The practice of tongue reading—looking at the texture, color, and shape of one’s tongue—can help us better understand our health. Learn more about the basics of tongue reading.
When you think of the tongue’s capabilities, you probably think of taste, correct? Did you know that in Ayurveda, tongue reading can be a window into your inner health system? One of the reasons Ayurveda recommends tongue scraping is because it removes overnight build-up of bacteria and ama (toxins) on the tongue.
Done first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, tongue scraping allows one to observe the clean tongue and gain an insight into the health of the internal organs. Tongue reading is a common part of Ayurvedic diagnostics. In the United States, we don’t use the word diagnosis when it pertains to Ayurveda, but in India, an Ayurvedic doctor, or vaidya, is qualified to diagnose what’s going on with your health through tongue reading.
Common Findings From Tongue Reading
Doshic balance or imbalance
The health of the internal organs
Malabsorption of nutrients
Presence of ama
Tension or emotions held in certain organs or parts of the body
Indicators or parasitic infections
Signs of inflammation
Renowned Ayurvedic expert Dr. Vasant Lad writes, “The ancient art of tongue diagnosis also describes quite characteristic patterns that can reveal the functional status of respective internal organs merely by observing the surface of the tongue. The tongue is the mirror of the viscera. A discoloration and/or sensitivity of a particular area of the tongue indicates a disorder in the organ corresponding to that area.”
Tongue Reading and the Doshas
We know that there are five elements in Ayurveda—ether, air, fire, water, and earth—and these five elements make up the human body and everything else in this universe. Pancha Mahabhuta, or the five element theory, is considered the basis of all cosmic creation and foundation of Ayurveda. The combination of these elements yields the three doshas.
Vata dosha: Ether + Air
Pitta dosha: Fire + Water
Kapha dosha: Water + Earth
The shape of the tongue is another way to determine one’s constitution, or prakruti.
Vata-tongue: This is thinner and narrow. It’s always a bit rough and dry.
Pitta-tongue: It’s of medium thickness, pointy, and a bit more reddish in color.
Kapha-tongue: It’s wet, larger, thicker, fuller, and light pink.
What Tongue Reading Can Tell Us About the Organs
The upper, middle, and lower portions of the tongue, like the body, can be divided by which dosha governs that section:
The back of the tongue is governed by Vata dosha, which is associated with the large intestine and the kidneys.
The middle is Pitta dosha and is connected to the liver, spleen, and stomach.
The front of the tongue, which is related to the upper GI tract, lungs, and heart, is governed by Kapha dosha.
Notice that this division of the doshas and the body reflects the same that is witnessed in the overall body. Meaning, Kapha governs the top of the body, Pitta dominates the middle part of the body, and Vata rules the bottom part of the body.
More Facts About Ayurvedic Tongue Reading
If you look at your tongue in the mirror and you see a white coating on it, that signifies Kapha imbalance.
In one of my clinical internships, I once worked with a rogi (client) whose tongue was blackish-brown in color. Now that is Vata derangement.
Ever noticed cracks on your tongue? That’s a sign of Vata derangement, too.
A tongue that is yellow, orange, green, or even red in color indicates toxins and/or Pitta imbalances.
The tip of the tongue represents the location of the thyroid.
A vertical line in the middle of the tongue represents the spine.
If there is a crack in the middle of the tongue’s vertical line, it tells us that emotions and stress are being held in the spine.
The presence of coating tells us that there is toxic buildup in the tissues.
Coating also indicates a sign of poor digestion. If the coating is in the back of the tongue (near the tonsils), toxicity is mostly in the colon. But if the coating is in the middle of the tongue, it means the toxins are throughout the gastrointestinal area.
If there are multiple cracks on the tongue, it’s an indicator of Vata mental disorders like insomnia, fear, insecurity, or nervousness.
A puffy tongue may indicate a stagnant lymph.
Swelling in the tongue may indicate inflammation in the body. Depending on the location of the swelling, there could be a Kapha imbalance and associated disorders like fluid retention or hypothyroidism.
Ridged edges or teeth marks around the perimeter of the tongue are consistent with malabsorption.
Ayurveda empowers self-healing. Scrape your tongue every morning and practice tongue reading. What do you notice? You may notice that the tongue looks different on each day depending on dosha balance and imbalance. As always, I would always recommend talking to an Ayurvedic expert before jumping to any conclusion about your personal wellbeing just through tongue reading.
Disclaimer: The content is purely informative and educational in nature and should not be construed as medical advice. The information is not intended for use in the diagnosis, treatment, cure, or prevention of any disease. Please use the content only in consultation with an appropriate certified medical or healthcare professional. If you are nursing, taking medications, or have a medical condition, please consult with your health care practitioner prior to the use of any of these herbs. If you are looking for advice from a trained yogi and Ayurvedic coach, contact Sweta here.