Tongue Diagnosis

Cherry Blossoms

“Why do you look at my tongue?” I always get this question when I ask my patients to stick out their tongue during their first acupuncture session. Surprisingly, examining the tongue is one of the principal diagnostic methods in Chinese medicine. Your tongue reveals a complete picture of your internal body conditions.So what do I look at when I examine your tongue? 

The Importance of Your Tongue’s Color

Firstly, I look at the color of your tongue. A healthy tongue is fresh pink, or light pink, in color. If your tongue is pale, bright red or purple, then chances are that there is some imbalance or stagnation within your body. 

What The Shape of Your Tongue Tells Us

Secondly, I look at the shape of your tongue. Is it small, puffy, or enlarged? If you have a slender body type, it could be normal that your tongue is small. If your tongue is enlarged, it usually means there is some deficiency within your internal organ system. For some people, their tongue is so enlarged that their teeth get in the way of their tongue and leave marks. If this is you, most likely you feel fatigued quite easily.

What Tongue Features Tell Us About Your Health

Thirdly, I look at the features on your tongue. Is there a crack in your tongue? Do I see speckles or ulcers? A lot of patients that just had covid would see a change in features of their tongues. Some develop speckles and some get ulcers. 

Lastly, I look at the coating of your tongue. A healthy tongue should have a rooted light white coating. Some people either have too much coating, while others have no coating at all. Some coating changes from a thin white coating to a yellow coating. Both imply an underlying health concern according to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). 

The Map of The Tongue

In TCM tongue diagnosis, there is a map of the tongue which helps your acupuncturist diagnose which part of the body has an imbalance – and how best to treat that particular issue. It’s important to note that what we mean here are Chinese medicine organ systems, which is different from biomedicine. So please don’t think that you have an actual organ disorder.

To be specific, the very tip of the tongue relates to the Heart. The small area behind the tip maps the lung. Spleen and stomach is reflected in the middle of the tongue. The side of your tongue is where liver and gallbladder system disorders manifest. Lastly, the root of the tongue relates to the Kidneys, bladder, and intestines. 

Again, the organ name we use here refers to the organ systems in Traditional Chinese medicine. It is different from biomedicine organs. If you are unsure about it, please speak to your acupuncturist about your concerns.

TCM Tongue Diagnosis chart
Tongue Diagnosis chart

You Deserve to Feel Better

As you can see, there are many tools we can use to diagnose and treat a variety of conditions, including tongue diagnosis! Your acupuncturist will use pulse and tongue diagnosis along with your medical history and current symptoms to create a customized plan for you because you definitely deserve to feel better. 

To get started, head to our booking page and schedule your first appointment. If you’d like us to check your insurance benefits, we’d be happy to take care of that for you. We are in-network with CareFirst/BlueCross, Aetna, and the VA Community Choice Network.

About the Author

Qianlei Li, MSOM, Dipl.O.M., L.Ac.
Former Associate Acupuncturist at Cherry Blossom Healing Arts

Hi! I’m Qianlei. Born and raised in China, I grew up seeing the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). I moved to the States in 2013 with the mission to let more people know the power of TCM.

Cherry Blossom Healing Arts
Cherry Blossom Healing Arts - logo
Open 7 days a week:
Mon 10:45 am – 8:00 pm
Tue 10:45 am – 8:00 pm
Wed 9:00 am – 8:00 pm
Thu 9:45 am – 8:00 pm
Fri 8:15 am – 5:15 pm
Sat 8:15 am – 5:15 pm
Sun 9:45 am – 7:00 pm

2639 Connecticut Ave NW
Suite C-101
Washington, DC 20008
Get Directions