What can I tell about my health from my tongue?


Why does my acupuncturist look at my tongue?

In Chinese Medicine, it is believed that the appearance of your tongue is a reflection of your health and can be a powerful diagnostic tool. Tongue diagnosis is a very traditional and effective method, which has been used to diagnose diseases for over two thousand years. Knowledge of tongue diagnosis is one of the unique treasures of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

What do they look for?

  • Body of the tongue: The normal tongue body should be flexible, shape of the tongue should

    be suitable to mouth size (not too puffy or narrow)

  • Coating: The tongue coating is the layer over the tongue. A normal healthy coating should

    be white, thin and allow the tongue body to be seen through the coating.

  • Colour. A fresh red (not too dark, too red or pale)

  • Have suitable moisture (not too dry/wet)

  • Cracks in the tongue body can be an indicator of disease progression

    A Chinese medicine practitioner will look at each of these areas and any imbalances seen can further confirm diagnosis. Tongue diagnosis will be done in conjugation with pulse taking and a full consultation.

How do I look at my tongue?

Make sure you have good natural light. The tongue body needs to be relaxed so only stick your tongue out for short intervals at a time. Make sure you haven't eaten or drank anything recently that will effect the colour of coating on tongue.

What if my tongue looks like one in the picture?

It is important to work alongside a trained acupuncturist when you notice an imbalance but there is a lot you can do for yourself too!

Top tips for each imbalance:

1. Qi deficiency

What it means - qi is the life force that drives every activity in organic life forms, according to TCM. It’s thought that a sufficient amount of qi is required to maintain the yin and yang of your body. When a person’s qi is balanced and in harmony, they’ll benefit from health, well-being, and contentment. When one’s qi is deficient, pain, suffering, and illness may occur. Dependant on where the qi deficiency is, individuals have different symptoms related to that organ, foe example, Lung qi deficiency - shortness of breath

- Diet

The majority off a person’s qi comes from the foods they choose to eat and the air they breathe, so we would obviously look at an individuals diet and make nutritional recommendations. Typically, a Chinese medicine practitioner would reduce/eliminate raw and cold food. Utilising heat to cook foods by steaming, grilling or roasting can build qi. It will also be recommended that junk food, fried foods and dairy be dramatically decreased or removed. Warming and qi nourishing foods such as grains, pumpkin, chicken as well as spices like cumin, cayenne and ginger should be consumed frequently

- Slow down!

While Western culture tends to reward and admire people who are always on the go and constantly busy, TCM advocates for the opposite. Slowing down one’s lifestyle and not doing many things at once, or multitasking, is often recommended to get one’s qi in balance.

- Regulate sleep!

Sleep is as important as diet and exercise. Our bodies need sufficient sleep in order to maintain or build qi. Sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of qi deficiency

2. Heat

What it means:

In very simple terms Chinese medicine as too wet/too dry, too hot/too cold. If we liken our bodies to the engine of a car, because effectively our bodies are engines. Our cars needs certain aspects of hot and cold to work effectively, for example the spark to start the car, cooling fluid, water, oil etc. If one of these aspects are absent over a period of time, the car can over heat. This analogy can be used in our bodies, we if we have lost or are depleted in the cooling aspect of our bodies, our bodies can start to over heat and create an imbalance of heat in our system

1. Diet

Eat foods that are good for moistening and cooling bodily functions. Foods to tonify Yin include;
Grains: Barley, millet
Vegetables: Alfalfa sprout, artichoke, asparagus, kelp, mung bean sprout, pea, potato, seaweed, string bean, sweet potato, tomato, water chestnut, yam, zucchini
Fruit :Apple, apricot, avocado, banana, lemon, lime, mango, mulberry, pear, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranate, watermelon Beans Adzuki, black beans, black soya, kidney, lima, mung

2. Herbs/spices and supplements
Herbs and spices: Marjoram, nettle Oils and condiments Honey, malt, Common supplements: American ginseng, royal jelly

