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acne or rheumatoid arthritis. The spicy
or pungent flavour (pepper, cinnamon,
cumin, purple cabbage, mint, mustard) is
warming, activates the Qi, and increases
our metabolism. The salty flavour
(barley, clams, crab, duck, fish, garlic,
ham, millet, pork) has the function of
softening hard masses. The salty taste
purges and opens the bowels and acts as
a diuretic on the body.
As an example, someone who drinks
too much alcohol (warming), and who
eats too much take away food will have
excessive heat and dampness in his body.
His tongue will probably be redder on
the side (liver), with a yellow coating due
to the accumulation of damp heat. He
will probably be the type of man who
gets red eyes, loses his temper easily and
complains of headaches and insomnia.
This is due to the excess heat from the
liver rising up to his head (the liver
channel has a connection to the top of
the head and the eyes).
In contrast, a woman who has a diet
based on salads and raw vegetables and
who drinks a lot of water will have an
excess of cold inside her body, and her
tongue will be paler than it should be.
She will be complaining of fatigue and
constipation, and her menstrual cycle
will be slower than normal due to the
cold retention in her lower abdomen.
In the first case, the patient will
be advised to limit his consumption of
alcohol and fast food, and to include cold
and refreshing food from the wood (liver)
element in his diet. Such foods as tomato,
rhubarb, pineapple, pears, cucumber,
mango and watermelon relieve the heat
and calm the liver. As a consequence, not
only will his headaches and insomnia
cease but his mood will also improve.
In the second case, the young woman
will be advised to add sweet and pungent
and salty foods such as leek, pumpkin,
paprika, seafood, or garlic. She will
get more energy (from the sweet flavour),
her period will be more regular (from
the pungent flavour), and her bowel
movement more regular (from the
So how is the state of your tongue?
You can take control of your health
by looking at it in a good light every
morning. Is it too red (heat), or too
pale (cold)? Do you have an excessive
white coating (dampness) or yellow
coating (damp heat) on its surface? Start
changing your diet slightly for a week
and see if your tongue colour changes.
Do you feel any better? We will conclude
this topic next month by looking at the
energetic actions of the foods on the
Read Olivier’s first column on this topic -
Tongue Talk - http://novamagazine.com.au/
18 EASTERN HEALING
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ollowing our last article on the
principles of tongue diagnosis
in Oriental medicine, we will
expand this topic by looking
at simple ways to improve our diet
according to Chinese dietary guidelines.
The tongue reflects the general
condition of our internal organs. The
condition of our tongue gives us a good
idea of the health of our digestive system.
It is a useful tool for learning what can
be improved in the way we eat.
Looking in clear daylight, a normal
tongue should be pink with a fine
white moist coating on the surface.
The presence of heat in the body will
make the tongue body redder than
normal, while, at the other extreme,
cold retention in the body will make the
tongue paler or whiter than normal.
If the body is not processing fluid as
it should, the fluid accumulation will,
in Chinese medical terms, turn into
“dampness”, represented by a thicker
white coating on the surface of the
tongue. The worse the fluid accumulation
or dampness, the heavier the coating
will become so that it sometimes ends up
looking like cottage cheese. At the other
extreme, long term heat accumulation in
the body will dry up fluids and that will
be reflected by cracks appearing on the
In most cases, these disruptions are
caused by a deficiency in our diet. If we
reduce the amount of food causing these
pathological changes, the tongue will
soon improve and our general health will
From ancient times, diet has been an
integral form of Oriental medicine, and
many Chinese herbal remedies include
foods and spices we commonly use in the
kitchen. Like Chinese herbal medicine,
individual food items are categorised
according to their flavour and their
energetic actions on the body.
Each individual flavour affects
our health in a specific way, hence
the importance of having a balanced
diet. The sweet flavour (beef, carrot,
potatoes and most fruits) is moistening
and warming. It relaxes the muscles,
stimulates digestion and helps relieve
pain in the body. The sour flavour
(apricots, lemon, grapefruit, avocados,
blackberries) is astringent. As it dries
excess fluids, it is indicated for conditions
like diarrhoea, night sweating, and
excess urination. The bitter flavour
(coffee, asparagus, vinegar, lettuce and
broccoli) drains and clears dampness.
It is good for fluid retention mixed with
heat resulting in inflammation as in gout,
‘A normal tongue should be pink
with a fine white moist coating
on the surface.’
Olivier Lejus MHSc.BHSc. is a registered acupuncturist practicing in Sydney.
What Your Tongue
LeJus suggests taking
a good look at your
tongue every morning.
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