When we go to a traditional Western medicine practitioner, we are used to hearing, “Stick out your tongue and say, ‘Aaahhhh.’” When we do this, the doctor is looking at the tonsils and the throat and pretty much ignoring the tongue. In fact, he or she might even be mashing it down with a tongue depressor. When your acupuncture practitioner asks you to stick out your tongue, it is for a totally different reason. He or she wants to actually look at your tongue. It may seem like an odd request, but in traditional Chinese medicine, a practitioner can find out a great deal of information about the state of your health just by looking at your tongue.
TCM Tongue Diagnosis
So why does your acupuncturist want to look at your tongue? Your tongue is more than just this thing in your mouth. It is a highly sensitive organ. It allows you to taste and swallow your food and to articulate your conversation. As a result, it has a very high number of nerves and blood vessels. Since your tongue plays such an important role and is highly connected to your body, the characteristics of your tongue can indicate changes or issues in your body as a whole. A trained practitioner of Chinese medicine, such as your acupuncturist, can read many important details about the state of your health from your tongue.
So, at what exactly are they looking for? There are several tongue indicators that reflect the health of your body. First, they look at the size and shape of your tongue. For example, a puffy tongue may indicate excess fluids in the body whereas a small tongue may indicate a deficiency of fluids. The color of the tongue indicates the presence of heat or cold in the body, hence the origin of the accurate old wives’ tale about telling fever by a bright red tongue. The coating of the tongue also gives clues to your practitioner about the state of your health. The Chinese medicine practitioner will also find clues in the movement of your tongue.
Another way Chinese medicine practitioners evaluate your tongue is regional analysis. The different regions, or areas, of your tongue, correspond to the health of different regions and systems of your body. The first area is the tip of your tongue, which corresponds to your heart and small intestines. Right behind the tip is the area that corresponds with the respiratory and immune systems. This is the first area that will show signs when you are fighting off an infection. The next area is the center of the tongue, which corresponds to the stomach, pancreas, and spleen. Digestive issues such as GERD (acid reflux) will show up in this area. The sides of your tongue correspond to the liver network, an essential network in ridding your body of toxins. The last area is the back of your tongue, which corresponds with the kidney-bladder network, which includes the hormonal system.
Do you think looking at your tongue to determine your health seems silly? Western medicine is beginning to research the tongue diagnosis idea of Chinese medicine. While much of this research is not yet complete, it is starting to show good results that, indeed, the tongue can be an indicator of many health conditions. Tongue diagnosis is an important part of diagnosis in traditional Chinese medicine, but a good practitioner will confirm those observations by using indicators from many different areas.
Are you interested in finding out what your tongue says about the state of your body and health? Dr. Tony Willcox of Acupuncture Zen in Delray, Florida can assess your tongue and other indicators to develop an acupuncture treatment plan that will be uniquely suited to your body’s health needs.