Tongue diagnosis in Acupuncture

When you visit an Acupuncturist for the first time, you will go through a huge amount of questions involving diet, stress factors, lifestyle choices, past medical history, etc, but one of the most astonishing things you will be asked to do is….stick out your tongue!

I wish I could record the expressions of amazement and puzzlement on the faces of people when I ask them to do this! Im frequently asked “why”? And then “what does that tell you”?

The answer is everything! The tongue in Chinese Medicine is one of the most important diagnostic tools we use. It can tell us everything about your state of health and indeed what organs of the body may be out of balance and requiring attention.
The root of the tongue corresponds to the kidneys, the middle of the tongue relates to Spleen and Stomach (digestion), the tip of the tongue indicates the Heart and Lung organs, and the sides give an idea of the state of the Liver and Gallbladder.
Here are some of the things we look for :Claudine Ivers tongue

Colour. A normal / healthy tongue body has a pale red / pink colour with a slight coating.

Red Tongue: This indicates Heat either excess or deficiency depending on the coating or absence of coating. Heat can come from Stress or Emotional problems and can result in Insomnia, IBS, etc.

Purple body. This can indicate Blood stasis, which is often a factor in Dysmennorhoea or Endometriosis and can manifest in severe Pain. A Bluish Purple body may indicate retention of Cold especially in the Uterus leading to another manifestation of Dysmenhorrea or Endometriosis. Application of Heat both externally and internally would be appropriate here in your Acupuncture treatment wheras in the Purple tongue body, movement of Stagnation/ Stasis and reduction of Heat is more appropriate.

Red tip. The tip of the tongue corresponds to the Heart, and the area just behind this relates to the Lung area. A red tip with a normal coating otherwise may indicate anxiety, insomnia, palpitations etc. A red Lung area may show symptoms of cold or flu, and may indicate Asthma or cough.

Red sides of the tongue. The sides correspond to the Liver and Gallbladder area in Chinese Medicine. These organs are mostly the organs which become unbalanced when the body is experiencing stress giving rise to a condition called Liver Qi Stagnation in TCM terms. Sometimes there may also be engorged blood vessels under the tongue with this condition also.Symptoms of Liver Qi Stagnation are irritability, migraine, insomnia, IBS, belching, headaches, hypochondrial pain, dysmennhorea, agitation.

Teeth marks. Teeth marks along the side of the tongue indicate a condition called Spleen Qi Deficiency. Most people in our modern world suffer some form of Spleen Qi Deficiency without experiencing ill effects. In general the symptoms of Spleen Qi Deficiency are tiredness, lassitude, loose stool, bloating, sometimes nausea and vomiting.

Coating. A healthy tongue has a light white coating. If this coating is absent, the underlying tongue is usually red, which will be very evident. A red tongue with little or no coating indicates something called Yin deficiency or Deficiency Heat. Deficiency Heat or Yin Deficiency is a symptom in Menopausal women, and will result in Irritability, Night sweats, feeling agitated, Insomnia, restlessness, palpitations etc.This condition definitely requires attention to diet and lifestyle to improve quality of life. Chinese Herbs work very well here to improve symptoms and regulate the body.

Thick white coating. This is usually indicative of Damp retention in the interior, and will give rise to symptoms of Bloating, maybe loose stool, Sluggish digestion, feeling tired and lethargic.

Yellow Coating. This again is Damp retention but it has now combined with Heat. This will give rise to symptoms of Heat, sweating, Pains in muscles or joints, perhaps constipation, maybe Migraine, certainly irritability and agitation.

Tongue thickness. A thick flabby tongue which is also very wet indicates excessive Damp in the interior and possibly Yang deficiency, causing mostly Digestive issues and tiredness, with a general lack of motivation.
A short thin tongue indicates Blood and Qi deficiency which can have all sorts of implications for Menstrual symptoms like Amennhorea, constipation, short menstrual cycle, tiredness, insomnia, arthritic pain etc.

And we can see all of that in the space of less than a minute! There are other things we look for also, but the above are the most important,and mostly co-incide with the verbal history given by the patient.

So when an Acupuncturist asks you to stick out your tongue, its not rude if you do! Its essential for the conversation of diagnosis and treatment.

Fertility treatment

The infertility trap!


Youre 32yrs old and finally you’ve found Mr. Right!! Hes 36yrs old, tall, dark, and drop dead gorgeous! You cant keep your hands off each other, and you want him to be the father of your children…all 10 of them! So you come off the pill, and your periods are all over the place, no regularity….you don’t use protection either, but still after 18mnths of sex any rabbit would be proud of… nothing!


You decide to go to the GP and get tested. After all, feeling as tired as you do may not just be because of your night time frolics, enjoyable as they are! And isn’t it funny how your back pain tends to get worse at the time of the month?


The GP does a range of blood tests on day 3 of your cycle and day 21 of your cycle, and everything comes back normal! He tells you to go away, relax and keep practicing! But now the fun has gone out of it, it becomes an obsession…will your period come or……!!?!


So you begin researching into what may be wrong, and you come across a lady called Zita West, an English fertility expert whose holistic approach to fertility has helped numerous couples achieve beautiful healthy babies, the only thing in life you really want now. And you learn that she advocates Acupuncture as a method to aid conception, and that there are a list of affiliated acupuncturists in Ireland who are trained in and also use her methods….and whats this?…theres one in Gorey?? Mairead Fahy….o yes you’ve heard of her! Your friend went to her with migraines and after 6 sessions she was floating down the street giving flowers to complete strangers! (Strange considering she suffers from hay fever, but that got cured too!!)


Anyway you make an appointment, and youre amazed at the amount of questions she asks in the initial consultation. You never thought about how your diet could be affecting things, so you decide to throw out the deep fat fryer, and clean out your fridge! (Mmmm…you never knew THAT was in there! ) You decide to cut down to one bottle of wine a week instead of the obligatory 3 buckets a night!! But how will you deal with the stress youre under at work now? The wine was the only thing that helped to relieve that… but Mairead shows you different ways of  handling it. You never knew you could breathe so deeply, or that your lugs went that far, and as for the needles…youre asleep before the last one is in! Mairead explains everything clearly and puts your lifestyle into a different perspective so that you can make comfortable changes. She explains it may take 3 months or more, but youre happy to go with that. After 6 sessions and the addition of supplements to aid fertility, youre more relaxed, your dog is happier because hes being walked every day, and youre feeling positive and at peace with the world.


Mr. Drop Dead Gorgeous has changed too! He never brings work home any more, and has swopped those glove – like jeans for comfy baggies! He takes supplements too, and your relationship has become closer now that its not wine fuelled!


After 4 months of treatment, your periods are totally regular, the crippling pain you used to have has gone to Panadol consistency, and suddenly….no period!! Could it be?….? Get ready for sleepless nights for a different reason!