Ayurvedic Tongue Diagnosis

I’m always wary of class situations as I get so annoyed by people who talk or constantly demand attention during class. Especially when it’s a class I’ve paid for. Although there is still a little too much chit-chat for my liking sometimes (says the girl with the school reports that all stated ‘talks too much in class’), basically the class I am in is mature and engaged.

Today’s most memorable part was when we all had to do a tongue diagnosis for the person sitting next to us. I know I’m not the only person in the room who thought ‘Dang it! I should have brushed my teeth after lunch!’ I had had a turmeric heavy dhal which I’d taken with me, so immediately started swirling my tongue around trying desperately to ‘clean’ any nastiness which might be on it. Everyone there felt so self-conscious. It was almost like showing a stranger your lady-parts! I observed in fascination all my colleagues tongues; pink, mottled, grooved, cracked, thin, thick, long, short, coated and clean. One girl even had a beautiful tongue!

As in other  traditional medicines, Ayurveda believes the tongue represents every part of your body. All ailments, past and present,  can be seen there. It is therefore one of the main organs used in diagnosis in Ayurveda. Tongue diagnosis is a vast science that is so specialised I’m only going to give a very superficial overview of what we learned today.

From: http://ayurvedaelements.com/resources/Tongue-Zones-Rama-Prasad.png

As it turned out there was no yellowness on my tongue. When I stuck my tongue out I noticed for the first time ever it’s thick, it’s wide and it’s floppy. A textbook Kapha tongue according to the teacher. There was also a white coating at the back and my colleague said I have teeth marks, which I cannot see, and a slight groove down the middle.

Referring to the chart below, as a person with a severely imbalanced Kapha dosha, my tongue would indeed have a white coating especially toward the back, reflecting my slow intestinal and colon energy and the ama, or toxins, in the colon. The teeth marks on my tongue relate to unabsorbed nutrients and a vertical groove down the middle of the tongue reflects physical back pain (also true). I also have tiny red bumps between my kidney and liver area but I’ll have to research that more.

The front one-third of the tongue relates to the lungs, heart, chest, and neck. That amazed me as apparently, mine is red and mottled, and as a person with a partial history of heart disease, it would again make sense for it to show in my tongue. Froth in the middle of this area is often a sign of low lung energy with damp and cold lungs and may translate as a cold, bronchitis, asthma, or respiratory allergy. If there is a small depression in the heart area (check), it often relates to intense grief, sadness, or depression.

The central third of the tongue relates to the liver, spleen, stomach, and pancreas. Small ulcers on the tongue in the stomach area may reflect gastritis or peptic ulcer.

Cleansing the Tongue
One of the best ways to keep the tongue healthy is by scraping it daily. This removes overnight build-up of bacteria and toxins on the tongue. Rather than brushing the tongue, which will only push bacteria and toxins into the tongue, this is done with a tongue scraper or spoon. To do this, extend the tongue and place the scraper as far back on the tongue as comfortable. Using one long stroke, gently pull the scraper forward so that it removes the unwanted coating on the tongue. Rinse the scraper and begin again if necessary. Ayurveda says that scraping the tongue should only be done in the morning on an empty stomach. Scraping the tongue is a good way to start to observe the tongue and as a result, the health of the internal organs.

As anyone who’s shared a bathroom with me knows, I use a tongue scraper every day, usually morning and night. I used to use a plastic one until Dr. Vasant Lad said at a seminar to use a copper one. I also often brush my tongue with my toothbrush if I don’t have my scrape with me (like at work). I learnt today that brushing your tongue with a toothbrush actually is detrimental to your taste buds and brushing your tongue only pushes bacteria and toxins into the tongue. Ayurveda says that scraping the tongue should only be done in the morning on an empty stomach. Scraping the tongue is a good way to start to observe the tongue and as a result, the health of the internal organs.

I will update this post as I learn more because I think all the ancients in all the cultures in the world who believed the importance of the tongue as a reflection of one’s health, were probably not all wrong.

So have a look at your tongue more often, keep track of the changes if any and see where it corresponds to in your body; and feel free to tell me what your tongue looks like today 🙂


14 thoughts on “Ayurvedic Tongue Diagnosis

    1. Thanks for the great detail! Your post sent me to the mirror right away. Thank you so much for the good work you’re doing. It is appreciated more than you know.


  1. How is scraping different from brushing? I scrape my tongue everyday as well, but I also brush my tongue when I brush my teeth. Either way your are scraping your tongue and affecting your taste buds, at least that is how it appears to me.


    1. Hello Michelle,
      Sorry for the VERY late reply, I had to put my blog on the back burner for a while.
      In a workshop I did with Dr. Vasant Lad, he taught us that scraping the tongue stimulates your organs and that the gag reflex you can get actually cleans your throat and sinuses. He also taught us to scrape gently between 7 and 10 times.
      In my Ayurvedic Nutrition course, we learnt that tongue scraping cleans off the accumulated mucus, without which, the mucus will go back into your stomach and digestive system. You are correct that brushing your teeth affects your taste buds as the bristles kind of ‘fit’ into the red bumps (papillae) at the back of your tongue where the taste buds are, so scraping gently is less harmful as the scraper goes ‘over’ the tastebuds. Like most people I would never leave the house without brushing my teeth, I often brush my teeth three times a day; but I also scrape my tongue twice a day (I use a copper scraper) and sometimes if my tongue feels particularly ‘ick’ I do both. A stainless steel tongue scraper is better than plastic. Copper is balancing for Vata and Kapha, and silver is balancing for Pitta.
      I hope that helps, and thanks again or taking the time to comment.


  2. Wow! This is very interesting to know! I really learned a lot more about my body once again!! Thanks


  3. Help! My tongue is white. Worst than I’ve ever seen it. Like maybe candida, or to much yeast. Not sure what to do.


  4. What a facinating subject I want to learn more about this. Where can I do the study on the tongue in Au?
    Better to do in class I think.


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