Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine diagnose the tongue by examining the color, coating, shape, moisture level and other features. A normal tongue in TCM has a pink or light-red body with a thin, white coating. Practitioners believe that the tongue has a special relationship to the heart and can indicate a person's overall level of health and harmony.
Characteristics of tongues can indicate many possible conditions. For example, a dry purple tongue indicates depleted fluids due to excess heat. An enlarged tongue may indicate water stagnation or phlegm. Diagnosis is complex and precise. For example, teeth marks on a part of the tongue might indicate a problem with the heart, while similar marks on another part might indicate issues with the liver.
Diagnosing health by examining the tongue is one of many techniques in TCM, which developed more than 2,000 years ago. The practice asserts that the body has a vital energy, or chi, that circulates through channels in the body. Each channel corresponds to bodily organs and functions.
The philosophy perceives health as the harmonious interaction of bodily functions that regulate other functions, such as breathing and digestion. It treats disease by identifying and treating underlying disharmony in the body. Common treatments include herbal medicine, massage, acupuncture, dietary therapy and special exercise.