Girl with her tongue out

Tongue Diagnosis Chart for Traditional Chinese Medicine

March 14, 2024
Clinically reviewed by Dr. Mary Oleksowicz

Essential Takeaways

  • Examining the tongue can tell doctors about your general health.
  • Most Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors begin each visit with a tongue diagnosis.
  • A tongue diagnosis chart indicates connections between parts of the tongue and parts of the body.

Did you know you can get a detailed health report from your tongue? The Tongue Diagnosis Chart has been used for years by traditional Chinese medicine doctors to find out what was wrong with their patients.

Since the tongue is the [only organ](https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/14964052/#:~:text=The%20tongue%20(L.,the%20floor%20of%20the%20mouth.) not concealed beneath the skin, it has long been analyzed by Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors as an indicator of overall health. By analyzing factors like color, moisture, shape, and size, TCM practitioners gain a strong starting point for diagnosis.

Performing a tongue diagnosis with the help of a tongue diagnosis chart is often one of the first steps in a visit to a TCM practitioner, along with a pulse diagnosis.

What is a Tongue Diagnosis Chart?

A tongue diagnosis chart is a reference tool that Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners can use to interpret the health indications of a person’s tongue. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, each area of the tongue indicates a specific part or system of the body.

By examining the qualities and health of that area of the tongue, Traditional Chinese Medicine doctors can begin to understand the overall health of the patient.

The tongue diagnosis chart segments the tongue into various zones, which each correspond to a different part of the body. For example, the tip of the tongue corresponds to the heart, the sides correspond to the liver, and the very back indicates the kidneys and intestines.

By carefully analyzing the appearance of the tongue as a whole and the visual details of each tongue section, TCM practitioners establish a solid groundwork for understanding and diagnosis of several health conditions.

Basic Tongue Diagnosis Chart

Tongue diagnosis chart for traditional chinese medicine

TCM practitioners take many factors into account during a tongue analysis. This chart indicates each area of the tongue and the specific parts of the body it correlates with:

  • Tip: The tip of the tongue focuses on the heart and the lungs.
  • Middle: The middle of the tongue can tell a doctor what’s wrong with your spleen and stomach.
  • Back: Chinese traditional doctors use the back of the tongue to see the condition of your kidney, bladder, and intestines.
  • The Sides: Both the left and right sides of the tongue can be indicators for your liver and gallbladder.

What do Tongue Diagnosis Charts Show in TCM?

Tongue diagnosis chart used in TCM

Source

TCM practitioners thoroughly observe the following details of the tongue to make a preliminary diagnosis. From there, they can move forward with the examination to discuss symptoms, pinpoint health concerns, and recommend treatment.

Color

The first detail a practitioner will analyze in a tongue diagnosis is the color. The tongue can change color based on various health conditions at play in the body. TCM practitioners are trained to see the nuances of tongue color and other factors, but in general, the meanings of tongue color are as follows:

  • A pink tongue indicates that the individual is normal and healthy.
  • A red tongue means excess heat or fever.
  • A purple tongue is a sign of blood stasis, inflammation, or infection.
  • A pale or white tongue indicates a blood deficiency or a weak immune system.

Coating

A normal, healthy tongue will generally have a light white coating that is not easily scraped away. When the tongue has coatings of different colors or thicknesses, these can be signs of underlying concerns and disease.

In both Western and Traditional Chinese Medicine, the tongue coating is seen as a valuable disease diagnosis tool.

A few tongue coating correlations are as follows:

  • Thick coatings suggest digestive issues or struggling intestinal health.
  • Yellow-colored tongue coating can mean the body is fighting infection.
  • Long-term digestive disorders can cause gray or black coating.
  • White coating that is overly thick may mean poor circulation or a yeast infection.

Shape & Size

The shape and size of your tongue can indicate certain health concerns to a TCM practitioner. For example, fluid retention and digestive issues can cause a puffy tongue. A thin tongue could mean dehydration, and a scalloped tongue may indicate poor nutrient absorption.

Moisture

The balance of fluid within the body can sometimes show itself through the moisture levels of the tongue. For example, fluid or Yin deficiency can result in a dry tongue. Excess dampness can cause a tongue that is too moist.

