Chinese Medical Diagnosis for Mouth Disorders

The mouth offers a plethora of diagnostic information for the Chinese medical doctor. These indications are always a part of a larger diagnostic picture and are rarely definitive as stand-alone indications of a specific imbalance. Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnosis is based on patterns of imbalances where a multitude of symptoms or indications point to a disease pattern; one disease may have a hundred different patterns of imbalance. For best outcomes using self-care, combine associated Aroma Acu-Sticks® to acu-points, topical remedies, and good lifestyle practices.

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Tongue Diagnosis and Chinese Medicine

Observing the tongue is one of the major diagnostic tools of Chinese medicine and there are hundreds of possible indications. The coating of the tongue would be observed separately from the actual body of the tongue. It is sometimes difficult to actually see the color of the body of the tongue if there is a thick coating on the tongue.

Possible Indications of the Tongue Coat

As imbalances evolve and worsen you may see the different indications that are more complicated such as with unresolved Dampness that has been coagulated by Heat resulting in Damp-Heat and a tongue with a thick, sticky, yellow coat. This is only one pattern of many, but it demonstrates how valuable the observation of the tongue coat can be.

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Indications of the Body of the Tongue

Color of the Tongue

A deep ridge down the center of the tongue-damage to the Stomach-Spleen energetic systems

Different areas of the tongue are designated to different energetic organ systems. An example: the tip of the tongue relates to the Heart, and a red tip on the tongue could indicate Heart Heat with possible symptoms of sleep problems or insomnia.

Spots on the Tongue

Raised red spots often indicate an active infection internally that the body is fighting such as a viral or bacterial infection. Small faded white spots may indicate an unresolved latent pathogen lurking internally explained here.

Swelling of the Tongue

If the tongue is swollen from side to side it will develop teeth marks along the edges; this is an indication of Spleen Qi Deficiency as the Spleen plays an important role in Chinese medicine by insuring the correct distribution of fluids in the body. If the tongue is swollen up and down and looks larger than normal it is an indication of Kidney Deficiency as the Kidneys are central to water metabolism in the body.

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Burning-Thrusting of the Tongue

A sensation of a burning tongue is often an indication of Heart Fire with symptoms of emotional imbalances and/or sleep disturbances. Mouth ulcers are also sometimes associated with Heart Heat.

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Short Tongue

If someone is unable to stick their tongue out it is a possible indication of Wind-Stroke and one would be concerned about a history of stroke, possibly a small stroke that went undetected, or the possibility of an impending stroke. While not a definitive diagnosis, it would certainly be prudent to insure that blood pressure levels were kept in check if a short tongue is presenting.

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Crooked or Quivering Tongue

If a tongue does not stick straight out and wants to turn to one side when trying to stick out the tongue, it may be an indication of Internal-Wind explained here. Internal-wind is also indicated by a tongue that looks as if it is shaking or quivering.

Whole books are dedicated to tongue diagnosis in Chinese medicine and it is an important diagnostic tool. Hopefully, these few insights will help you better understand how tongue diagnosis helps to build a larger diagnostic picture, and possibly a few insights in to your own health.

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How Do You Treat Burning Mouth Syndrome in Your Practice?
Published Online:7 Feb 2019 Acupuncture.Feb 2019.49-56.

Mo, X., Zhang, J., Fan, Y., Svensson, P., & Wang, K. (2015). Thermal and mechanical quantitative sensory testing in Chinese patients with burning mouth syndrome--a probable neuropathic pain condition?The journal of headache and pain16, 84.

Kaplan I, Levin T, Alexandru D. Thermal sensory and pain thresholds in the tongue and chin change with age, but are not altered in burning mouth syndrome. Skin Res Technol. 2011;17:196–200. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0846.2010.00483.x. 

Baumgartner U, Magerl W, Klein T, Hopf HC, Treede RD. Neurogenic hyperalgesia versus painful hypoalgesia: two distinct mechanisms of neuropathic painPain. 2002;96:141–151. doi: 10.1016/S0304-3959(01)00438-9. 


This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.