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The Tongue Tells All

May 4, 2010 by  

The Tongue Tells All

The tongue is an amazing body part. It helps us speak, eat, keeps the mouth and lips moist and, by its condition, tells us our state of health. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), examining the tongue is one of the primary diagnostic tools. Yet in Western medicine it is largely ignored, with the physician using a depressor to hold it down to look past the tongue and at the throat.

The tongue offers TCM practitioners an unusual keyhole into which they can learn various things about the state of your organs, blood and interior body. It displays clues on its surface that reflect various things, such as relative degrees of blood movement, qi (energy) strength, dampness, heat, toxicity and so on.

These things manifest on the tongue precisely because the tongue first comes into contact with the food we eat, and this food changes our bodies on daily basis. The tongue, according to TCM theory, is also “the outlet of the heart.” As such the color of the tongue is related to the state of the blood. For example, a pale-colored tongue can indicate a basic blood deficiency or anemia.

When a TCM practitioner examines the tongue they are looking at such things as body color, texture, coating, cracks, lines, teeth marks and relative moisture or lack there of.

Following are examples of 10 different syndromes and the tongues they manifest, what they mean and what symptoms may be present.

Which Tongue Are you?

Normal—A normal tongue is pink in color, is moist, has no deep cracks or lines and perhaps a thin white coat or no coating at all.

Blood Stasis—A person experiencing blood stasis may experience such symptoms as cold limbs, varicose veins, painful legs, headaches, chest pain and liver spots and their skin may lack its normal luster. Their tongue body color will be purple and may have black spots on it.

Blood Deficiency—A person experiencing blood deficiency may experience symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, palpitations, poor concentration and memory, insomnia and women’s health issues. Their tongue will be pale and have very little, if any, coating.

Qi Deficiency—A person who is experiencing qi deficiency may have such symptoms as fatigue, poor appetite, spontaneous sweating, shortness of breath, over-thinking or worrying. Their tongue body will be pale, have a few red dots on it, a thin white coating and have teeth marks on its edges.

Qi Stagnation—A person experiencing qi stagnation may be stressed, have a tendency to be depressed or upset, have a general unstable emotional state and experience premenstrual tension syndrome. Their tongue will have a thin white coating and its tip will be red.

Damp Retention—A person experiencing damp retention may have such symptoms as bloating, feeling of fullness in the chest, abdominal fullness and a feeling of being heavy or lethargic. Their tongue will be pink and swollen and the center will have a greasy white coating.

Heat—A person experiencing heat will feel hot, sweat easily, be thirsty, constipated, irritable, bad tempered and have skin problems. Their tongue body will be red and they will have a thin yellow coating on it.

Damp Heat—A person experiencing damp heat will usually have skin problems, urinary tract infections, clammy skin and be angry and uncomfortable. Their tongue will be red with a greasy yellow coating.

Yang Deficiency—A person with yang deficiency may easily feel cold, tend to need warming up, have a pale complexion, back pain, may panic easily, have low emotional feelings and possibly be impotence or infertile.

Yin Deficiency—A person experiencing a yin deficiency may have hot flashes, night sweats (as in menopause), insomnia, irritability, ringing in the ears and irregular menstruation. Their tongue will be red, have many cracks in it and have little or no coating at all.

Now that you have a basic idea of the ways in which various health issues manifest on your tongue, have a look at it. I examine mine in a mirror every morning to decide how my body is doing and what I should eat for breakfast and lunch.

My tongue tells me a lot about myself. What does yours say about your health?

—Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley

is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. The Wiley Method provides a revolutionary way of providing recovery and prevention of chronic pain, illness and disease. Grab your FREE COPY of Dr. Mark Wiley's "The 3 Secrets to Optimal Health" HERE.

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  • Ginny Bain Allen

    Yes, I concur with Mary Beth, what must I eat to correct each of the tongue problems above?

    • Dr. Mark Wiley

      To again make a point, no one answer or correction is the answer to any health concern. Lifestyles need be addressed for lasting change to take hold. Therefore, dietary changes alone cannot “fix” the ailments or health patterns associated with the tongue topography. Certainly, changes in diet are a part of each issue, but so too are stress, sleep, exercise, mental states, breathing, and so on.

      I am happy to offer natural “prescriptions” for each of the tongue categories as we progress in this column. Within each I will be sure to clearly define the pattern of imbalance and what need be done overall to balance the system and allow health.

  • Truth Offering

    Wow! I thought I was the only one aware of Arnold Ehret! I’m impressed — it does my heart good to know that there are more people in the world that understand how the body truly works and how to properly feed it.

  • Yvonne

    What if you have more than one ‘tongue’? I have a coated tongue and a tongue with cracks?

