Often, as a degree qualified acupuncturist, I ask to look at your tongue to help me diagnose and therefore decide which points to use.
I am looking at 4 things when I look at your tongue:
- the tongue body colour
- the body shape
- the coating on the tongue
- the moisture of the tongue
All these help us with working out where your signs and symptoms come from.
The ‘Normal’ Tongue
This is where I love Chinese medicine: everything is relative to you (the person being examined/treated) and as such individual differences are accounted for: for example, when considering size its not about a measurement (5cm or whatever) but how it fits in your body i.e. is it proportionate? we also consider thing like tooth marks, suggestions of swelling in the tongue.
The normal tongue should be ‘neither too small, nor too big’, ‘it should be pink in colour, but not too pale or red’, there should be a thin white coat that covers the majority of the body and there should be a ‘healthy lustre’.
Things we have to consider that effect the look of the tongue – have you just had a hot drink (turns tongue red), milky drinks give a coating, a sweetie, beetroot, blackcurrent juice etc all change the colour. Do you brush your tongue – then the coating is effected. So if I ever ask for any of the above its because your tongue isn’t matching your symptoms. In 14 years of looking at tongues almost daily – I have NEVER seen food (people often seem worried about that!).
This form of diagnosis is not done in isolation: I also ask you lots of questions (bowel habits, type of pain, history of problems you’ve had, sleep habits, your diet and so fourth. I also often palpate an area, especially in pain and also often use the pulse to help supplement also – I am also looking at your face/skin tone, listening to your voice, looking at your eyes, nails & body shape. The combination of ALL these things helps me create a pattern of diagnosis that then helps me select from the 1000 plus points I have in addition to the appropriateness of the other tools at my disposal – massage, electro acupuncture, moxibustion treatment.
The Tongue in Disease:
The image here gives a great example of different types of tongue and what that means.
For example, Blood deficiency in TCM (which doesn’t just include anaemia) is evidenced on the tongue by its pale colour. This would manifest, depending on severity with symptoms such as dizziness, numbness/tingling of the limbs, poor memory, blurry vision (especially when tired), insomnia (frequent/early waking) and anxiety.
Damp heat is a common occurrence in Scotland – we have a very damp climate and in addition our modern diet, with all its fried, rich foods, dairy & wheat dependence make us very prone to damp. This can manifest in may ways: weight gain, sluggishness, fuzzy brain – inability to concentrate, PCOS, sense of heaviness, swelling
What does your t0ngue say about you???