells that line the mouth, appear pale this could mean that your blood is lacking in hemoglobin, The iron-containing protein found in red blood cells. This will often result in tiredness and lethargy.

Eat a well-balanced diet containing plenty of iron found in lean meat, especially liver.


“In Chinese medicine, a red tongue shows heat. The color of the tongue may appear darker in different parts of the tongue relating to various organs in the body. For example, the root of the tongue could indicate excess heat in the intestines.

Regulate heat with cooling foods such as cucumber, water melon and green tea.

“A red inflamed tongue indicates lack of certain nutrients, especially iron and B vitamins. Iron, found in red meat, shell fish, nuts and apricots, is essential for the formation of red blood cells and necessary for energy and vitality. B vitamins are needed for energy metabolism, cell growth and the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Lean meat, shellfish, nuts and dried apricots are all rich sources of vitamin B.


“This could indicate blood stagnation, poor circulation or too much sugar in the body which makes you feel tired and cold. This means you are probably eating too much cold food and not adding enough warm ingredients to your diet such as garlic, ginger and coriander.

A purple tongue could also indicate chronic bronchitis which cuts down the efficiency of the airwaves in bringing oxygen to the bloodstream. If your tongue continues to be purple, seek medical advice.”.

The tongues Texture

  • Raised red spots

“Patches of spots on the tongue reflects an allergic constitution, such as eczema and asthma.

“A strawberry-like patch on the tip of the tongue is often caused by hot drinks. However, a red tongue tip combined with bleeding gums could show a lack of bioflavonoids, a biologically active compound found in vitamin C that help strengthen the tiny blood capillaries in the skin and prevent unattractive broken veins.

Make sure your drinks aren’t too hot! Add plenty of citrus fruits, peppers, kiwi fruits and berries to your diet.” .

Dry tongue

“A dry furry tongue indicates excessive mucus in the body. This is caused by too much dairy and sugar in the blood. Eat a wellbalanced diet and cut down on milk, butter and eggs.” . “Dryness of the tongue is often caused by swelling of the salivary glands the fleshy bulgy sacs under the tongue where saliva is produced. This is often caused by stress. Regulate stress by relaxation routines such as breathing or yoga. Also, stimulate the flow of saliva and flush out the salivary ducts

by drinking cider vinegar and lemon diluted in a glass of water. Persistant dryness could be caused by Sjorgren’s syndrome (an immunological disorder). If your tongue is persistantly dry seek medical advice.” .

The tongue Coating

  • White coating

“This reflects the state of the digestive system. If the tongue lacks coating, it means the stomach enzymes which break down food in the digestive system are not functioning properly.
The coating of the tongue should be thin and white.”

“A thin coating on the tongue is healthy and normal. A heavy white plaque however could indicate candidasis or oral thrush – a fungus infection of warm, moist areas of the body. This could be caused by an over-use of chemical mouthwash or taking too many antibiotics. Oral thrush can impair taste buds and cause bad breath.