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Posted On July 30, 2020 By In Regulars With 17 Views

Inside Out – Tongue Diagnosis: A TCM Diagnostic Tool

by Angela Leavey –

One of the main questions I am asked by patients is; “what do you see when you look at my tongue”? and “What are you looking for”? 

The tongue is one of the best diagnostic tools we have in Chinese medicine to help identify energetic imbalances in the body.

During an Acupuncture treatment, when you are asked to “stick out your tongue” we are using one of the four pillars of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) diagnosis, which is observation. We are observing; tongue body, shape, colour, coating and movement. Each of these qualities reflects specific areas of your energetic state of health. Using the tongue as a diagnostic tool helps to establish the balance of yin and yang, qi and blood and constitutional elements such as heat or cold.

Chinese medicine has observed that certain parts of the tongue relate to specific organ systems in the body. Using tongue diagnosis assists in properly identifying TCM patterns that are associated with energetic imbalances of organ and meridian systems in the body and their related symptoms. 

Terms used in tongue diagnosis are: root of the tongue, centre of the tongue, sides of the tongue and tip of the tongue.

The root (or back of the tongue) represents the kidney, bladder and intestines.

The centre of the tongue represents the spleen (pancreas) and stomach. 

The sides of the tongue represents the liver and gallbladder.

The tip of the tongue represents the heart and lung.

When observing the tongue, factors such as food and drink intake, time of the day, medications, individual constitution and age are all taken into consideration. All of this information is useful in helping to inquire further to determine a proper TCM diagnosis and assist with treatment plan and care.


• Prior to your appointment, try to avoid food and beverages that might change your tongue (including coffee, beets, blueberries and foods made with artificial food colouring).

• If you brush your tongue as part of your oral hygiene routine, it is recommended to discontinue the practice prior to your scheduled appointment.

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* Please note: Tongue diagnosis should not be used as a substitute for standard medical care or to diagnose potential health conditions. 



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