Tongue Cracks & Patches

If there are cracks on the tongue, a practitioner may look into possible chronic conditions. Cracks can also indicate a lack of fluids and Yin deficiency.

A patchy tongue that is missing its coating in some places can hint at a systemic imbalance. Using the tongue diagnosis chart, practitioners can identify the corresponding body parts indicated by the section of the tongue that is patchy. This can offer important clues about the health of specific organs.

Location

Every location on the tongue corresponds to another organ system or area of the body. Therefore, any time the tongue displays symptoms in only some locations, practitioners know to follow up with analysis on that corresponding body part.

For example, pale coloring on only the sides of the tongue might indicate liver blood deficiency.

Healthy Tongues vs Unhealthy Tongues

Every person is different, and a healthy tongue can vary in size and appearance from one person to the next! In general, a healthy and “normal” tongue appears pink and has a thin white coating. Healthy tongues do not have cracks, patches, or unusual textures.

On the other hand, the tongue of someone experiencing health issues like qi deficiency, dehydration, underlying disease, or other concerns might display swelling, cracks, coating in a color besides white, or a scalloped shape.

When you meet with a certified functional medicine doctor online through Qi Health, they will begin with a tongue diagnosis to establish a working baseline of your possible health concerns. They will go over their observations with you and will discuss all of your symptoms and health goals.

More About Tongue Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine

Tongue diagnosis has been a key aspect of Chinese Medicine practices since the 1100s, playing an important role in the history of medicine as a whole. Get answers to the most common tongue diagnosis questions.

Can your tongue show signs of illness?

Yes. Both Western medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine acknowledge the fact that the appearance, feeling, and function of the tongue can indicate aspects of your overall health. Your tongue can indicate whether you’re deficient in key nutrients, dehydrated, experiencing an allergic reaction, and more.

If you notice something out of the ordinary about your tongue, it’s best to talk with your doctor. Some health conditions indicated by poor tongue health warrant medical attention, and the sooner you seek help with them, the better.

What can you read from your tongue?

By paying attention to the color, coating, shape, size, texture, and moisture level of your tongue, you can analyze your health from a new perspective. Each detail about your tongue can give you clues about your overall health. For example, the color of your tongue gives you clues about your blood circulation while the coating can give you clues about your digestive health.

If you notice odd textures or patchiness on some areas of your tongue but not others, reference the tongue diagnosis chart to determine which body part corresponds to that area of the tongue. From there, you may be able to decipher what condition may be occurring in your body. Noticing changes in your tongue is a good reason to check in with your doctor or to book a one-on-one consultation with the certified Chinese Medicine doctors at Qi Health.

What can Chinese medicine tell from your tongue?

Expert Chinese medicine doctors can tell a lot about your health based on your tongue! By carefully analyzing your tongue, a Traditional Chinese Medicine doctor can identify imbalances in the body and pinpoint which organs or systems are affected.

The physical appearance of your tongue will give the practitioner clues about the underlying cause of the imbalance and whether it’s related to qi, yin, yang, or blood. By combining the findings of the tongue diagnosis with an in-depth conversation about your symptoms, the practitioner can form a holistic and comprehensive view of your overall health.

Get Your Own Tongue Diagnosis

In many cases, people wish to speak with a TCM practitioner not because they know exactly what condition they are facing, but because they don’t. Perhaps you’ve been feeling fatigued, anxious, or simply “off,” but your primary doctor has yet to identify a cause. Maybe you’re seeking hormonal balance and a healthier way of being, but you’re not sure where to start. Tongue diagnosis is an accessible and non-invasive strategy for better understanding your health. That’s why it’s the first step for practitioners at Qi Health!

Once you’ve gotten your tongue diagnosis via telehealth, you can talk with your certified TCM practitioner about your health goals, recent symptoms, and concerns. From there, they will explain your diagnosis and curate a completely personalized herbal medicine blend.

Access it directly from the Qi Health pharmacy to ensure you’re only consuming the very highest quality herbs. In the coming months, you’ll check in with your practitioner periodically to ensure that you’re reaching your goals and to adjust your dose if necessary.

Ready to get started?

Get your free tongue diagnosis today!

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