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Your Tongue What is it Saying Traditional Chinese Medicine

“Let’s take a look at your tongue.” Have you ever gone for an acupuncture session? Your tongue what is it saying?

This is pretty standard practice with Traditional Chinese Medicine. Your tongue can actually be a helpful tool. For example, a healthy tongue muscle is typically bright pink, moist and has a bit of a shine.

While a pale, discolored tongue could indicate a problem with blood flow and circulation. So how would you know and what to do about it?

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What is the Tongue?

The tongue is a muscular organ in the mouth that has a pink covering of tissue called mucosa. It also has tiny bumps known as papillae that contain thousands of taste buds. Furthermore, it is part of your digestive system.

     It is essential for:

  • Chewing
  • Swallowing
  • Taste
  • Speech

This organ is anchored to your mouth by its webs of tough tissue and its mucosa. Holding your tongue down in the front is a tether called the frenum. In addition, in the back it is anchored to your hyoid bone.

Certainly, you know you taste sweet, sour, bitter and salty. It contains various nerves to aid in detecting and transmitting these taste signals to your brain.

As well as you have seen some food and drinks add color to your tongue. But bacteria as well as some medical issues can also alter the color here.

What is Traditional Chinese Medicine?

Traditional Chinese Medicine (aka Oriental Medicine) consists of:

  • Acupuncture
  • Diet
  • Herbal therapy
  • Meditation
  • Physical exercise
  • Massage
  • Cupping

TCM has been practiced for centuries. It is an ancient system of health and wellness. In other words, western medicine mainly focuses on treatment while TCM observes your entire well-being.

With TCM the aim is in restoring your body’s balance and harmony. This is between yin and yang, the natural opposing forces. Furthermore, these can block qi (energy) and lead to disease.

Why is the Tongue Important in TCM?

The tongue reflects the health of your other organs. In theory TCM is based on all the body’s organs connectively supporting each other. And for one to have optimal health the organs need to locate balance.

Thus, using the tongue for diagnosis in CTM is important. This muscle is connected to your internal organs through the meridians.

    So, it stores information about:

  • Energy
  • Blood
  • Body fluids
  • Degree and progress of disease

What is a Tongue Reading?

Tongue reading is not a new idea as it has been a part of traditional Chinese medicine since ancient times. However, it’s not fully accepted by western medicine. But there are a few studies out supporting its efficacy.

The CTM practitioner observes the tongue color, shape, color coating, thickness and quantity of saliva. All assisting to determine if there is any sickness.

This all sheds light on any health and well-being issues under your skin (so to speak). Because your tongue is the only muscle you have without skin. Further your practitioner gets an idea of your energy levels in your body and if your blood levels are stagnated. That is your chi or qi.

Similar to reflexology there is a whole tongue map with each location linked to a different part of your body. In addition, each area is linked to a diagnosis by its color.

8 Primary Tongue Features

Body Shape

Whether it is small, medium, large or enlarged.

Body Color

For example: pale, pink-red, or red.


If there are any spots, petechiae, teeth marks or fissures.

Tongue Color Blue

Yes or no.

Coating Color

In short, this could be white or yellow.

Coating Thickness

To follow along with TCM you could glance into acupuncture, exercise and food therapies. To sum up these will help move that stagnant energy and get your blood flowing correctly.

Thus peeled, thin or thick.


Likewise dry mouth, normal or wet mouth.

Sublingual Collateral Vessels

For instance, normal or engorged.

It is suggested to check your tongue before brushing your teeth and a half an hour before eating. This can be examined with a mirror while noting its colors, textures, bumps and coatings.

What is Your Tongue Saying?



Pink says it is normal and healthy.


A red tongue could mean there is heat in your body such as fever or a hormonal imbalance.


This colored tongue could mean you have inflammation or an infection somewhere.

Pale Pink

Likewise, a pale pink color could either be a sign of a vitamin deficiency a weak immune system or a lack of energy.

Tongue Coating


A thick coating could indicate you have poor intestinal health and digestive problems.

Thick and White

This coating represents there could be poor circulation to your arms and legs or maybe a yeast infection.

sm dr browngraphics


Yellowish coating in color says there could be an infection in your body.

Gray or Blackish Tongue

Yeah, this is not good. This could be a chronic digestive disorder, or something could be very wrong health wise. Most importantly, it’s a sure sign to see your doctor.

