Home' Nova National : November 2009 Contents 30
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Following my previous column on
the diagnostic methods of
Traditional Chinese Medicine, we
will now look closely at the examination
of the tongue and the pulse.
According to the principles of Chinese
medicine, the tongue is the only internal
organ we can see. For this reason, it
is considered to be a reflection of the
condition of the inside organs. It also
provides information about the patient's
past medical history. By examining your
tongue over a period of time, you can
learn to monitor your own health, and
decide on a course of action or a preventive
method to avoid illnesses.
It is best to examine your own tongue
in a mirror first thing in the morning
before it becomes discoloured by ingested
food, and preferably close to a source
of natural light.
There are four different aspects to
consider: the colour, the shape, the
coating, and the presence and location of
cracks on the tongue.
By looking at a child's tongue, we
can get a close approximation of what a
normal tongue should look like. It should
be fresh pink, with a symmetrical shape,
no cracks or spots, and with a thin coating
While each tongue will be slightly
different, there are several signs which can
indicate a specific imbalance in the organ's
function. These include unusual thinness,
indentations, or swellings or even tooth
marks on its surface. The coating of the
tongue itself is regarded as very important
in Chinese medicine diagnosis. It is
often a good indication of a Yin or a Yang
imbalance. The coating can often reflect
a dysfunction in the metabolism of fluids
in the body, especially in the digestive
But we should keep in mind that
consuming certain foods or drinks can
affect the colour of our tongue. So don't
inspect it shortly after ingesting these
strongly coloured substances.
In general terms, a white coating
indicates the presence of Cold inside
the body, a yellow coating indicates
Heat, while a dark grey or black coating
indicates extreme cold or extreme heat
according to whether the tongue is wet
In turn, the thickness of the coating
reveals the severity of the level of
dysfunction -- the thicker the coating, the
more dampness or phlegm is present
inside the body. In contrast, an absence
of coating is a manifestation of a lack of
fluid often due to abnormal internal heat.
So it is usually manifested on a red tongue.
The presence and the location of
cracks on the tongue is an indication of
the moisture levels inside the body, in
contrast to a swollen tongue which reflects
an excess amount of fluid. A cracked
tongue is always a manifestation of heat. In
turn, the location of these cracks can give
the practitioner an indication of the origin
of these dysfunctions.
Multiple small cracks over the tongue
are generally seen as a sign of dryness in
the stomach, but if the crack is vertical
reaching the tip, it is regarded as a sign of
a heart pattern.
On the body of the tongue an
abnormal red colour is a sign of excess
Olivier Lejus MHSc. (TCM), BHSc. (Acup.)
is an accredited acupuncturist practising in Sydney.
Oriental medicine practitioner Olivier Lejus continues
his exploration of TCM's diagnostic methods.
heat. If it is located at the back of the
tongue, it is assimilated with the kidneys,
in the middle with the stomach and spleen,
on the sides with the liver and at the top
with the lungs or the heart.
One of the other methods at our
disposal is the examination of the pulse.
Although a practitioner will often need
years, or even decades, of practice to be
able to feel the 28 different pulse qualities
described in the classics, by combining
the pulse and the tongue examination,
with a little practice, everyone can quickly
obtain very useful information regarding
their own health.
In the oriental medical framework,
the radial artery of the wrist is used to
monitor the patient's Qi, or flow of energy,
at several different locations. To take your
right pulse, rest your right wrist on your
left palm, and curl your left fingers over
the top of the right wrist so that your left
index finger is close to the right wrist
crease, your left middle finger is over the
bony ridge (styloid process), and your
left ring finger is below it. Press evenly
and lightly with the three fingers on your
wrist. Now press harder until the pulse
disappears, then come back up slightly
until you can feel it again -- this is the
position of the Yin organs. They are
regarded as the most important indication
of your health. On your left wrist below
your index finger, you will find the heart
channel, under your middle finger, the
liver, and under your ring finger the kidney
Yin. On the right side, below your index
finger you will find the lungs, in the middle
position the spleen, and under the ring
finger the kidney Yang.
Are all the positions feeling the same,
or is one of them harder to feel and
quicker to disappear as you press deeper?
To conclude this topic, next month
we will discuss how to interpret these
observations, and modify our lifestyle and
'The tongue should be fresh
pink, with a symmetrical shape,
no cracks or spots, and with a
thin coating of moisture.'
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