Stick that thang out … and look at it closely in the mirror. Traditional Chinese Medicine tells us that our tongues can say a lot about what’s going on with the rest of our bodies. Think: organs, vital energy, stagnated fluid, etc. It’s called tongue mapping.
Angela Chau Gray, L.Ac, herbalist, and co-founder of Yina, states that “according to TCM, the tongue reflects the state of the body’s internal organs and overall health.”
She explains, “During tongue mapping, the practitioner observes the tongue’s color, shape, size, coating, and other characteristics. They interpret their findings in the context of the patient’s symptoms and medical history. For example, a pale tongue may indicate a deficiency of qi (vital energy) or blood, while a red tongue with a thick coating may suggest an excess of heat and dampness in the body.”
Dampness, in TCM, often refers to health issues that include water retention, phlegm, and the like, while heat can indicate inflammation, rashes, breakouts, high blood pressure, and general irritation.
Tongue mapping isn’t the only method of diagnosis in TCM, but it’s a great starting point for the practitioner to determine what is going on in the body and why. “TCM practitioners also check the patient’s pulse and consider their overall health and symptoms before making a diagnosis and creating a treatment plan” Angela says.
So, what exactly are we looking for?
Dr. Ervina Wu, L.Ac., TCM Dermatologist, and co-founder of Yina, tells us that since the tongue is considered a reflection of the body’s internal organs,this is what a TCM practitioner will look for:
1. Color: A healthy tongue should be a pinkish-red color. A pale or bluish tongue may indicate a deficiency of qi, while a darker purple/deeper red tongue is a sign of stagnation.
2. Shape and size: A swollen or puffy tongue may indicate fluid accumulation. Teeth marks at the side indicate qi deficiency as well.
3. Coating: A thick coating on the tongue may indicate the presence of dampness or phlegm.
4. Cracks: Deep cracks or fissures on the tongue may indicate a yin deficiency (YD), which can lead to dryness and heat in the body.
5. Location: A TCM practitioner may pay special attention to certain areas for signs of organ issues (see graphic for general locations).
So the next time you’re feeling off, before you scrape your tongue in the morning, open up and take a closer look. You just might gain a little insight into what areas of your inner body need some attention!
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