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Stick your tongue out at me, please


I know, I know it’s weird when an acupuncturist asks to see your tongue. What are they looking for? What does your tongue say without speaking?

An acupuncturist can use the tongue as a diagnostic tool to give indications as to what is happening in your body. The shape, colour variations, moisture or dryness, and teeth-marks all give different clues. More fine tuned information comes from whether there are cracks, spots, nodules, or discoloured patches and on which areas of the tongue they lie, with different function systems mapped onto different areas of the tongue (see above picture).


What can you look out for on your tongue? A normal tongue is pale red, with a fresh appearance. It’s neither too thick, nor too thin. There should be a thin white coating and is slightly moist. There are no distended dark veins underneath the tongue. With no writhing or quivering movements. The tongue comes out straight and not to one side.


Our bodies are beautifully intricate, complex systems and it’s not wise to form conclusions about your health based solely on what is seen on your tongue. The tongue provides a piece of the puzzle, and a snapshot of that piece of the puzzle. As with all diagnostic tools or tests, they change over time.


Putting any signs from the tongue together with: what symptoms you tell your practitioner; what your pulse reveals; as well as any other tests, informs an acupuncturist as to what is not functioning optimally in your system. These signs and symptoms from all the different areas of your health fall into patterns. When we treat the patterns appropriately, multiple things that compromise your health can change and resolve over time. A truly wholistic form of medicine.