What’s your Tongue sign?

tcm tongue diagnosis


When you usually go to a Western doctor, they ask you to “Ah” and they’ll check your tonsils,whether they are red and inflammed.

But, at a TCM clinic, your practitioner will ask you to “Bleh” and stick out your tongue. Why?

What’s so magical about my tongue? They don’t shine bright like a diamond.

It’s because this lets your physician take a peek into the secrets of your internal organs.

Today I will share with you:

  • Why your physician is so interested in your tongue.

  • Different types of tongue body colour

  • Different types of tongue coat colour

  • Various tongue coat designs

  • The Tongue-pedia – What’s your tongue sign?

So,don’t get tongue tied when TCM physician ask you to “Bleh”.


If you use snapchat dog filter, you’ve probably nailed that art of sticking your tongue out.

Tongue diagnosis is  one of the diagnostic methods in TCM. It is a powerful means by which the practitioner can scan and map out and locate which organ is affected. Tasty!

The tongue is not only used to taste and talk. It has many relationships and connections in the body – both the meridians (energy highways) and your internal organs.The main organ associated with the tongue is the Heart.  That is why it is said that “The tongue is the flower of your Heart.”  


During that tongue teaser, physician will mainly look at your tongue colour and coat.

Tongue coat refers to the layer of “fur” or “moss” over the tongue surface.

Other observation such as size (fat/thin), movement (rigid/free), blood vessel under the tongue, cracks, teeth marks, pricks,spots and dots are also taken into consideration.

Just like the face, different parts of the tongue reflects different organs, like a map.

The tip of the tongue reflects the heart and lungs; the middle part, the spleen and stomach; its root, the kidneys; and both sides of the tongue, liver and gall-bladder.

A normal tongue sign is proper size (not swollen or flaccid), soft (not rigid), can move freely, should be still and not trembling or fidgeting or deviated to one side. It is  pale red in color and with a thin layer of white coating which is neither dry nor overly moist.


Before you check your tongue, you just need to be aware of a few things.


Sunlight will give the most accurate color. If natural lighting is not available, see under white light.



First, you need to relax.The tongue should not be held out longer than 20 seconds at a time as the color changes quickly. If you need to see longer, close your mouth and stick your tongue out again.


Food and Drink

Food and drink, such as coffee, green tea, and candy may alter the color of the tongue coating.
Milk, ice cream, soymilk can make your coat whiter. Some medication (antibiotics ) can cause a dark tongue coat too.

Brushed Tongue

I’m sure some of you brush your tongue to freshen your breath. If you have just done it before seeing your practitioner, do let him/her know. Otherwise, don’t brush your tongue one day before the day of tongue diagnosis.



In the elderly, Qi and Blood Deficiency is more common, so the tongue may present with dryness and cracks.Infants tend to have white thick coating that is easily removed (from milk as well).


Body size

Overweight patients usually have more Damp and/or Phlegm so their tongue may be larger and have thicker moist coat. Thin patients tend towards redder tongues.


The tongue body shows the state of Blood, Yin organs, and Ying (Nutritive) Qi.

Pink  Tongue Body
Perfectly normal! #yay


Purple Tongue Body
Blood stagnation. The slower the Blood moves, the more depleted of oxygen it will become, giving rise to a tendency toward the blue color. Purple is a transitory color between pink and blue.


Blue-ish Purple Tongue Body
Blood stagnation with Cold accumulation. Cold usually constricts the blood vessels which impedes movement causing Blood stagnation and low oxygen delivery to the tongue.


Red Tongue Body

Usually indicates heat.  Heat accelerates and expands movement of Blood which fills tongue with more red color.

  • If it’s with yellow coat = Excess heat  (Usually feel hot and sweaty, thirsty, constipated)

  • If it’s with think or scanty coat = Deficient heat ( Usually have hot flushes, heaty palms and feet and sweat at night)


Scarlet Tongue Body

Nothing to do with Scarlet Johanson. This type of tongue is peeled and shiny. It indicates Yin deficiency and/or heat in the deeper Blood level. If there is blood stagnation, it may show a hue of purple as well.


Pale Tongue Body

Indicates Blood and/or Qi deficiency, Yang deficiency or Cold accumulation.  Lack of blood can’t give tongue its pink colour and if Qi is deficient, it cannot carry the Blood to the tongue so it remains pale.


The coat is made by the Stomach Qi. Imagine coating as the mist of the Stomach. Stomach Yin (water) needs to be evaporated by heat and powered by Qi (energy) to create that mist.

White Thin Coat

  • It’s a good sign! During diagnosis, having a thinner coat is relatively better. It indicates that the illness is at the external (superficial level) or an internal (deeper level) that is not so severe.


White Thick Coat

  • A thick coating usually means that the illness is in the deeper level hence more severe. Or it may be due to food retention, or excess dampness in the body. If the tongue coat changes from thick to thin, it means that the evil pathogens are moving out of your body.

  • Check for Candida (yeast) infection. Candida is a fungus that causes yeast infections which is also known as oral thrush. Most of us already have some living in our mouth but if it gets too much, it can cause a thick white tongue coat. Sometimes it may even spread to the gums, tonsil areas.  You can read more on oral thrush here.


Yellow Tongue Coat

  • A thin yellow coating indicates Wind-Heat or Wind-Cold turning to Wind-Heat

  • A yellow tongue coat indicates an interior heat pattern. The deeper the color of yellow, the more severe heat.


Grey Tongue Coat

  • This tongue coating usually indicates an internal pattern of either Heat or Cold.

  • If it’s grey + dry = Indicates internal  heat evaporating all the fluids in the body.

  • If it’s grey + wet = Indicates cold and damp retention in the body.


Black Tongue Coat

  • It’s a more severe version of the above grey coating above.

  • Dry black coat with cracks = Indicates excessive heat burning body fluids.


The tongue is no fashionista. Regardless of the temperature outside, a normal tongue’s favourite is a plain thin white coat because a Classic white coat never goes out of fashion. Take note if the coat design changes.

Shiny Coat
Shiny (also known as  mirror, peeled) coat means there is very little or no coat at all, making the tongue look shiny. This means there is Stomach Yin deficiency.


Camo-print Coat

Also known as geographical coat, the coat is not evenly distributed. Some parts are normal while some parts are peeling, creating a geographical camo-print like pattern. This indicates that Stomach Yin and Qi is deficient.


Polka-dot Coat

Purple or Red dots to be exact.Heat causes too much Qi and Blood to rise to the tongue where it causes the body to develop dots, points, spots. Purple spots means Blood stagnation.


Stripy Coat

Also know as cracks in the tongue. This indicates Yin deficiency. The fluids unable to moisten and nourish tongue body giving rise to cracks like dried road. If it comes with teeth marks (usually on the sides of the tongue), it means there is Dampness in the body.

So, what’s your tongue sign?

Mine is a bit of Qi deficient. Get in front of the mirror and look at your tongue right now.

I’ve compile the top 10 common tongue sign plus diet ideas for each sign.

Click on the box and get your Tongue-pedia in your inbox! 😛


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