Have you ever stuck out your tongue at your doctor? If you see an acupuncturist you will with every treatment. Our patients stick their tongues out at us in order to aid us in coming up with a diagnosis. We are not doing it to be silly we are doing it to find out what is causing you to feel off balance. The tongue is the X-ray machine, or MRI, of a Chinese medicine practitioner. It gives us a very clear insight into the body.
In Chinese Medicine, we use tongue diagnosis every time we see a patient as part of our intake. We look at the tongue’s color, shape, and coating to help come up with a treatment plan. The back of the tongue represents the kidney, urinary bladder and intestines, the middle of the tongue relates to the spleen and stomach, and the sides of the tongue are indicative of the liver and gallbladder. Within each section of the tongue there can be cracks, macules, and papules that help guide the practitioner to treating that specific organ.
The color is important because it helps us figure out what temperature is causing a problem, and if the problem is an excess or a deficiency. It can also tell us if there is any stagnation. Stagnation refers to anything stuck in your body; menstrual blood, muscle pain, or even the feeling of being stuck. A red tongue means there is heat, which is an excess condition. Excess conditions refer to conditions that have too much of one ailment, such as heat. If the tongue is pale there is a deficiency, purple or black there is stagnation.
The shape can also help us confirm the channel that seems to be off balance. If a tongue splits at the tip, it is a heart etiology, which can lead the practitioner to a finding of an emotional disturbance. If it has ridges on the side it is a liver or gallbladder issue, which will make the practitioner think there is some decision that needs to be made in the patient’s life. Gallbladder issues correlate with making decisions in your life. If it is puffy and scalloped it is a spleen issue, which will guide the practitioner to changing the patient’s diet. Another key to helping us better diagnosis is the patient’s coat, which is why we always tell you not to scrape or brush your tongue before you come see us. If there is no coat it can mean heat or a yin deficiency. The dry coat is from lack of fluids in the patient’s body because it has been dried up from the heat. If there is a yellow coat it can mean damp-heat, which is caused from eating too many spicy and or greasy food. A white coat or a slippery coat it can mean dampness, which is a result of poor eating habits.
As patients recover from their ailments there are noticeable changes in their tongues. The color may appear pinker, the coat is fresh, and the cracks, macules, and papules disappear. This does not happen overnight. Chinese Medicine is not always a quick fix, but it is a lasting fix. We have to remember, it can take years for people who abuse their bodies to become unhealthy. It may take years to fix it, but it will be fixed with proper nutrition and lifestyle choices. We just need to make sure we take care of every body part, including our mouths. They are too important to be ignored.