    • Dr. Mark Wiley

      Good question, Yvonne! This article was a primer on what each segment means unto itself. These pics and descriptions only give the very basics of tongue diagnosis. Indeed, many people have several “tongues” occurring simultaneously. So one might be experiencing damp, qi deficient and yang excess at the same time. This happens when people suffer more than one primary ailment, such as asthma with interior heat and blood deficiency. The less tongue characteristics one has, the healthier they are.

  • Claire

    All I know is that a tongue can get a person into a lot of trouble, if they are not careful!! lol

  • Suma G Nathan

    Thanks to Dr. Wiley, there is more to learn about our body parts, especially the tongues. I diagnose all my clients, and have them send picture of their tonque, if not local. Of course, that’s not the whole show, combinations of Nutritionals, Chinese, Ayurvedic, and possible Rainforest Herbals could also be required. Hurrah for those
    mentioning Ehret Books, Wow!havent heard about them in ages, and I’ve been around for 40yrs in the Holistic field, 29 yrs professionally!
    Suma G Nathan
    Certified Registered Holistic Nutritionist
    Certified Chinese Herbologist

  • John Smith MD

    Pseudoscience and half baked information is detrimental to anyone’s health.Those of you taking advice from “Dr. Mark Wiley” should note that this person IS NOT a physician.Anyone having health questions should go see their family physicians.
    John Smith MD

    • Kgharts

      I am not a doctor. In fact I am rarely a patient. It is not because I don’t have any problems ever, I occasionally do.
      However, just like caring for an infant, you have to be diligent and responsive when your body tells you something. Theres a good reason why your skin itches, or you have a hot flash, or maybe your foot is cramping.

      You have to understand the language of your own body. The earlier you can treat yourself, the easier it will be for you. Too often we either don’t know about such things or we simply ignore the early warnings. Ir takes practice to learn any language. Thats modern life. If the water doesn’t boil itself, we starve, so learn to cook while you still can.

      I believe if you listen and watch closely, your body will tell you something about itself, its control centers, and its general functioning and Health. It is constantly talking to you. Hear it?

      I am not referring just to the fact you have a headache and it hurts. That’s a no-brainer (no pun intended). Often we can miss other cues as to why the headach even got there.

      I believe that the body also has cues, or symptoms that something is wrong in the machinery. Its not rocket science, but common sense. If my car runs out of oil, it will eventully tell me along the way until it freezes up completely. How well I listen and care for it, determines my repair bill.

      For instance, how have you been sitting lately, or how are your bowels. Hows life in general. Stressed? All these things and more can cause headaches.
      Your skin will get “sick” if you have jaundice. You will see bags under your eyes if you can’t sleep. Your joints will ache if you over work them.

      Your skin doesn’t have jaundice, you do. But it is showing something is wrong like a plant if its not watered or over watered.
      Fix whats wrong and the symptom goes away.The joint being overworked is telling you something before it collapses entirely. So listening to and watching your body is very important.

      So now the question: Why can’t the tougue, as sensitive an organ as it is, be an indicator of something in your body. Like a headache tells you your spine is out of aleignment and is pinching a nerve, causing the muscle to contract, and affecting the rest of the body, which can show up, guess where?… in the tongue.

      I once read where your organs are kept alive by nerve impulse electrical energy. If a nerve gets pinched, that organ it feeds could get sick and die, even killing you, such asthe liver. etc. If something stops functioning well, it can affect everywhere else. And when you die, your tongue dies with you.

      I know if I was being dragged under, I would scream as loud as I could. Whats to say the tougue can’t have the same idea. Whats to say the tougue can’t be the reader board for such ailments. A message board to tell you something is wrong.

      If you want to get into voodoo, chi, yings and yangs, yogi, or kuma sutras,and put intellectual or religious, trendy, even scientific names on everything, that’s ok. Whatever works for you. I personally like TEA therapy at times, and asprin,or a strong drink or two at other times.

      Thats a lot like the various religions of the world. They all have a common thread of truth. Pick one.

      Just as in the body, they are all telling you something about your world (body)and you must try something as a response (diagnosis and cure), or you will not go to heaven, not get the 70 virgins, not have redemption,not have peace (a cure), etc

      There are many recipes for making a cassarole. But in the end, its still a cassarole and everyone fed. The uniqueness is only in the way you make it. But all paths eventually wind up at the table. If it tastes good (cures)everyone is happy.

      This is short, hope you can read between the lines and that it is helpful. Its my way of looking at things.

  • http://PersonalLibertyDigest Mary Beth Hendricks

    Now that I know what kind of tongue I have, how do I take care of the problems? Thank you very much!

