In Chinese Medicine it is considered that any part of the body may carry the traces of events occurring throughout the whole body. The tongue is considered to be one of the parts of the body that especially reflects events occurring elsewhere.

The tongue is considered the offshoot of the Heart. The aspect of taste with the tongue is related to the Spleen (best seen as pancreas in Western Medicine). Since the Heart is considered in Chinese medicine to be master of the whole body while the Spleen regulates the movement of energies around the whole body via the digestive process, the tongue is therefore considered an important diagnostic tool. Some different health conditions can produce the same signs on the tongue and you can’t diagnose the state of a person’s health purely by the appearance of their tongue. It is important to use your tongue analysis in combination with other diagnostic tools such as pathology tests, radiology tests, iridology and the all-important case history taken from the patient.



There are three main characteristics to take into consideration when examining the tongue with these being the shape and appearance of the tongue, the actual body of the tongue and any coatings on the tongue. The tongue body colour of a healthy person should be pale red, the shape supple, with a uniform surface that is not cracked. The moss or coating on the tongue should be a thin yellowish or white colour, indicative of life in the functions of the stomach. In illness there is a change in the characteristic of the fur and the body of the tongue. A lack of coating indicates a deficient condition of the stomach. Food, drink and medication can change the colour of the tongue or it’s coating so ensure you haven’t eaten or drunk anything other than water within half an hour of looking at your tongue!

In Chinese medicine, different areas of the tongue refer to different organs of the body as follows:

  • The anterior third relates to the Heart and Lung
  • The middle third relates to the Spleen and Stomach
  • The posterior third relates to the Kidney
  • The edges relate to the Liver and Gallbladder


Yellow coating on a tongue indicates heat so I firstly think Liver because liver is fire in chinese medicine . I would consider using herbs such as golden seal (Hydrastis canadensis), echinacea (Echinacea spp.), gentian ( Gentiana lutea) and baptisia ( Baptisia tinctoria) that look at reducing fever and inflammation as well as supporting the immune system.

White coating on a tongue indicates cold so I would consider using herbs that improve circulation and are warming such as cinnamon ( Cinnamomum zeylanicum), ginger ( Zingiber officinale) and capsicum (Capsicum spp.)  It is also important to note that a heavy white coating on a tongue can be a sign of internal candida especially if it has only become noticeable following a course of antibiotics or use of a Ventolin spray which is why it is important to rinse your mouth after using your Ventolin spray. 

A “dirty” tongue coating whether it be dirty-white, dirty yellow, dirty-grey or dirty-brown, indicates blood sepsis and the need for me to prescribe immune enhancing remedies to try and purify the blood. My first choices would include echinacea (Echinacea spp.), garlic (Allium sativum), golden seal ( Hydrastis canadensis) and picrorrhiza (Picrorrhiza kuroa).


Pale tongue colour indicates lack of energy and blood so herbs such as withania (Withania somnifera) which will help with your adrenalin and is rich in iron are indicated. Other good herbs to consider are panax ginseng (Panax ginseng)and don quai (Angelica sinensis).

Scarlet tongue is much darker than red and indicates a need for acid with the best choices being  apple cider vinegar and hydrochloric acid to aid digestion.  A scarlet tongue indicates excessive internal heat and such the herbs of choice would be cooling and aid digestion, such as Baptisia (Baptisia tinctoria) and Gentian (Gentiana lutea).

Thin-white and wet tongues indicate that the person has an over-acid gut and as such the best herb to “cool” it down is meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria).


Quivering tongue that moves or "quivers" and doesn't stay still when stuck out is a good sign that a person is lacking Magnesium.  Often their pupil will show a lot of movement also when I do an Iridology examination on the person. 

Long, skinny or a "kiss" tongue as we referred to it as when I was going through college because it reminded us of Gene Simmons from the band Kiss, can be a sign that this person may benefit from taking some Silica but it would be best left to a practitioner to decide as there would need to be other factors taken into consideration. 

Shiny, uncoated tongues are a sign of lack of digestive capacity and as such I would prescribe herbs to improve the structure and function of the gut resulting in improvement of digestion of food. The best herbs to consider would include licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)and elecampane (Inula helenium)


Tooth marked (scalloped) tongues where the edge of the tongue is indented with tooth marks is a sign of an underactive digestive system particularly involving the pancreas, You would therefor choose herbs to stimulate appetite and improve digestion such as barberry (Berberis aquifolium) or even ginger (Zingiber officinale)

Swollen sides to the tongue in a long thin strip running the entire length (and NOT swelling inwards towards the middle) and usually red or purple in appearance, indicates liver fire.  The person will usually present with symptoms of headache, constipation, red eyes and irritability.  The liver herbs of choice are St Mary's Thistle (Silybum marianum) and Bupleurum Bupleurum falcatum) to improve structure and function of the liver.


 Cracks resembling ice flows are commonly found amongst the elderly and can be just a sign of ageing.  These cracks are really of no significance if the tongue is of normal colour.  If however the tongue is also red and has no coating then the person will commonly be presenting to me with symptoms of joint aches, night sweats and menopausal symptoms in females.  Don quai (Angelica sinensis), withania (Withania somnifera) and astragalis (Astragalus membranaceus) would  be my therapeutic herbs of choice.

 Tranverse lines on sides of tongue are commonly seen in a person who presents to me with symptoms such as general tiredness, muscular weakness, abdominal bloating, fluid retention and loose stools and my herbs of choice would include hawthorn (Crataegus oxycantha)and Zizyphus (Zizyphus spinosa)

 Long central crack extending to or just short of the tip always relates to the Heart.  Generally the deeper the crack and the redder the tongue colour, the more serious the problem.  Where the tongue colour is normal, the crack indicates a slight constitutional weakness of the heart. Hawthorn (Crataegus spp.) is the most common herb used for heart.  Where the tongue is red and the tip redder still, this is a sign of heart fire usually caused by deep emotional problems and I would include the herbs Rehmannia (Rehmannia glutinosa) or Valerian (Valeriana officinalis) when making a herbal remedy.  A person who has this long crack may also respond well to supplementation with the mineral Calcium fluoride.


It is important to note that tongue diagnosis just like iridology, can be a sign of things that have happened in your past or an indicator of organ weakness in your future, but not necessarily happening now.  While it is very interesting, don't get too hung up on it and it is best to leave it up to your practitioner for the final word.


Date posted: 2014-03-02 | posted by: debras

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