3. Lifestyle
A Chinese Medicine practitioner will always look towards the root cause of the imbalance, so for example if there is a consumption of excessive alcohol or smoking etc, then advise will be given around practical ways to reduce or eliminate


3. Damp Retention

What it means: Dampness represents a condition existing within the body that is a reflection of dampness as it occurs in nature.
Dampness arises from the body being affected in several ways. It can be due to either a problem arising from the inability of the digestive system to transport and transport fluids, or from the body being overwhelmed by external damp from the environment, (damp weather, damp living conditions, damp- producing foods). It can also arise from as a response to an illness, or from the overuse of medication that promotes dampness, such as certain antibiotics. Phlegm is seen as a condensed form of dampness.

Foods to resolve dampness include;

Grains: Corn, barley, basmati rice
Vegetables: Alfalfa sprout, button mushroom, caper, corn, pumpkin, radish, turnip,
Fruit: Papaya, lemon, umeboshi plum
Beans: Aduki, lentils,
Fish: Eel, tuna,
Herbs, spices: Aniseed, garlic, horseradish, marjoram, nettle, parsley, white pepper
Beverages: Green tea, raspberry leaf tea, jasmine tea

Foods to avoid in cases of dampness
It is essential that those prone to dampness avoid excessive amounts of food that will contribute to promoting dampness in the body these include:
• Dairy products: milk, cheese, ice cream and all foods that contain high amounts of dairy products such as dairy milk chocolate. It is important to read food labels as some food (such as muesli) may contain high levels of milk powder. Yoghurt is perhaps the exception to the dairy food rule. Sheep and goat products are regarded as less prone to causing dampness. In dampness and phlegm, it is important to nourish the Spleen, which means that the consumption of raw, cold and processed sugary or fatty foods need to be limited to aid the spleen’s essential digestive function. 

4. Qi Stagnation

What it means:

When Qi congests, flows improperly or moves in the wrong direction (called rebellious Qi), it stagnates. This is just like rush hour stop-and-go traffic, or cars piling up in a traffic jam. One of the most common disharmonies in the body, it affects not only the Liver, but the other Organs and the Seven Emotions as well.

  1. Exercise. Within Chinese Medicine the organ that typically is affect with stagnation is the liver. The liver is responsible for the free flow of qi around the body. When it stagnates, we need to move our bodies. You know that feeling when you are really stressed and you need to go for a run. All the bent up energy..thats your liver asking to be moved

  2. Massage Liver 3. This is one of my favourite acupuncture points. We all need it needled. It is widely used point on the liver channel to help keep energy flowing smoothly. To find it, place your foot flat in front of you. Palpate in the space between your 1sta nd 2nd metatarsal bones. Find the sore spot close to the junction where the two bones meets and massage this point daily

  3. Manage stress: Emotional stress affects all organ systems. The liver however is where it starts. Stress and blocked emotions are the most common causes of “stagnated Liver qi” in our fast paced society. Anger, frustration, sadness and depression can all result from stuck liver qi and when not expressed or health with appriorately, can also cause our Liver qi to stagnate further and lead to other symptoms such as migraines, menstrual irregularities

  4. Beware of the false live movers. Alcohol, for example, will temporarily free up your liver energy. A drink here and there, for most of us, feels good and is not a problem. But overuse of alcohol nd drugs is a common way for people to feel relief from emotional symptoms of liver stagnation. This relief is temporary and instead of treating the body at the root of the issue, it is merely putting a plaster on it and eventually making it worse

5. Blood Deficiency

What does it mean:

The concept of blood in traditional Chinese medicine shares a close relationship with the western concept in that it has both a nourishing and moistening function. However, with the concept of blood deficiency there is also emphasis placed on your body’s qi. Blood is seen as a condensed form of qi with qi playing a vital role in helping the blood to circulate to where it is needed. Attention is also focused on the strength of your digestive system’s ability to successfully obtain the nutrients from your food necessary for the production of blood.


