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Tongue diagnosis is used all the time by acupuncturists and practitioners trained in Chinese medicine.
It is an important way to diagnose a patient’s health and sometimes can be crucial in deciding what to do first.
In fact, I’m surprised when acupuncturists don’t use it.
Many don’t use pulse diagnosis either, which is another vital way to understand what is going on, often displaying factors that the patient doesn’t know about or that he or she isn’t telling you.
Is it difficult? Yes and no!
It is easy to understand the outline, but to be able to distinguish all the many parts of the picture and integrate them with other parts of the diagnosis takes experience.
So, in use, tongue diagnosis is not always so easy.
By the way, if you’re interested more in where tastes are detected on your tongue, click here.
Like the sole of the foot (used in Reflexology) and the ear (auriculotherapy), it is a kind of holographic microcosm of the body.
Often what the tongue tells you about a patient’s health exceeds in importance what other ways of diagnosing tell you.
Tongue diagnosis, if you are experienced in using it, is also fast: you just look, whereas in other holographic microcosms you usually have to probe or palpate.
Nearly all the zang-fu energy organs have a place on the tongue. That means you can often ‘see’ how they are performing just by looking at the tongue for a few moments.
In tongue diagnosis how and if the tongue moves also has meaning, as also its shape, colour, coating and how moist or dry it is.
What does the shape tell you in tongue diagnosis?
Cracks on the tongue occur in different places.
Most common is the longitudinal mid-line crack running up the centre of the tongue from back to front. If wide and not deep it points to Stomach Yin deficiency usually.
When it reaches to the tip from the back, it points to Heart energy problems, probably from intense worry and anxiety: the redder the tip here, the worse the sleep.
Cracks anywhere suggest Yin deficiency in the related zang-fu. So if cracks appear towards the front of the tongue in the chest area, Lung Yin deficiency might be a problem.
If one part only of the tongue is swollen, that suggests problems in that area, which may be Damp but more likely also suggest Heat.
Swollen tongue of a stroke patient. Note the swelling mainly in the Spleen area, denoting Phlegm, and the deep centre line suggesting a history of un-conducive nutrition. Also the bare, redder area at the tip, representing the patient’s poor sleep, and anxiety.
This tongue is swollen in the Lung area: a bit pale, with teethmarks on one side. Suggests some Blood deficiency, Damp or Phlegm in the Lungs and Spleen deficiency. Lines point to chronic Stomach Qi deficiency.
Tooth-marks point to Spleen Qi deficiency, because when healthy the Spleen keeps things moving along in the body.
If tooth indentations appear, it means the Spleen isn’t able to perform fully.
Teeth-marks on the sides can also arise when there is Liver Qi stagnation.
If the tongue points to one side, without the patient knowing that he is doing it: Internal Wind.
For accurate tongue diagnosis the colour of the surface of the tongue is also important and can represent various factors such as
The coating of the tongue is equally important for tongue diagnosis. It mainly represents the Stomach’s health and more generally how the health of the Yang organs.
How moist or dry the tongue is can be important for tongue diagnosis.
Movement can suggest various factors.
Nothing like as fast as your pulse, or somewhere on your body that’s sore, when the correct treatment is done.
What that means is that when, say, I insert an acupuncture needle at the right place, the pulse often changes immediately, and so does the place that was previously sore, or sensitive or tight.
Your tongue, however, may take a few hours to alter.
It’s easy to look at a tongue. Reading through the above you may think ‘Eureka, this is a Doddle!’
I wish it were. There are hundreds of variations and it takes quite a while to become quick at diagnosis.
If you are examining yourself or a friend in a mirror, do beware of making pronouncements and diagnoses with certainty: we are all sensitive about our health and appearance and whatever you say may be taken more seriously than you mean.
And of course you might be wrong, causing unnecessary worry.
In any case, even if you get it right, are you knowledgeable enough to make the right suggestions for your friend to follow for better health?
It is better, I humbly suggest, to seek professional help from someone with experience!
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