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Tongue Twister

Updated: Dec 31, 2021

Recently it has been discovered that "COVID Tongue" is one of the new emerging signs and symptoms to be aware of.

The tongue below shows a very thick yellow tongue coat, with patches of missing coat, which appear to be very red.

Obviously, this picture isn't particularly clear. And at the bottom of my post, I have posted a video of how to take a good tongue photo!

So, what might this show:

  • The thickness of the coat suggests the presence of a pathogen. The thicker the coat, the stronger the pathogen.

  • If the coat is yellow it shows full-heat.

  • If the coat is white is shows full-cold (unless it is thin and white, which is considered normal).

  • If the tongue coat is dry then this is always an indication of depleted body fluids. If the coating is yellow and dry without being sticky or greasy, it is an indication of injury to the fluids by internal heat, which will thicken any accumulated dampness or phlegm in the interior

  • A deficiency or lack of fluids will result in insufficient tongue coating, which will take on a peeled appearance or show an irregular distribution. If these types of coatings appear specifically in the centre of the tongue, it is a sure sign of Stomach yin deficiency


The tongue and pulse are key diagnostic tools in the acupuncture toolkit.

And they provide us with the history and present-day of you internally.

Tongue diagnosis in acupuncture

People can feel a little weird when I ask to see their tongue. And I get it. For me, a tongue feels intimate.

And that innate feeling is right. It is a closely guarded secret. The tongue shows your past, present and possibly future.

But what I hope to show you, in this blog, is that the tongue isn't something acupuncturists judge. We love them. They help us (and you) so much. They provide a roadmap.

Below is a map of the tongue. These 'zones' represent organs, as we see them in Chinese Medicine. Within those zones, we can see very different topography.

The zones of the tongue according to acupuncture

The tongue colour on the sides, where Liver & Gall Bladder live, maybe a very different colour to the zone where the Stomach and Spleen are.

The tongue coat might be thick at the back of the tongue, but none at the front.

All of that mean's something to an acupuncturist. It really is fascinating and important.

The tongue can and does change. Not as quickly as the pulse, but over time we see the changes. The new stories which are being written on there.

Some practitioners even say that they can see the future progression of your condition on your tongue.

One day I hope to be there.

So, what might we be looking at on your tongue?

  1. Colour - is it red or pale or purple?

  2. Shape - is it swollen or thin?

  3. Size - is it short or long?

  4. Teeth marks - are there teeth marks around the edge of the tongue?

  5. Cracks - horizontal or vertical? Shape? Which zone are they in?

  6. Coating - thick coat, no coat? Yellow or white coat?

These pictures present a small percentage of what there is to look for in your tongue and the pictures they are telling us.

And sometimes there might be conflicting pictures. This is why we ask you questions that run alongside. We use all these tools to build the right picture for you, and what you need.

If you ever want to take a picture of your tongue to send me, you can follow this short tutorial on how to do it.

But either way - go and look at your tongue.

It really is interesting (and try to avoid brushing it before seeing your acupuncturist).

Love from Andrea

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