1. Diet
Food to build blood includes;
Grains: Barley, corn, oats, rice, sweet rice, wheat, bran
Vegetables: Alfalfa sprout, artichoke, beetroot, button mushroom, cabbage, celery, dandelion leaf, dark leafy greens, kelp, shiitake mushroom, spinach, watercress, wheatgrass
Fruit: Apple, apricot, avocado, date, fig, grape, longan, mulberry
Beans: Aduki, black soya, kidney
Nuts and seeds: Almonds, black sesame
Fish: Mussel, octopus, oyster, sardine, tuna Meat
All red meat especially bone marrow and liver (beef, pork, sheep)

Examples of every day western foods that can be used to build Blood include:
• Rice porridges with Soya milk, apricots and almonds
• Dark leafy green salads with avocado and grated beetroot
• Scrambled Eggs with parsley
• Mussel Chowder with calamari
• Snacks of dried apricots and almonds
• Kidney bean and mushroom lasagne with a spinach salad
• Any red meat dish. (Note that in traditional Chinese medicine meat is viewed as a strong tonifing food to be eaten in small amounts so that serving sizes are based around two to four ounces per serving, taken several times a week depending on individual energetic patterns).

2. Supplements
Common supplements: Algae, dongui, pollen

3. Lifestyle. The majority of causes of blood deficiency come from our lifestyle choices. At work we spend long hours that demand our attention and energy to go beyond their healthy limits. We skip meals, eat badly and push our mind and body to the edge to get done what has to be done. This in turn will have a knock on effect on our internal system as it further depletes it. An individual with blood deficiency needs to really address these areas of their life.

4. Activities that relax and calm
- meditation, gentle yoga , Tai Chi or Qi gong, Cooking, reading, walking or whatever works for you

6. Damp Heat 

What does it mean?

Heat and dampness, have opposite effects on the body. While heat increases activity, dampness brings stagnation to our system. These two imbalances can easily combine and cause a variety of symptoms Signs and symptoms: allergies, skin problems such as acne, eczema urinary infections, clammy skin, sluggish bowel, vaginal discharge

  1. Acupuncture

  2. Herbal medicine - Ba Wei Dai Sia Fang, Ba Zheng Wan, Chen Xiang Hua Qi Wan are examples of some

    commonly used Chinese Herbal medicine prescriptions. Herbal medicine is medicine and needs to be

    taken under the supervision of a qualified practitioner

  3. Lifestyle and diet as above

7. Blood Stasis

For the body to remain healthy, it must be constantly moistened, nourished and detoxified by an abundant supply of clean, fresh blood. When blood does not circulate freely, know in Chinese Medicine as blood stasis, the body begins to show signs of disease.

  1. Acupuncture. The practitioner may use electro acupuncture dependant on the area and what is causing the stagnation

  2. Chinese Herbal Medicine. 

  3. Chinese Medicine believes that a certain amount of physical exercise is necessary to maintain one’s health and prevent disease. Exercise speeds up a sluggish metabolism and increases production of qi and blood. Aerobic exercise from twenty to thirty minutes every other day increases circulation and body temperature, and aids digestion, appetite, mood, energy and sleep. Exercise greatly reduces the severity of any endometriosis symptom or symptom associated with stagnant qi and blood stasis.

8. Yin and Yang Deficiency

What does it mean?


Yin and Yang are relative or complementary opposites. They cannot exist without the other and are mutually dependant. They are interconnected by virtue of the fact that they are opposite aspects of the same phenomenon. For instance the inside of the body, which is yin cannot exist without the outside, which is yang. Where there is balance between yon and yang, there is health. As we get older these two fundamental aspects begin to decline and can become imbalanced.

Yang deficiency: feel cold easily, pale complexion, back pain, tendency to panic, emotionally low, fertility problems
Yin deficiency: hot flushes, sweat at night, insomnia, irritable, ringing in the ears, menopause , irregular menstruation

Yin deficiency

Yin represents the energy that is responsible for moistening and cooling bodily functions. When this energy is depleted your body begins to show signs of “heating up”. This is not a true heat but rather a lack of the moistening and cooling functions that are necessary to maintain a healthy balance.

