What Your Tongue Can Tell You About Your Health

Author: Dr. Maryam Mahanian, DTCM, RAc

In my Chinese medicine clinic, I will often ask to see your tongue. The tongue can tell me about the health of your organs and especially your digestion. I look at the color, the veins underneath, the shape, the texture and the coating. The tongue gives us Chinese medicine practitioners valuable information about what is going on in the whole body in order to accurately make a correct diagnosis of your Chinese medical pattern.

Every part of the tongue corresponds to a different organ:

  • Root (back) of the tongue: Kidneys & Bladder
  • Sides of the tongue: Liver & Gallbladder
  • Middle of the tongue: Spleen & Stomach
  • Tip of the tongue: Heart & Lungs
Dr. Maryam tongue mapping

What’s a normal tongue?

A normal tongue is light red (pinkish) with a thin white coating. It is not thin and it is not puffy or enlarged.

Here are some common types of tongues that I see and what they tell me:

  • Puffy tongue: excess dampness and sluggish digestion
  • Thin tongue: yin deficiency and lack of fluids
  • Teeth Marks on the edges of the tongue: spleen deficiency and sluggish digestion
  • Enlarged Curled up edges: Liver congestion
  • Red edges of the tongue: heat in the liver and liver congestion
  • Deep crack in the middle of the tongue: Stomach yin deficiency
  • Distended purple veins underneath tongue: poor blood circulation

Color of the tongue:

Red: excess heat

Purple: poor blood circulation

Pale: blood deficiency, Qi deficiency or yang deficiency

Coating of the tongue:

Thick white: cold damp, sluggish digestion

Thick yellow: damp heat, sluggish digestion, skin problems, inflammation

Dry coating: yin deficiency and fluids deficiency

Wet coating: yang deficiency and water retention

Greasy coating: dampness and phlegm accumulation

No coat at all: yin and fluids deficiency


Wishing you the very best in health.
Dr. Maryam