What’s in a Tongue?

If you have never had acupuncture before, you might be a little startled when I ask to see your tongue as part of the intake process. There’s no need to be shy because there is a lot of information in the tongue! The tongue is a key aspect in diagnosis in Chinese Medicine. It is like a map that reflects the state of qi, yin, yang, blood and body fluids throughout the entire body. There are three main things I’m looking at when I ask to see your tongue:


  1. The Tongue-Body Shape
  2. The Tongue-Body Color
  3. The Coating on the Tongue


Tongue-Body Shape:

  • “Swollen” in certain areas or overall (it’s swollen relatively speaking and this type of “swelling” wouldn’t be recognized in Western Medicine): This may indicate damp accumulation or a weakness in the digestive system
  • Thin: This may indicate deficiency of blood or other body fluids

Tongue-Body Color:

  • Pale: May indicate blood deficiency or yang deficiency
  • “Too Red”: Indicates heat or if dark-red indicates blood stagnation and heat
  • Purple: Indicates blood stagnation

Tongue Coating:

  • White: Cold in the system
  • Yellow: Heat in the system
  • Thick or thin: Thin is a more superficial issue, thick is a deeper issue and may be an indication of “dampness”
  • “Greasy”: Indicates an accumulation of fluids or “dampness”
  • Dry: May indicated blood or body fluid deficiency

The tongue-body shape and color and the coating on the tongue may further reveal the organs or meridians that are potentially involved in the pattern diagnosis. The tongue-body is separated in to sections, each section corresponding to an energetic organ or meridian. Using this map, I can determine where some pathology or blockages may be in the body using the aforementioned indications.


For example, a red tongue-tip indicates heat (redness) in the Heart (tip of tongue). Which does not mean anything is wrong with your anatomical heart. It simply means that there may be some pathology residing in the heart meridian. This “Heart Heat” will often result in anxiety, insomnia or other emotional issues.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Stay Connected

Subscribe for news, events, and special offers!

Scroll to Top