What Your Tongue Tells You About Your Health

 Miley Cyrus' swollen, white tongue can indicate a range of health issues.
Miley Cyrus’ swollen, white tongue can indicate a range of health issues.

While everyone was discussing former Disney star Miley Cyrus’ performance at the VMAs, we were more concerned with the unhealthy appearance of her swollen, thick film covered tongue. It was quite alarming so we thought we’d address the link between your tongue and your overall health. We know this is kind of a gross topic but it’s important to pay attention to the health of your tongue on a regular basis.

For starters a healthy tongue is pink with a thin white film on it. A thick film on the tongue can indicate a yeast overgrowth (oral thrush), syphilis, Oral lichen planus (an autoimmune disorder), and in worst case scenarios leukoplakia, which could be pre-cancerous. While we’re aware of the link between the tongue and health, we don’t claim to be tongue experts, so we’ll leave it to the pros to further address this issue.

The Daily Mail sat down with a couple specialists and here’s what they had to say. (Excerpt taken from The Daily Mail):

‘Your tongue is richly supplied with blood vessels,’ said naturopath Laurence Kirk of The British College of Naturopath and Osteopathy told the Daily Mail. ‘Thanks to a constant flow of saliva, it is constantly being cleaned which discourages harmful bacteria forming in the mouth area. However, if a person is unwell, a problem can often be detected by simply looking at the tongue.’

According to Chinese herbalist Giovanni Masiocia the tongue accurately reflects the state of your health. ‘In Chinese medicine it acts like a map where certain areas of the tongue correlate to specific organs of the body,’ he says.

Using the tongue to diagnose health problems is not restricted to alternative circles. Orthodox doctors also use the tongue to detect a range of conditions.

‘When your doctor asks you to stick out your tongue, he could be looking for signs of anaemia, cyanosis – when not enough oxygen reaches the lungs – infections such as thrush, dehydration and kidney problems,’ says Dr Richard Halvorsen.

‘Tongue diagnosis carried out by a western trained doctor is based on scientific evidence and is an effective way of spotting symptoms,’ he says.

The tongue of a healthy person is pinkish in colour, moves freely and is gently moist with a light coating.

If a tongue changes colour or texture, a Chinese herbalist or naturopath may use tongue diagnosis to detect vitamin deficiencies, poor circulation, high cholesterol, allergies or digestive problems.

Here’s how to spot what your tongue says about the state of your health



The naturopath says: If the tongue or mucous membranes – the membranes containing large numbers of goblet-shaped cells that line the mouth – appear pale this could mean that your blood is lacking in haemoglobin – the iron-containing protein found in red blood cells.
This will often result in tiredness and lethargy. Eat a well-balanced diet containing plenty of iron found in lean meat, especially liver.

The Chinese herbalist says: In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) this means you have a cold tongue and you probably lack energy or feel tired. White is the colour of metal element and in TCM refers to the lungs and colon. A pale tongue could indicate problems in these two organs. Treat with warming herbs such as garlic, ginger and cinnamon.

Bright red

The naturopath says: A red inflammed tongue indicates lack of certain nutrients, especially iron and B vitamins. Iron, found in red meat, shell fish, nuts and apricots, is essential for the formation of red blood cells and necessary for energy and vitality.
B vitamins are needed for energy metabolism, cell growth and the proper functioning of the nervous system. Lean meat, shellfish, nuts and dried apricots are all rich sources of vitamin B.

The Chinese herbalist says:

In Chinese medicine, a red tongue shows heat. The colour of the tongue may appear darker in different parts of the tongue relating to various organs in the body. For example, the root of the tongue could indicate excess heat in the intestines. Regulate heat with cooling foods such as cucumber, water melon and green tea.


The naturopath says: This could mean you are suffering from high cholesterol which could result in heart problems. A purple tongue could also indicate chronic bronchitis which cuts down the efficiency of the airwaves in bringing oxygen to the bloodstream. If your tongue continues to be purple, seek medical advice.

The Chinese herbalist says: This could indicate blood stagnation, poor circulation or too much sugar in the body which makes you feel tired and cold. This means you are probably eating too much cold food and not adding enough warm ingredients to your diet such as garlic, ginger and coriander.


Raised red spots

The naturopath says: A strawberry-like patch on the tip of the tongue is often caused by hot drinks. However, a red tongue tip combined with bleeding gums could show a lack of bioflavonoids – a biologically active compound found in vitamin C that help strengthen the tiny blood capillaries in the skin and prevent unattractive broken veins.

Make sure your drinks aren’t too hot! Add plenty of citrus fruits, peppers, kiwi fruits and berries to your diet.

The Chinese herbalist says: Patches of spots on the tongue reflects an allergic constitution, such as eczema and asthma. A Chinese herbalist may prescribe a mixture of herbs such as Devil’s Claw, Red Clover and garlic for eczema and liquorice or Gingko for asthma.

Dry tongue

The naturopath says: Dryness of the tongue is often caused by swelling of the salivary glands – the fleshy bulgy sacs under the tongue where saliva is produced. This is often caused by stress. Regulate stress by relaxation routines such as breathing or yoga.
Also, stimulate the flow of saliva and flush out the salivary ducts by drinking cider vinegar and lemon diluted in a glass of water. Persistant dryness could be caused by Sjorgren’s syndrome – an immunological disorder. If your tongue is persistantly dry seek medical advice.

The Chinese herbalist says: A dry furry tongue indicates excessive mucus in the body. This is caused by too much dairy and sugar in the blood. Eat a well-balanced diet and cut down on milk, butter and eggs.


White coating

The naturopath says: A thin coating on the tongue is healthy and normal. A heavy white plaque however could indicate candidasis or oral thrush – a fungus infection of warm, moist areas of the body. This could be caused by an over-use of chemical mouthwash or taking too many antibiotics. Oral thrush can impair taste buds and cause bad breath.

To clean the tongue use a natural mouthwash twice a day. Mix cider vinegar with two cloves of garlic, one teaspoon of dried sage and one table spoon of honey poured into one pint of boiling water. Store in the fridge and use within three days.

The Chinese herbalist says: This reflects the state of the digestive system. If the tongue lacks coating, it means the stomach enzymes which break down food in the digestive system are not functioning properly. The coating of the tongue should be thin and white.

And lastly, here Dr. Oz discusses our tongues and health:

As always, consult a doctor if you show symptoms of a serious illness. Monitoring your health and tongue regularly is the best way to stay happy and healthy, so don’t ignore your body’s warning signs!



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