TCM Tongue Diagnosis

Tongue Diagnosis is a primary diagnostic tool in Traditional Chinese Medicine. The tongue can tell a great deal about the internal condition of the body. The image on the left shows the correlation between the organs and area of the tongue. Tongue diagnosis requires a great deal of knowledge of TCM theory and experience with patients but here is a simplified guide that you can use to observe your own health.

Diagnosing the Tongue Body

This refers to qualities of the tongue related to size, shape, and color independent of the tongue coating. A “normal” tongue body is a nice healthy pink and fits nicely in the mouth, being neither too puffy nor too thin. A puffy tongue body indicates excess fluids or a build up of phlegm. A thin, small tongue indicates yin or fluid deficiency. A pale tongue body indicates yang or blood deficiency. A red tongue indicates excess heat or yin deficiency heat. A purple body indicates blood stagnation. Scallops of the sides of the tongue (indentations left by the teeth) show Spleen Qi deficiency.

Diagnosing the Tongue Coating

A “normal” tongue coating is thin and white.  A thick tongue coating indicates an excess condition and a lack of tongue coating (the tongue looks shiny) indicates deficiency. A white coating shows the presence of cold while a yellow coating indicates heat.

The chart below shows some common tongues:


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