1. Diet
Foods to tonify yin

Grains: Barley, millet

Vegetables: Alfalfa sprout, artichoke, asparagus, kelp, mung bean sprout, pea, potato, seaweed, string bean, sweet potato, tomato, water chestnut, yam, zucchini

Fruit: Apple, apricot, avocado, banana, lemon, lime, mango, mulberry, pear, persimmon, pineapple, pomegranate, watermelon

Beans: Adzuki, black beans, black soya, kidney, lima, mung

Nuts and seeds: Coconut milk, sesame seed, black sesame seed, walnut

Fish: Fish in general but especially clam, fresh water clam, crab, cuttlefish, oyster, octopus, sardine Meat Beef, duck, goose, pork, pork kidney, rabbit

Dairy: Cheese, chicken egg, cows milk, duck egg
Herbs and spices: Marjoram, nettle
Oils and condiments: Honey, malt

2. Herbs/supplements

A trained practitioner would consider yin tonics that are lubricating and cooling (anti inflammatory), oils such as fish liver oils, olive oil, borage seed or evening primrose oil could be considered a yin tonic in a treatment protocol

3. Lifestyle advice

An excessive use of alcohol can cause an imbalance of heat in the body. Individuals generally feel this themselves, too much red wine and you get a red face, start sweating etc.

Yang deficiency
Yang represents the energy that is responsible for warming and activating bodily functions. When this energy is depleted your body begins to slow down, displaying signs of under activity and sensations of coldness.

1. Diet
Foods to tonify yang include;
Grains; Quinoa, sweet (glutinous) rice, wheat germ
Vegetables: Leek, mustard greens, onion, radish, scallion, squash, sweet potato, turnip, watercress
Fruit: Cherry, litchi, logan, peach, raspberry, strawberry
Nuts and seeds: Chestnuts, pinenuts, pistachio nuts, walnuts
Fish:Anchovy, lobster, mussel, prawn, shrimp, trout
Meat: Chicken, lamb, venison, kidneys (both beef and lamb)
Herbs and spices: Basil, black pepper, caper, cayenne, chive seed, cinnamon bark, clove, dill seed, fennel seed, fennugreek seed, garlic, ginger, horseradish, nutmeg, peppermint, rosemary, sage,
savory, spearmint, star anise, tumeric, thyme, white pepper
Beverages: Chai tea, jasmine tea

Common supplements: Algae, brown sugar, Korean ginseng, malt sugar, vinegar

Herbs / spices: basil, clove, rosemary, chive leaf, fennel seed, fennugreek seed, horseradish Beverages jasmine tea
Supplements: algae

2. Dont skip meals. The body relies on you to feed it regularly. It then uses that food to create energy. If you are irregular with your diet habits the digestive fire (a yang function of the spleen warmed by the kidney yang) will burn out. Your metabolism slows and weight will creep up. The digestive fire is at its peak from 7-11am in the morning, so eat a good breakfast

3. Keep the body and kidneys warm. Its essential to give the body the aid it needs in keeping warm with this disharmony. Don’t challenge the weather and dress appropriately until your energy recovers. Kidney 1, located on the ball of the foot is a significant source for yang energy in the body. If your feet are cold, you run the risk of decreasing the body’s overall yang

4. Get appropriate rest - constantly going, working and moving are all yang qualities, without resting and restoring (yin qualities) will lead to a collapse of yang which takes time to recover from. Yang and Qi are replenished when we partake of Yin activities–that rest, gentle qigong and t’ai qi. This can be quite the task for some clients that work and play hard. I often ask them to schedule in at least on PJ day a month. A day to just rest–remember when the norm used to be that you took one day a week to rest or take it easy? Pop in naps every now and then too.

Escapada Health Retreat ~ Mallorca

Escapada Health Retreat ~ Mallorca