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Your Tongue Color & Your Health In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

Your Tongue Color & Your Health In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the tongue is considered to reflect one’s health, as it presents itself as a map. Certain areas of the tongue are connected with certain organs of the body.

When your doctor asks you to stick your tongue out, he may look for signs of certain conditions, like kidney disease, anemia, cyanosis (when your lungs do not get enough oxygen) or dehydration.

In TCM, there are four classic diagnostic methods:

  • Palpation: pulse, painful areas, or meridians of the body;
  • Investigation: body temperature, sweating, appetite, thirst, body symptoms, intestinal movements, menstrual cycle;
  • Listening and smelling: the sound of voice and breath;
  • Inspection: complexion, body, eyes, skin, hair, nails, and tongue.

Of these, the two most prominent are the inspection of the tongue and palpation of the pulse.

Let’s take a closer look at the reason why Chinese medicine is so carefully examining the tongue.

In Chinese medicine, the tongue is divided into 5 different areas and each of them corresponds to certain internal organs. Therefore:

  • the back of the tongue is the correspondent of the metal element that represents the health of the kidneys, the hormonal system, and the sexual glands;
  • the lateral areas of the tongue are governed by wood that corresponds to the liver and gallbladder;
  • the center of the tongue corresponds to the earth and reflects the health of the digestive system;
  • the area immediately following the tip of the tongue corresponds to the water element and is associated with the respiratory and immune systems;
  • the tip of the tongue holds important clues about the fire element that corresponds to the vascular and heart system.

What Your Tongue Color Can Tell You About Your Health

Pink

pink tongue
Image credit – https://www.flickr.com/photos/mliu92/13616453023

If your tongue is pink, it means that the overall health of the body is generally good. White, yellowish spots or discolorations may indicate a condition ranging from the common cold to liver or heart problems.

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A pink color that is too pale may be a sign that you are about to suffer a cold, indicating a weakened immune system or being too tired. It can also mean that you have a deficiency in folate, iron, or vitamin B-12.

Yellowish

Yellowish tongue
Image credit – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Tongue_piercing_scar_top.jpg

Yellowish traces on the tongue may be signs of severe inflammation in the body.

The back of the tongue, or the “root,” reveals the health of your kidneys.

Yellowish spots in this area could also be a sign of a urinary infection.

Black or Brown

Black or Brown tongue
Image credit – https://www.flickr.com/photos/traitlinburke/140237243

A black tongue is an indication of the taste buds being stretched and darkened. It is not a painful phenomenon, but usually, the black tongue is viscous, with deposits.

This should not be confused with a mycosis, because abnormal pigmentation is often determined by antiseptic abuse, antibiotic use or smoking.

Also, a black tongue is a sign of excessive accumulation of bacteria in the oral cavity. This is the result of excessive smoking, but also of inappropriate oral hygiene.

In addition, the black surface of the tongue indicates an insufficient consumption of fiber, fruit or vegetables.

In people who have low iron values, the tongue may have a velvety and discolored appearance.

Anyone who drinks coffee, smokes or chews tobacco may have a brownish tongue.

Red

red tongue
Image credit – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Scarlatina_tongue.JPG

A red tongue represents a mouth disease that can indicate a lack of vitamin B-12 or vitamin B9 (folate) in the body or dehydration of the body.

Red swollen lumps on the tongue, accompanied by swelling and cracking of the lips, may be signs of the Kawasaki disease. Especially seen in young children, it is triggered by factors such as certain viruses or bacteria.

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Red spots on the tongue surface can also indicate erythroplakia.

This condition is associated with an increased risk of oral cancer, which is why a biopsy is recommended.

Purple

A purple tongue shows a weak blood circulation in the body and may be a sign of premenstrual syndrome or fatigue.

In addition, if your tongue is purple, this means you have a high level of LDL cholesterol, which can cause heart problems.

Also, a purple tongue can indicate blood stagnation, poor circulation, and the fact that you have too much sugar in the body. If the problem persists for a longer time, you need to see a doctor.

Whitish

tongue candida
Image credit – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oral_candidiasis

A tongue’s color that resembles something like cow’s cheese can be found in children, the elderly, people with poor dental hygiene, diabetes and low immunity.

Steroids and antibiotics increase this risk.

A whitish tongue can also indicate a leukoplakia. The oral mucosa is constantly exposed to various temperatures, aggressions of food, vices.

Leukoplakia is represented by affected mucous membrane that develops slowly. It occurs in the form of whitish plaques on the tongue and in the cheeks. This condition is precancerous and it should not be ignored.

Another cause of white color in the tongue is oral lichen planus, an inflammatory condition. It’s not contagious nor is it infectious.

Pale ColorPale Color tongue

If your tongue or your entire mouth is of a very pale color, it may be a sign that you are missing hemoglobin from your blood. Hemoglobins are iron-containing proteins that are found in red blood cells.

When your tongue has a pale color, you also feel tired or lethargic. In order not to face such problems, it is recommended to have a healthy diet, rich in iron.

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The Chinese claim that a pale tongue may indicate problems with the lungs or the colon. In such situations, it is best to treat yourself with ginger, garlic, and cinnamon.

What Does a Healthy Tongue Look Like?healthy tongue

Knowing what a healthy tongue looks like is important. You must pay attention to the following features:

#1 Vascularization

The blood vessels at the root of the tongue must have a vivid color, not to protrude too much and show no signs of swelling. Dark blue veins indicate the presence of certain conditions.

#2 Degree of tongue moisture

A healthy tongue is slightly moist, however, excessive moisture signals irregularities in the body.

#3 Deposits

A healthy tongue does not have a whitish coating or deposits. Slightly visible white deposits are signs of toxin accumulations and excessive consumption of dairy products, while brownish and dark gray spots indicate digestive, renal or hepatic problems.

#4 Shape

The tongue should be malleable and flexible. The surface is smooth, without cracks, bumps or signs of atrophy. A tremor of the tongue, or a tongue that is too rigid or too flaky, is a sign of health problems.

#5 Color

The tongue should have a pink color, without dark or discolored areas. This pigmentation indicates good blood irrigation.

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5168476/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0254627216300231
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237057800_Tongue_Color_Analys

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