The tongue is a window into your health. Observing colour, coating, size, shape and other qualities reveals a lot of information to a practitioner about the organs and internal systems of the body, corresponding to physical and emotional symptoms.
An examination of outward signs and symptoms exhibited by the body are routinely used to diagnose disorders and disease. Traditional forms of medicine are no different in this respect. For traditional Chinese medicine this includes tongue diagnosis, and provides the practitioner with vital clues in the diagnostic process.
Modern Western medicine also recognises that the tongue can mirror the relative health or disease of the body. For example vitamin B12 deficiency and hypothyroidism can both be indicated by a swollen tongue. Recent research suggests that the use of tongue diagnosis did not become widespread in western medicine until the C19. In-patient notes from London teaching hospitals show that during the C19 and early C20, doctors carried out a brief examination of the tongue on an routine basis.
So, what are the basic principles of tongue diagnosis within Chinese medicine, and what can it reveal to the practitioner? Tongue diagnosis is an effective diagnostic technique both on its own and in combination with the other techniques available to the acupuncture practitioner. It is very effective at showing the progress of a disease or imbalance over the span of a course of a treatment. Minor changes will also show during a single treatment session. It will also show the depth and nature of the imbalance.
Each of the major organs of the body have a corresponding region or area of the tongue. For example the middle of the tongue corresponds to the stomach and spleen, and the tip of the tongue, to the heart and lung. The characteristics that are taken note of are the coating, the colour, and the shape. A healthy tongue will routinely be pale red in colour, not too fat or thin, have a thin white coat, no cracks, and be slightly moist.
Some simple examples of how the tongue can indicate particular conditions are:
generally deficiencies in qi can show as a pale tongue, and conditions where heat is present are indicated by a red colour or red spots, and or a thick coat, and deficiencies in yin can show as cracks on the tongue together with signs and symptoms such as restless and disturbed sleep and low back pain.
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