Stick that thing out… and take a good look at it in the mirror. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, our tongues may reveal a lot about what’s going on with the rest of our bodies. Consider organs, vital energy, stagnant fluid, and so on. It’s known as tongue mapping.
According to Angela Chau Grey, L.Ac, herbalist and co-founder of Yina, “according to TCM, the tongue reflects the state of the body’s internal organs and overall health.”
“During tongue mapping, the practitioner observes the tongue’s colour, shape, size, coating, and other characteristics,” she continues. They contextualise their results in light of the patient’s symptoms and medical history.
A pale tongue, for example, may indicate a lack of qi (vital energy) or blood, whereas a crimson tongue with a thick coating may indicate an excess of heat and moisture in the body.”
In TCM, dampness generally alludes to health conditions including water retention and phlegm, whereas heat might suggest inflammation, rashes, breakouts, elevated blood pressure, and overall irritation.
Tongue mapping isn’t the sole way of diagnosis in TCM, but it’s a good place to start for the practitioner to figure out what’s wrong with the body and why. “TCM practitioners also check the patient’s pulse and take into account their overall health and symptoms before making a diagnosis and developing a treatment plan,” Angela explains.
So, what are we searching for exactly?
According to Dr Ervina Wu, L.Ac., TCM Dermatologist and co-founder of Yina, because the tongue is considered a mirror of the body’s internal organs, a TCM practitioner will examine for the following:
1. Tongue colour:
A healthy tongue should be pinkish-red. A light or blue tongue may suggest qi deficiency, whereas a darker purple/deeper red tongue indicates stagnation.
2. Tongue shape and size:
A large or puffy tongue may suggest fluid buildup. Teeth marks on the side also suggest qi deficit.
A thick coating on the tongue might suggest moisture or phlegm.
Deep cracks or fissures on the tongue may suggest a yin deficit (YD), which can cause bodily dryness and heat.
A TCM practitioner may pay extra attention to certain places for indicators of organ dysfunction (generic locations are shown in the figure).
So, before you scratch your tongue in the morning, open up and take a closer look the next time you’re feeling weird. You may acquire some insight into which regions of your inner body want treatment!