Reading Your Clients: Tongue

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When I was a child, I had an old fashioned doctor who would always ask me to stick my tongue out and say AH. I never wondered why and, like many things in childhood, just accepted it as normal. As an adult, I discovered that both the Chinese and the Ayurvedic medical systems have a method for reading the tongue.
As Dr. Vasant Lad says in his book Ayurveda Science of Life, “Examination of this important organ (the tongue) reveals the totality of what is happening in the body.” Dr. Maoshing Ni states in his book Secrets of Self Healing, “The tongue is the most important diagnostic area.” Dr. Lad uses a diagram (see diagram below) to show which parts of the tongue reflect the health of each of our other organs.

tongue-diagramThe diagram is designed to be used by someone looking at their own tongue in the mirror. You would need to flip the image to read a client’s tongue if they were to be looking straight at you. Challenges with each of the organs may show up as various discolorations, depressions, elevations or cracks on the surface of the tongue. For example, lung difficulties like bronchitis would show up as darker patches on either side of the tongue or in the lung area. My grandmother suffered from chronic bronchitis; her tongue developed a black coating. When we gave her herbs to help clear her lungs, the toxins moved out of her body and she went on to live 10 more years.
Impressions that look like teeth marks around the edge of the tongue are a sign of chronic poor digestion in which the body is unable to absorb nutrients, even if the diet is sound. Cracks all over the tongue are a sign that the colon is unhappy and the client is likely to have constipation or they could be a nervous, oversensitive individual.
A whitish coating on the tongue shows a general sluggishness in the system with a tendency to accumulate extra fluid, fat or mucus. A red or yellowish green tongue suggests that the liver and small intestine are not happy and that there could be infection, inflammation or hyperactivity. A dark discoloration on the tongue would indicate that the entire system is under stress and the body’s energy is unbalanced. A drier tongue, such as that found in dry mouth syndrome, would suggest that the blood plasma is not healthy, whereas a pale tongue would be a sign of anemia.
We should realize that pulse reading and tongue reading are skills that take time to develop. However, there are a few signs that are easy to read and can be very useful in helping your client get back to a better sense of well-being. Notice if there is a line down the middle of the tongue; it might look like a tiny wrinkle or deep crack. The more marked this sign is, the more emotion the client is carrying around their spine. If there is a break in the line, there will be an area of deformity, curvature or extra tension in that part of the back. The tip of the tongue and front third relate to the neck and upper spine; the middle of the tongue, the mid-back; and the back third of the tongue, the lower back. A tongue that trembles is a sign that the nervous system is under stress and the client may have a harder time relaxing.
A coating on the tongue is a sign that there are toxins that have accumulated. Maybe you have noticed that when you have a cold or feel ill your tongue is more sticky and coated or your sense of taste is impaired. Then, once you cleanse or gradually feel better, your tongue is pink again. Incidentally, scraping this coating off the tongue with a spoon not only prevents toxins from being swallowed and getting into the blood stream but also massages all of the internal organs.
A coating or discoloration in certain areas will tell us that there are toxins or challenges accumulating in particular organs. Redness or blueness in the middle front third of the tongue would suggest heart trouble; a white coating in the whole middle of the tongue could mean a toxic colon.
Body reading is a fascinating subject but we must remember that, in both the massage and aesthetics field, we cannot diagnose organic disorders. We can, however, learn and test these ancient diagnostic tools against our experience and, with them, offer insight and guidance to our clients.


Melanie-SachsAs a certified ayurvedic lifestyle counselor, Melanie Sachs’ skill as a healer and teacher have made her sought after by some of the world’s leading spas and schools of beauty. Her book, Ayurvedic Beauty Care (Lotus Light Publications), is considered a must for those interested in the expanding field of natural and conscious beauty and body care. Sachs is dedicated to bringing the timeless wisdom of Ayurveda to the West. She has especially focused her attention on the needs of women in these times when traditional female roles are expanding. Although certainly exciting, such changes in women’s roles and activity create additional stresses and demands, for which Ayurveda offers nurturing,
supportive solutions.

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