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How Healthy Are You? What Your Tongue Says

April 10, 2013

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What can you tell about your health just by looking at your tongue? According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, the tongue rarely lies about your state of health.

Your tongue tells the tale of whether your innermost tissues, blood and fluids are healthy or harboring pathogens. Acupuncturists look at their patients’ tongues to get a good idea of whether there are excesses or deficiencies in strength of the qi, blood, and other body fluids. Along with a pulse and overall visual diagnosis, and discussing symptoms with the patient, the acupuncturist can know which organ systems need to be balanced through needling.

Different areas of the tongue also map to different organs and systems, so discoloration in one area can indicate deficiency in a specific area of the body. For example, redness near the tip can mean heart issues or inflammation. A thick, white coating near the back can mean sluggish digestion and toxins in the colon.

In a tongue diagnosis, the shape, color, coating, and movement are observed to understand what’s going on in the body. Signs of good health are a pale red tongue with a thin and white coating that is moist, but not too wet looking.

Here are some common symptoms and their meaning:

Size and shape

  • Large and puffy or scalloped: damp heat, excess fluids
  • Small and short: dryness, deficiency in fluids


  • Red: excess heat
  • Pale: deficiency in qi and blood
  • Purple: stagnant qi


  • Thick: excess heat
  • Yellow and thick: damp heat
  • Dry and yellow: excess heat
  • Peeled or absent: deficient yin

Many common problems that show up on your tongue can be remedied by going back to the basics of healthy living – drinking water, getting more sleep, reducing stress, exercising more, and eating more plant foods. For deeper excesses or deficiencies, you can work with a health practitioner, and learn and stay accountable with your Health Coach.

What does your tongue tell you about your health?