Go ahead, stick your tongue out at me. I won’t be offended. Didn’t brush your tongue? Even better.
A patient’s tongue doesn’t lie; it provides valuable clues to internal health and is an important part of the physical exam in Chinese Medicine.
The tongue, like the ear, is a map of sorts to the body, as well as the only muscle of the body you can actually see. The front of the tongue represents the upper jiao, or the upper third portion of the body from the chest up. The middle of the tongue tells about the status of the internal organs, and the back third of the tongue corresponds to the pelvic region, or lower jiao. By looking at the color of the tongue, its shape, size, the coat and any markings on the tongue, an acupuncture physician can assess or confirm diagnostic signs or symptoms in a patient.
Stressed out and anxious? The tip of your tongue may be red and pointed. Is your tongue scalloped on the sides? You may be worrying too much and clenching your teeth.
In Chinese Medicine, an acupuncturist likes to see a thin white coat on a healthy pink tongue. A thicker coat can indicate problems with Phlegm (a type of pathogenic factor in Chinese Medicine) and no coat can indicate Yin Deficiency (a term that loosely translates to a lack of bodily fluids). A pale tongue can indicate Blood Deficiency (which is similar to, but not exactly like anemia in western medical terms) and a red tongue can indicate that Heat (our term for inflammation) is present.
A popular health clue circulated on the Internet reminds people to look for a deviated tongue as a possible sign of stroke. This can be a powerful clue when combined with other signs of stroke such as slurred speech or one-sided paralysis, but it’s not the only reason for a deviated tongue. I used to freak out my classmates whenever they looked at my tongue. The minute I stuck out my tongue, the next question they asked was about history of strokes. Nope. One of the side effects of TMJ for me is a deviated tongue, and when I get regular massage on my neck, scalp and jaw, it straightens out temporarily. So even in tongue diagnosis, there are no absolutes. But it is a good baseline indicator of health.
If you are wondering what your body is up to on the inside, stick your tongue out and just look in the mirror.
Nicole Noles Collins is a licensed acupuncture physician and massage therapist at Vitalichi Acupuncture in Port Charlotte, Florida. Nicole has two bachelor’s degrees – Alternative Medicine and Professional Health Sciences – as well as a master’s degree in Traditional Chinese Medicine. She has a passion for both writing and natural health. Please visit her website at www.pcacupuncture.abmp.com and like her Facebook page at Vitalichi Acupuncture. For more information, call 941-979-9793.