Tongue Shape


If your tongue is puffy and has scalloped edges or indented teeth marks, there may be poor nutrient absorption.


Your tongue could be saying things are dehydrated if it’s thin in shape.

Your Tongue and Circulation

A pale tongue reflects blood flow. As a perfect tongue is that bright pink color, no coat, moist and a bit shiny, a blood deficient tongue will be somewhat paler.

At times it can even look grayish. Just like you might see someone go pale in the face your tongue can have this reaction too. Most importantly this is a lack of blood.

Certainly if you have a pale tongue it’s not defiantly poor blood flow.

However, if you’re noticing sluggish symptoms like:

  • No energy
  • Cold hands
  • Digestive issues

The next step would be for you to visit your physician to sort things out. Tongue reading gives you a sign not a solution. Above all, it can be a first step to identify imbalances in your body. Further it’s your decision to do the work.

To follow along with TCM you could glance into acupuncture, exercise and food therapies. To sum up these will help move that stagnant energy and get your blood flowing correctly.

Your Tongue and Blood Stasis

In TCM blood stasis is essential with connection of pathology. This is characterized as a disorder involving blood circulation.

Most importantly leading to diseases like:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cerebral vascular accidents (stroke)
  • Diabetes

    Blood stasis symptoms:

  • Pain when in fixed position
  • Face is dark purple color
  • Vision darkness
  • Bluish tongue
  • Engorged tongue vessels
  • Petechiae (tiny red dots) tongue

Purple Tongue

If your tongue has a purple or bluish tint this could mean a vitamin deficiency or adrenal gland condition.

A medical emergency, this could also be a sign that there is not enough oxygen in your blood.

Purple Tongue Causes

Your tongue being a purple or blue color could be a sign your body’s tissues aren’t getting enough oxygen.  Likewise, this could be oxygen depleted blood that is darker instead of bright red is traveling through your arteries. Most importantly, this bluish discoloration is known as cyanosis.


Cyanosis could be due to problems affecting your lungs or heart. Therefore, including coronary artery disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). In short, the bluish color could occur in other places as well.

Vitamin B-2 Deficiency

Vitamin B-2 deficiency (aka riboflavin) is a water-soluble vitamin. Your milk and dairy products are a good source. In addition, meat, fish, some fruits and vegetables contain riboflavin.

In western countries this deficiency is pretty rare. When it does happen, it’s connected to other conditions like anemia. To sum up this deficiency can affect your mucus membrane that’s your tongue, leading to swelling and discoloration.

Other signs of a vitamin B-2 deficiency

  • Fatigue
  • Mouth sores
  • Cracked lips
  • Mood changes
  • Skin inflammation


Your tongue and mouth are loaded with many types of bacteria (yes for real). And they’re not all bad because  you actually need some for your oral health.

This depends on the type, certain bacteria with high numbers can cause tongue discoloration. That’s to say a white film coating is common versus purple or other colors on your tongue.

Use your toothbrush or a tongue scraper to take away this harmless coating. Furthermore, this aids to remove and prevent the collection of bacteria, dead cells and other debris.

If you are concerned about any tongue coating, tongue discoloration or any mouth pain it’s time to consult your dentist.

joey-nicotra-Zq90mDUbaxk-unsplash your tongue what is it saying?

Varicose Veins

You can also have these under your tongue. They are called sublingual varices. In short, the color is purple or blue and they can be found along the underside and sides of your tongue.

Often, they occur and become more prominent with age. They are common so they don’t usually cause concern.

Addison’s Disease

Addison’s disease (aka adrenal insufficiency) happens due to your adrenal glands not producing enough cortisol or aldosterone hormones. As a result, this could include a purple tongue. But brown or tan spots are observed more.

   Other symptoms of Addison’s disease    could be:

  • Skin turning darker
  • Very tired
  • Weight loss
Wrapping it up

You could learn a lot from ancient TCM practices and your tongue. If the color of your tongue has changed and you’re not feeling well, you might want to check it out. In addition, everyone’s tongue is not the same there are various shapes, colors and sizes.

No need to compare just stay attuned to any changes. In conclusion this helpful muscle could be telling you something.


Mary is the founder of All About Our Skin. Former esthetician and CPC. Enjoys researching skincare and has been studying our skin for the past fifteen years.

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