  • John Johnston

    Arnold Ehret has much to say about observing the tongue during fasting in his books “Rational Fasting” and “The Mucousles Diet Healing System” Both books are available online and cost the same ($4.95) as they did thirty-five years ago.

  • Kim

    Thanks Sooo Much
    I found this informative, enlightening and I just giggled at new bits of medical reality that with wonderment I never even knew to consider.
    Praises, Kim Mack

  • Dr. Mark Wiley

    I love Dr. Ehret’s books. Everyone should read them :)

  • Ellen

    This was very interesting! I have wondered about dark, black, lip’s and when one speacks it is like a dark hole with white teeth talking? Am I dingy or has anyone else questioned this?

  • Bob Williams

    Good Morning,

    My wife has a continuing cough during her waking hours. No coughing during sleep, maybe just 1 or 2% while sleeping. In the past, she had an electrical problem with her heart but had it corrected a couple years ago so they said.

    Do you have any suggestions or comments?

    Thank You,



  • Amy

    OMgsh– my husband has lines and cracks on his tongue like CRAZY. He complains of the ringing in his ears, but as far at the other symptoms under the “yin” what is applicable to men?

  • TexasCook

    Dr. Wiley,

    Thank you for this enlightening article. My acupuncturist always looks at my tongue before he does anything and I always wondered what he was looking for.
    Nails are also indicative of internal health. Can you elaborate on that in a future article?

  • http://donthaveone Beberoni

    If the tongue is forked, its a democrat.

  • jo tarantino

    Dr. Chi in anaheim, California has a newsletter and has much information. He also is at the Cancer Control Convention in September every year. Go online for the Cancer Control organization and speak with Lorraine Rosenthal. Very informative.

  • Dr. Mark Wiley

    “Taking care” of any health issue, even those related to tongue, require a lifestyle approach. There is no quick-fix that will last. Use this article as a “finger pointing to the issue” that leads you in the direction of where to look for “correction.”

    I will be writing articles on each issue the tongue shows, as we go. In the meantime, do an online search for the pattern your tongue shows, such as “qi stagnation” or “yang deficiency”, etc. This will help you along the way :)

  • sue

    What good is this article. It tells you how to determine what is wrong with absolutely on advice, or even where to find advice, on what to do about the problem. If I can’t fix it, I’d rather not know. Useless….

  • Winston on Truth

    Psalms 12:3 “May the LORD cut off all flattering lips, [And] the tongue that speaks proud things,”

    Psalms 34:13 “Keep your tongue from evil, And your lips from speaking deceit.”

  • TIME

    You mean a Politician thats a Democrat right.

  • Delores Smith

    That’s great, Beberoni!!!
    Delores Smith

  • Fed Up Gal in NM

    LoLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL! You sure are quick on your feet, Beberoni. Some might say you are a humormeister….(that’s a compliment, in case it doesn’t sound like it).

  • Chaos Factor

    And if your heads empty and pointed you’re a Beberoni

  • Char

    The tongue is the only thing that cannot be tamed, Jame 3:8 In spite of this scripture, this information is very useful, thank you

  • Bob Livingston

    Dear Sue,
    Sorry you don’t find this article helpful. It is educational in nature and Dr. Wiley says he will write more on this subject in the future. So stay tuned… Meanwhile, you can do a little research on your own, if you so choose.
    Best wishes,

  • Dr. Mark Wiley

    Greetings, Sue. My articles are meant to offer paradigms of health and patterns of disharmony that cause ill health. I hope to inspire people to an open mind and to conduct more research on their own, as a particular article or information inspires them to do so.

    While it is impossible in these short articles to offer each concern and curatives for each of them, each week, their is sufficient information from which to pursue a basic web search on the topics. For instance, if your tongue shows “qi deficient” then a simple web search of that term will yield an abundance of information on that topic.

    Since not everyone has the same issues, I try to present the overview and lead readers to seek more on their own. Additionally, I plan to write on all of these issues in detail over time. If only time could be compressed :)

    Keep an eye open, more is coming!

  • Delores Smith

    Dr. Mark Wiley,
    Great article about the tongue. Thank you.
    Delores Smith

  • Beverly

    Do the lips fit into this in any way? I have suffered with cracked lips (not the corners) for several years – I try everything from vaseline to every lip balm known to man but still have lips that looked like I just crawled off the desert. I’ve tried different vitamins and minerals but maybe I didn’t try them long enough or in strong enough dosages. I have increased my water intake which helps none. Anybody have a suggestion?

  • ann lawler

    In medicine the tongue shows many signs and symptoms of specific illnesses. Thanks for an excellent article.

  • BOE

    LOL Ellen too funny! I know what you are saying and have wondered too!!

  • BOE

    Go get tested for Sjorgrens disorder. An autoimmune disorder that causes dry mouth,eyes,hair and skin. See you family doctor and they may refer you to rheuma. doctor

  • Mustafa

    I found the article very interesting. My wife suffers from “ulcers” on her tongue. She took some medication briefly that was prescribed by our dentist but it did not work. Between the dentist and the primary care physician, no one knows what it is. Thank you for this article. Now we can gat a clue as to what is ailing her.

  • b

    Dr. Smith: Pseudomedicine is everywhere and it is the top killer of people ! Wholistic medicine does what so called doctors cannot or will not ! Do you know anything positive about the use of iodine ? No ? I thought Not !!

  • Kgharts

    ” John Smith MD says:
    May 6, 2010 at 3:45 pm
    Pseudoscience and half baked information is detrimental to anyone’s health.Those of you taking advice from “Dr. Mark Wiley” should note that this person IS NOT a physician.Anyone having health questions should go see their family physicians.
    John Smith MD ”

    As with anything, Pseudo-anything, and half-baked anything is not a good thing. We want the real thing. We agree on this. So to be diligent and wary is an essence of living.

    Well, Dr. Smith, MD, I have seen many doctors who are not worth the paper on their degree. Some are assembly line quacks, such as my Ex’s Gynocologist. He often would cure nothing. I insisted she change doctors. I have as much faith in a “doctors” talents as any other person, in any other profession, including my own. I suggest you do the same.

    My mother, who owned a hair salon, was knowledgeable about her medicine as her own heart doctor, though not the extensive surgical training. When she would go see him, he had the good sense to listen to her. He had no professional ego to stroke. Often, all she needed him for was a signature and a second opinion and things only another person could do, like a heart bypass. They had a good relationship, and she was healthier for it.

    I am not glossed over by professional dogma, or bias. I will take advice from her before I would a “real” doctor, and knows her stuff and her limitations, because she has seen the down side of your professionals.

    Like taking out the wrong tooth. The bad one was on the other side. He took out a healthy tooth. If I am not mistaken, DDS after a name means “doctor”, with a degree.
    No, your profession is just as riff with holes as any other. There are some good ones and some bad ones. Often a homeowner can fix his plumbing better that what the plumber costs. My mother was also without a Medical Degree or tiled “MD”. But after raising 4 children and surviving multiple ailments, she knew her stuff well enough for me to know she was rarely wrong. she often used “traditional” medicine, like plants for a burn, or tobacco to a bee sting. Many “certified” doctors would have me put unnatural things on these items.

    Many doctors are not taught ancient medicine practice that has worked well through the ages, and that won’t cause your liver to convulse from all the modern pharmacuticals. Many are taught pharmacuticals by the very people who make the pills. And I want to trust this person?

    I do not wish to be antagonistic, but your reliance on a “certified” doctor and credentials misses the whole point. I can cure many things myself in a matter of days, where a “certified” MD would look me over, give me a few pills to TRY, and take my money.

    Not to say, that modern medicine doesn’t have its good points. Indeed, we have kept many criminals, terrorists, and perverts alive, only to prosecute them later in a court of law, just before we hang them.

    But there are good stories as well. I don’t want to miss that point. Like savings infants from terrible diseases. I myself was “cured” of Polio as a child in the early ’50′s. So I know the valuable contributions of modern medicine.

    However, I also know that there are bonified ways people can use other methods and cures…. Its not a black and white modern world as taught in medical schools. There were physicians long before the modern MD, and many things still work.

    Ever hear the saying “You go to a hospital to die”? Wonder why that saying ever came about. Think there is any truth in it?

    If you kept the window open all the time, it would give the aroma of “Spring and Summer” to enter into your practice. By your comment, you currently have only the Fall, and possibly the Winter.

    If “Dr” Wiley wants to call himself a doctor, why not. Many who are “certified” physicians don’t deserve as much. Many are quacks and run out of States. Everything from molestation to butchery. A title of “Dr” is just a buyer beware notice, just like anyone who can play a guitar is a great musical talent.

  • libertytrain

    Kgharts – he has earned the Doctor title – he has his Doctorate in an amazing field of medicine that is giving us all insight into how to help ourselves first and be aware as you have become. The other “doctor” apparently has a problem with that.

  • Joel H

    A tongue with cracks in it is quite normal. Mine has had fairly deep cracks since birth and I’m 80 now and have never had a physical problem with it. My old timey doctor told me they are referred to as a “map” tongue due to the somewhat map appearance. More people have them than you would expect.

    Mine gets a little out of control once in a while if I get riled.


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